My proclivities to specific distilleries are at odds with one of my whisky reviewing morals.
There’s never going to be a distillery that I’ll turn down reviewing because there’s always going to be at least one whisky from them I’ll like.
That said, I do get into times when I want a specific whisky. And on some level, I feel like I’m ignoring others. But releases come in cycles so I don’t typically go too nuts. Let’s just ignore any Bruichladdich or Laphroaig or Glenrothes bottles I have kicking around.
Recently I’ve been really digging Ardmore. The peated Speyside dram is a fun one to have, though it hasn’t hit the point of “too much” on the market.
As such, here’s three Ardmore’s I’ve reviewed over the last while, in order to spread the knowledge of this already well-known one. All of these are single casks, and all of the are the peated variety.
Is my obsession fair, or did I go too far? Let’s see, shall we?
Ardmore 19 1999 Archives was poured as a mystery at the end of a Caol Ila tasting. Why? Because it’s an old Ardmore. Nothing I read said it was not peated. It wasn’t listed as not peated (different distillery name).
It seems like a good idea, right? Wrong, I’m super wrong, try something before you pour it blind. Bad, bad, bad. Don’t do that again. Why? Well let’s dive into this whisky now, shall we?
Cask Type: Barrel (gee, thanks)
Cask Number: 801661
Number of bottles: 185
Colour: 7.5Y 9/8
Nose: Grassy, mineral, vanilla, honeydew melon, algae
As you can see, no peat. None of it.
Which is fine and dandy if you’re not into peat. Is it okay after having a handful of Caol Ilas and as a mystery? No. This has more of a mineral/light vanilla/ex-Bourbon influence. I like it, but I’m also in the shit now.
That all said, after letting this breathe/loss some alcohol, the peat did start popping up.
Taste: Lemoncello, plum, honey, malt, almond
Strong, strong lemon note, lots of floral/plum/heather honey, and some nuttiness.
No peat though, no chocolate notes, no BBQ or molasses…. I’m thinking they may have bottled something that was unpeated.
Again, given time there’s a bit more spice in here from the peat, though still mostly floral.
Finish: Ginger, nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, cantaloupe
Oh! Oh, there’s some spice! That could be developed peat! Seriously it’s still mostly malty, fruity, and a bit floral. I’m just reaching here like I’m some guy on a date in a 1950s movie at a theatre.
Conclusion: I… oops. I thought it’d be peated, and it was floral, and I’m still happy, but I’m kinda dumb.
This is a mineral, fruity, malty dram. It’s not what I was hoping for, honestly: I was looking for cocoa and maybe non-brine based peat and some other things.
That said, I’m happy to have it to sip on. And it taught me to test my mysteries beforehand, which is the new normal.
Thanks to /u/Throzen for this dram.
Ardmore 20 1998 Cask Strength Gordon & MacPhail is another older Ardmore. Difference from last time? This one is sherry cask, last one is ex-bourbon.
Great, I love peat and sherry together. Gonna be great, right?
And now we have the setup written, we right the rest. Probably while saying something like “Shall We” here, right?
Price: $224.99 CAD
Cask type: Refill Sherry Hogshead
Colour: 7.5YR 7/12
Nose: Strawberry, grapefruit, plum, herbal, floral
Fruity. Lots of acidity, some sugar to balance it, some richness, some herbal notes and floral.
No peat. I’m starting to wonder about the labelling system over at Ardmore. Or perhaps it needs time to open up to develop that? None the less, nice nose, good balance between the sherry and the dram.
Taste: Maple sugar, oak, melon, candy corn, icing sugar
Very sweet. Tons of sweets going on, some oak to balance it all out however it’s a bit strong on the sweets. Speaking of which, I really gotta stop overdoing it while in the house. This dram is like me after finding out there’s a cookie factory near me.
Finish: Vanilla, peanuts, cereal, icing sugar, sulphur, butter
Good dirty finish. Lovely balance now over the taste. Good gracious though, if you’re sulphur worried, then this is not for you. Not much copper contact on this one or the candle used in the barrel was extra strong.
Conclusion: Sweet, tasty, and floral, with lots of sulphur, so if that’s not your thing, run. The main sticking point for me was a too-sweet taste. The nose was something I could get into, the finish was balanced, and I’m hoping with time it got some more spice/peat influence.
Feeling like a bad luck charm on these: Each one doesn’t have peat until later (potentially).
Guess: 50-52%, 15-18 years old, refill sherry cask, maybe The Speyside?
Actually: Ardmore 20 1998 Cask Strength Gordon & MacPhail
Ardmore 7 2008 Signatory Vintage Collection – Cask Strength is a Binny’s pick that was part of a large tasting that I missed due to illness. Which looking back seems to be the test time for right now.
Oh well, I got a dram, you got eyes, let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Can’t find it, sorry
Cask type: Bourbon Barrel
Cask Number: 800090
Number of bottles: 234
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Peat, raspberry, mulch, chocolate, cinnamon hearts
Yeah, it’s a young peated malt, so the peat shows up. Though there’s some heat (dur, it’s rocket fuel), there’s some sherry influence and some earth. I’m into it.
Taste: Lemon meringue, dark chocolate, peat, golden syrup, peanut butter & jelly sandwich Alright, now we got more going on than just young peated whisky. Well developed lemon, good chocolate, some sugar notes, and even a bready/nutty/fruity note that blends with water.
In other words, I’m still biased to young, good single casks. News at 11.
Finish: Chocolate pudding, smoked meat, caramel, honey, cherry malt milkshake
Creamy, chocolatey, meaty, and smoky. Just keeps giving you version of that, though gets simpler with more water.
Conclusion: Hot, strong, sweet, smoky… goes from complex to less with time and water. Punches way above the age statement. Does that chocolate aspect I was looking for, plays with cream, and was what I was looking for.
Look, maybe you prefer a calmer dram that’s calmed down more. I certainly am on a calm night. This isn’t a calm night dram. The other two above it are. More so the sherried one. But on a night where you need to go hunting for more? This is the dram for you.
Scotch reviews #1236-8, Speyside reviews #348-350, Whisky Network reviews #1886-8