Okay, let’s end this week of peat in the eastern highlands of Scotland, at Ardmore. (You may recall that I started the week on Islay at Caol Ila on Monday and stopped in the Speyside at Benromach on Wednesday.) Ardmore is one of my very favourite distilleries these days. The only reason really that I didn’t put in my list of top five distilleries last year is that it’s very hard to come by Ardmore in the US and the official lineup has never been very inspiring. The one regular source for a varied supply of Ardmore in the US is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but I’m not sure if even they send more than just a few of their Ardmore selections here. I reviewed three SMWS Ardmores in August and I don’t see 750 ml releases for any of them listed on Whiskybase. Nor for that matter is a 750 ml release listed for this one. (If you know if any of these were in fact released in the US please write in below.) August’s Ardmore trio were a 20 yo, a 21 yo and a 22 yo—all distilled in 1997. This one is a 23 yo distilled in 1997. Unlike the first three, however, which were matured entirely in refill bourbon hogsheads, this one spent 21 years in refill bourbon and then the next two years in a refill Spanish oak sherry hogshead. Will the sherry cover up all that I love about bourbon cask Ardmore? Let’s see. Continue reading
And here to close out Ardmore 1997 week is a 22 yo. Will it be closer to Monday’s 20 yo whose combination of fruit and smoke I really, really liked or to Wednesday’s 21 yo whose more austere charms I only really liked? I’ll find out soon. Oh yes, the SMWS’s panel named this one “A Vintage Dinner Suit” which probably means something.
Ardmore 22, 1997 (56.1%; SMWS 66.174; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big zesty hit of lime off the top, a lime that has been charred heavily. The lime is sweeter on the second sniff and then muskier fruit begins to emerge (pineapple, a hint of passionfruit). The char burns off and now there’s more of a mineral note; the lime turns to citronella. As it sits the char begins to come back though it’s more ashy now; some cream too. Water emphasizes the fruit and the cream—really very nice now. Continue reading
Ardmore 1997 week continues with another refill bourbon hogshead bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I really liked Monday’s 20 yo which displayed a lovely mix of rich fruit, char and mineral notes. Will this one, which is a year older, be as good or better? Let’s see.
Ardmore 21, 1997 (51.9%; SMWS 66.146; refill bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in with more lime and less mineral peat than the 21 yo and there’s some cream here as well; some ham brine too. As it sits the mineral note expands and it gets more peppery; the fruit is less expansive though than in the younger cask. With time muskier fruit begins to peep out. Let’s see if water releases it more fully. Well, the citrus expands and turns to citronella but the hints of muskier fruit remain just that. Continue reading
This will be a week of malts from Ardmore. What’s more they were all distilled in 1997, matured in refill hogsheads, and bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. And they were bottled in successive years at 20, 21 and 22 years of age. Now I don’t want to pretend that very significant differences can be spotted between malts a year or two apart in age from each other even with all other variables quite similar to each other, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition anyway. What’s certain is that I like Ardmore a lot; it’s always a pleasure to try their mildly-peated, fruity malt, especially when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I’ve reviewed a few SMWS Ardmore releases before, including a couple from 1997. Indeed, I’ve reviewed another 20 yo (which I liked a lot) and another 22 yo (which I also liked a lot). And I’ve also reviewed casks from adjacent years from other bottlers (most of which I also liked a lot). All of this history seems to bode well for this one. Let’s see if it works out that way in practice. Continue reading
Highlands Week got off to a great and terrifically fruity start on Monday with this Ben Nevis 23. It was also a timely start to the week and month, what with the cask having been bottled only in 2020. Today we go back almost a decade to a cask bottled almost a decade ago in 2012. This Ardmore 19 was one of several of similar age released at that time from the 1992 vintage. I’ve previously reviewed a 20 yo released by Whiskybase under their Archives label and another 20 yo released by the Whisky Agency (are they still around? I don’t think I’ve seen anything released by them in quite some time). Those ran the gamut from very good indeed to excellent. Both the Archives and the Whisky Agency cask were very fruity and so I am hoping that this one will not belie the hope I expressed on Monday that this would turn out to be not only Highlands Week but also Fruity Whisky Week. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
I started November with a review of an Ardmore released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Here now to start December is another Ardmore released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This is my 6th Ardmore review of the year—taking my total to a measly 15 (Serge reviews as many every Wednesday between a dozen 1972 Boras and 33 Springbanks from the 1960s). I am hopeful that 2021 will bring at least as many Ardmores my way, if not more. They’re not very thick on the ground in the US though. This one is a full decade older than last month’s SMWS cask, having been distilled in 1997 and bottled only this year (I think). I really liked that 12 year old and like that one this too is from a refill bourbon hogshead. Good things usually happen when you put whisky in refill casks and very good things seem to happen to Ardmore’s whisky when put in refill bourbon casks. Let’s see if this whisky proves that would-be axiom right. Continue reading
In July I had a review of an Ardmore 13, 2006 released by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that I was not terribly enthused about. Here now is an Ardmore 12, 2006 released by the SMWS that I am expecting to like a fair bit more. That’s because unlike the 13 yo—which was a red wine finish for some reason—this one is from a refill bourbon hogshead. Ardmore’s mineral peat and lemon notes should come out front and center. The operative word there is “should”. The fact that the SMWS named this one “Farm Salad” seems like a good sign but let’s see if things actually go as planned. Certainly the last SMWS refill hogshead Ardmore I reviewed was excellent as was the most recent Ardmore I reviewed back in early September. Both of those were a fair bit older, of course. But I’m keeping my hopes in check anyway: if being an American in 2020 has taught me anything it’s to not get my hopes up. Continue reading
I started the month with a heavily-peated Islay that was a bit of a misfire (this year’s Cairdeas). Let’s continue with peated whisky but move on to the eastern highlands, to Ardmore who are not known for heavily peated whisky. Interestingly—and also worryingly—however, this particular 20 yo release was apparently finished in ex-Islay casks after an initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks. If these were casks from Laphroaig (possible given that Beam Suntory owns both distilleries) then there’s a good chance that the usual combination of mellow, peppery peat and fruit that characterizes the best Ardmores might get lost in a phenolic overlay. On the other hand, if the casks were ex-bourbon Bowmore casks—Bowmore being another Beam Suntory distillery—then that might actually be a good match. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a big fan of Ardmore, even though we don’t get very many opportunities to try their malt in the US, and I am hoping for the best. Continue reading
Okay, let’s make it two Ardmores in a row. I really liked the 20 yo I reviewed on Monday. Like this one, that was also bottled by the SMWS. Unlike this one, however, that was from a refill bourbon cask. This one very much is not. Well, it started out in bourbon cask but ended up in a red wine cask for some reason. I’m yet to come across any compelling reason to finish whisky in red wine casks. Will this change my mind? Let’s see.
Ardmore 13, 2006 (58.1%; SMWS 66.161; red wine finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Fairly jumbled with some pickled/acidic notes, some char, some oak, some red fruit. On the second and third sniffs there’s quite a bit of lime. As it sits the smoke takes on a slightly plasticky/acryclic character. The nose settles down with time and air and the plastic/acrylic note recedes. Water brings out a cured meat note. Continue reading
Last week I reviewed a slew of Benromachs—well, three of them anyway. Let’s stay in the general vicinity and let’s stick with Highland peat. Ardmore is the other distillery in that general part of Scotland that is known for peated whisky. As at Benromach, Ardmore’s peat is not phenolic in the Islay style and nor is it as farmy/brutal as Ledaig’s can be. Instead it typically has a peppery, mineral character, with soot and coal in place of the phenols. It’s hard to find much indie Ardmore in the US—or even very much officially released Ardmore—but I am a big fan of the distillery and try their whisky every chance I get. And I usually like it a lot. Why, I even liked a 10 yo put out by K&L last year! More to the point and closer to the age of this one, I also really liked a 22 yo from 1996 released to mark the 20th anniversary of the OMC line in 2018. If this is as good as either of those I’ll be very happy. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading
Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.
Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading
In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.
Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading
Hunter Laing released a large number of whiskies last year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line; they may have miscalculated a bit as a bunch of them are still available. Among these are this Ardmore 22, distilled in 1996. Ardmore is a bit of an enigma in the Scotch whisky world. From its somewhat off the beaten path location in the Eastern Highlands—don’t bother stopping by, they’re not open to the public—to the seeming general lack of interest on the part of the owners in pushing their whisky, it’s a hard distillery to get to know. There’s never been much of it available in official form and even less seemingly from the independents—though there’s been more probably from both directions in the last few years than in the years previous. This despite the fact that they’re one of the few non-Islay distilleries that make palpably peated malt, and you’d expect that to be a winning market proposition. Well, I guess Beam Suntory may be reserving a lot of its output for their blends. Anyway, while I have not had very many Ardmores—on account of lack of opportunity—I’ve liked all that I’ve had. And so I was more than willing to take a chance on this bottle. Let’s see if it has paid off. Continue reading
I said I’d have a brace of Ardmores this week but let’s make it three in a row. This one is the most useless review of the lot, being an independent release that came out well before yesterday’s Traditional and Friday’s Archives 20 yo. I don’t think I’d even heard of the distillery when this was released. Like the Archives this is from a bourbon cask, though it’s a fair bit younger. My sample came to me from Ardmore-enthusiast, Michael Kravitz (his review is here).
I don’t have any Ardmore patter left after the last two reviews and so let’s get right to it.
Ardmore 13, 1990 (58.6%; Gordon & MacPhail; refill bourbon hogshead 12275; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Creamy at first whiff but then there’s white pepper, prickly peat (not phenolic) and mothballs. Very nice indeed. A drop of water brings out more of the mothballs. Continue reading
On Friday I had a review of an indie Ardmore 20 released some six years ago. Today I have a review of an official release. It’s not of much utility, however, as this Ardmore Traditional—the first official Ardmore to ever be widely released, about a decade ago—was discontinued some years ago (though stray bottles may still be hanging around in the US. It was replaced by another NAS malt at 40% abv by the name of Legacy. In the world of No Age Stated whisky, you see, the fancier the name gets, the crappier the whisky becomes. The Traditional, however, was not crappy despite being young and despite being made in a slightly complicated way with the whisky “finished” in quarter casks. As with all of Ardmore’s malt it is mildly peated. It used to be a very good deal in most American markets and I think I might have purchased my last bottle—from which this sample was saved—for less than $30 in the Twin Cities. The Legacy runs about $40, which is not terribly high in this market but I’ve also not read any reviews of it that have made me want to try it. The Traditional, by the way, was brought back by the owners a few years ago as just Tradition, but for the travel retail market—though it appears to be available more widely in the UK. I’m not sure how much it goes for; maybe I’ll keep an eye out for it while traveling to Hong Kong and India this winter. Anyway, here are my notes on the Traditional as it once was—this bottle is probably from the 2012 release or so. Continue reading
My whisky reviews have been flirting with relevance this month. I’ve reviewed widely available official releases (Cragganmore 12, Wild Turkey 101 Rye), independent releases that are still available (the Archives Aberlour and Orkney releases), and an official release that can still be found in some places in the US (the Springbank 13 Green). Lest my reputation be ruined I am going to slide in the other direction for the next few reviews.
First up, an independent Ardmore released in 2012. This too was bottled by the Whiskybase shop under their Archives label. It was released at a time when there were a number of indie 1992 Ardmores on the market. I think this has led to 1992 being proclaimed a special year for the distillery—though again it would appear that it is merely a year from which a lot of whisky is available for people to generalize about: Whiskybase lists 11 Ardmores from 1991, 7 from 1993 and 10 from 1994. Meanwhile, there are 73 listings from 1992. It would appear that a major parcel of casks from that year survived in a warehouse somewhere (most of Ardmore goes into the Teacher’s blend). Continue reading
Let there be rejoicing in the land: Binny’s is shipping again! Not to every state but, fortunately for me, the list includes a neighbouring state with a border town about an hour away in which a friend works. Accordingly, I organized a group split of eight of their current handpicked single malt casks. (You can see which the others are in this month’s “Coming Soon…” post.) Here first is this Ardmore which is one of the casks I was most interested in. The reason for this is that there isn’t a whole lot of Ardmore about in the US—minimal official releases and very few indies—and even fewer are from single sherry casks. As such this was an unusual proposition, hard to resist (and the risk underwritten by the fact that Binny’s generally picks very good casks). Let’s see if this story of hope has a good ending.
Ardmore, as you probably know, is one of the few distilleries in the Speyside known for peated malt—though it is rarely smoky to the extent of the peated Islays and others of that ilk. There’s not a lot of Ardmore available, either officially or from the indies, and so I’m always on the lookout for any new bottles. I don’t really know who Gordon & Company are; until I came across some of their bottles on Whiskybase a few months ago I had never heard of them or their “Pearls of Scotland” line which includes this Ardmore. If you know who they are or if they have any relationship to Gordon & Macphail please let me know via the comments.
Anyway, as I like Ardmore a lot, and as I’ve never had an Ardmore of this age before, I was very interested but didn’t want to commit to a full bottle until I’d tried a sample. Of course, after purchasing the samples I completely forgot about them and so am very pleased to discover that this is still in stock at Whiskybase. Of course, if I like it a lot I won’t post the review till I’ve secured a bottle for myself. You’re welcome! Continue reading