Ardmore is a surprisingly large Victorian era distillery given that it’s nestled in the rather picturesque rural village of Kennethmont (population roughly 470). It was constructed by Adam Teacher (son of William Teacher) in 1898 to produce malt for their rather well known blend – Teacher’s Highland Cream – and indeed, nowadays, much of the 5.5 MLPA from Ardmore’s eight stills ends up being used exactly the same way. Nevertheless, Ardmore has been developing its reputation for single malts since 2007’s introduction of Ardmore Traditional Cask. Towards the latter part of 2017 a new limited edition Ardmore was released, one which to my mind signals that great things lie ahead for this distillery – Ardmore Vintage 1996 20 year old.
The Internet loves lists. The biggest this, the greatest that, the top 25 things to know about lobotomies (no, really). And of course the net-based whisky world is far from adverse to stuffing things into fairly arbitrary orders – cue, ‘the list of the most underrated distilleries in the world. Ever’. I’ve never actually comprehended this regularly created, rolled out and discussed to death list – firstly, most of the entries tend to come from distilleries which produce few OBs and only a handful of indy bottlings each year – ergo of course they’re underrated – folks just don’t get to sample them all that much. Scarcity should not to be equated with underappreciation – often quite the opposite. But, further…..if a distillery is so unnoticed and so undervalued, and yet to your mind cranking out amazing juice, why on earth would you want to tell everyone else about it?
This week’s long-awaited news of Heineken offering a $2.5 billion deal to purchase Distell was met with mixed reviews – from both the markets and the drinkers. The notion of ‘bigger being better’ is rarely one which resonates in the minds of consumers – indeed, they can be quite a resistant bunch when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Whilst people generally understand that companies utilise buyouts to expand into new markets, add new capabilities and increase their revenue, this is often coupled with an anxiousness about the potential knock-on effects that stem from the new behemoth that’s produced as a result – pricing (of course), quality of service and the treatment of employees both during and after an acquisition are all theoretical apprehensions. But when it comes to whisky there’s another – and that’s the potential for neglect.
Dramble favourite Ardmore gets the Watt Whisky treatment with this 2011 9 year old single malt matured in an ex-bourbon barrel. You can find this at The Whisky Exchange for £71.95.
A perennial Dramble favourite. Simple stuff – 12 year old Ardmore disgorged from a single barrel and bottled at 57.1% ABV. Again, currently on The Whisky Exchange’s website for £81.45. And yes, before you comment, Ardmore *is* getting increasingly expensive for bottlers to purchase as stocks of other (read Islay or island) peated makes head into the price stratosphere.
In 1994, James MacArthur released a series of 45 whiskies under branded ‘In celebration of 500 years of Scotch Whisky 1494 – 1994 (1494 being the earliest recorded mention of whisky in the Exchequer Rolls of King James IV). The series consisted of 10 full sized (70cl) bottlings, and 35 (50cl) miniatures from an extensive variety of both distilleries and vintage years. Three whiskies from Ardmore were included in the series – one from 1976, 77 and 78. The 78 entry bears no age statement, though given the bottling year, one could posit that it should be between 15 and 16 years of age. It’s bottled at 56.2% ABV.
Another interesting wood selection this month with this 7 year old Ardmore – 5 years in an American oak ex-oloroso sherry butt, 2 more years in a European oak ex-oloroso sherry butt. I like transcontinental butts.
Despite being largely out of action on the SMWS reviews over the past 12 months, I’ve returned to the familiar and always welcoming sight of distillery 66. This one is a youngster at a mere 7 years of age. It has spent its life in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel.
Over to one of my favourite SMWS numbers – and to a cask that I’m increasingly seeing paired with Ardmore – rum. Whilst I’ve tried a couple of mad as two short planks Caroni maturations, I’m hoping that this SMWS is perhaps a little more…..’normal’. Seeing as it isn’t from Caroni (that always get a special mention to up the asking price), this’ll be from Angostura. Gone are the days when the island boasted more than 50 distilleries.
This Ardmore spent 9 years in ex-bourbon before being re-racked in a 2nd fill heavily charred barrel. Lightly Peated profile.
Another month – another Ardmore. September’s is a 10 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel.
SMWS seems to have a near endless supply of Ardmore these days – I’m not complaining, it’s usually rather tasty. This one was matured for 11 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being moved to 2nd fill hogshead with a heavy toast and medium char for a final year of maturation. Peated profile.
Ardmore is a regularly of nearly every Society outturn – this bottling hails from 2006 and has been matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead for 12 years. View on SMWS
I’ve enjoyed many of the recent Ardmore’s – this month’s is a 12 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
After May’s older Ardmore (66.143 Steam trains and puffers), we’re back at the younger end of the spectrum with a 12 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel. View on SMWS
Our final offering comes from the ever-reliable Ardmore. This month’s example a 12 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Another teenaged Ardmore. This one takes its naming inspiration from a supposedly friendly, but actually petrifying scarecrow (a no-budget, field-based, British version of Freddy Kruger) and a cartoon of a rotund, pompous pirate – as you do. But in terms of more important things - the whisky itself has been matured for 14 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
The near obligatory monthly Ardmore – but, this time served up at a notably higher age. 20 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. View on SMWS
Well-matured Ardmore that’s been matured in refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Ending our coverage with a trip to Ardmore and one of the oldest Society bottlings of the distillery for quite some years. This bottling was initially matured in ex-bourbon before being moved to a HTMC (high toast, medium char) hogshead.
Despite being publically unveiled as a core expression in 1983 by Balvenie for their Double Wood (and very likely having been practiced hidden away from prying eyes in warehouses years before this) – cask finishing is still regularly described as a ‘new technique’. A bewildering assessment of the passage of time considering that in the same year the UK was being introduced to the wonders of the Pound coin, mandatory driver seat belts and the timeless expression “Can I have a P please Bob”. A significant number of today’s whisky enthusiasts were nothing more than the promise of a good night out in 1983 – and yet tradition is quite the adhesive concept. Whilst whisky is always moving forwards, perceptions usually follow at a much more languorous pace.
The long-standing and often repeated saying observes that “whisky is best shared”. It is a phrase which highlights the cosiness of conviviality that is the collective experience of enjoying a dram. And it is a phrase that alludes to whisky being a drink which is to be consumed. No arguments there. But it’s all too easy to forget – especially after a year of living life largely through a digital lens – that whisky can, and often does, offer far more than just the triptych of nose, palate and finish. Whisky *is* more than what is inside of the bottle.