Putting together an Ardmore vertical is pretty easy. Releases are ten a penny from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, who on average release an ex-bourbon cask of Ardmore every month; sometimes even 2. Yikes! It seems produce from this distillery is plentiful and widely available, making it perfect fodder for a wee vertical.
My own experiences with Ardmore are mainly positive. The official releases until of late have been a solid double whammy of value and quality. Things started to drift with the Ardmore Legacy, which given the abundance of superior single cask releases is inferior. The Legacy’s continuing existence showcases its basic positioning flaw from the distillery. Legacy seems to be about a cheap price point and a touch of peat watered down to 40% strength. Well, I’m sorry. Ardmore deserves much better and besides, at least give us 46% strength in the modern era.
It always comes as surprise to me when discussing whisky and I hear a comment along the lines that someone just doesn’t enjoy or get on well with an Ardmore. If there’s a whisky that marries different styles and regions then I’ve yet to discover it. Personally, a good Ardmore offers a little of everything. Yes, arguably we are saturated with ex-bourbon casks only and this alienates the sherry fiends and suchlike. All I’ll say is that there is more to whisky than just the wood thank goodness.
To hopefully prove a point we’ve assembled a fine supporting cast of Ardmore’s from a variety of sources including Noortje, Rose and my own well-worn pocket. We could run and run with an Ardmore vertical that’s for sure. Instead why not pick 2 regular bottlers of this distillery from the independent sector and have a little competitive comparison?
Whisky Broker Ardmore 2009 PX – review
This was distilled on 15th October 2009 and bottled on 22nd November 2018 at 9 years of age. Just 74 bottles made it out of the PX Octave finish #2642D after residing in a refill butt at a strength of 48.7%.
Colour: Dark toffee.
On the nose: Cracked walnuts and a leather chair, scattered pine cones, ginger and cherry scones. Almost bourbon-like in its forceful presentation. White chocolate, a hint of peat and thyme freshly plucked from the pot. With water brown sugar and liquorice.
In the mouth: Like a mouthful of playdough or putty. Earthy, clay and very odd. Chocolate and a flat berry squash drink before the dryness overtakes and a sense of mould invades your palate. Water isn’t remarkable and removes the clammy element revealing cherry pop.
Whisky Broker Ardmore 2009 Oloroso – review
This was distilled on 15th October 2009 and bottled on 22nd November 2018 at 9 years of age. Just 68 bottles made it out of the Oloroso Octave finish after residing in a refill butt at a strength of 56%.
Colour: Cracked leather.
On the nose: Chocolate digestives, honey and the realisation of less complexity. There’s dried orange, peanut brittle, almonds and coffee beans. Water reveals fudge and a touch of smoke.
In the mouth: Very woody and drying with a shovel of earth thrown in. The dryness carries through till the finish and there’s also coffee beans and a chocolate sponge. Water knocks its down and leaves a murky aspect with a burnt taste.
SMWS 66.32 The Roly-Poly Pudding – review
Distilled in March 1998 and bottled in January 2012 at 13 years of age. An outturn of 752 bottles at 58.6% strength, this has resided in a refill Ex-Sherry Gorda cask. A circle in the sand.
Colour: Buffed brass.
On the nose: Melted butter with a promising density. Fruity, a vibrant luxurious honey sits alongside beeswax and pine sap. Vanilla nought, a French pastry and a puff of smoke. Singed hay bales? Green mango, Highland toffee and a cleansing sea spray. Fig rolls, apricot jam with milk chocolate and orange sherbet. With water more orange joins the party with peaches in tow.
In the mouth: A tinge of alcohol showcasing the power and strength. Not as fruity as expected, Brazilian single origin Chocolate (66.8%), an agave quality and vanilla marshmallows. Cooking apples, sticky toffee pudding and a caustic quality. Water reveals a sappy nature, more chocolate, ash and tobacco.
SMWS 66.134 Tar Very Much – review
Distilled on 6th March 2006 and bottled at 12 years old. This refill hogshead/ex-bourbon resulted in 307 bottles bottled at 59.3% strength. This will set you back £59 and is currently available at the time of writing.
Colour: A touch of gold.
On the nose: Fresh and alive with a gentle stroke of peat. Sliced apples, dried orange, black peppercorns and a little brine. Sliced ham (not bacon) and a scattering of lime zest with aniseed.
In the mouth: Oily and very easy drinking. A little saltiness that prevails throughout almost pernicious. A touch of ash/soot takes us into Kiwi Fruit on the finish. Prior to this there are sweetshop flavours of aniseed balls and liquorice.
The Whisky Broker releases scream experiment and I do debate what the whisky was like prior to the octave finishes? A similar stunt that the SMWS pulled recently with a Macallan cask and utilising the octave has killed off any hope of satisfaction.
As previously stated, the Ardmore’s come thick and fast at the SMWS as a quick visit to their website will confirm. In recent times they’ve been more of a traditional bourbon cask variety, making this 66.32 all the more interesting. A great pick and a lovely dram to explore. This harks back to an era when 90% of their wood programme wasn’t purely ex-bourbon or finishes under 2 years.
Whereas 66.134 underlines the current issue facing the Malt Society. Nothing flawed about this release but its been snatched too soon. A transitional Ardmore. The peat is just letting its grasp slacken and what might have been is my impression. Longer would have resulted in a more interesting and layered experience. I’m sure time and investment will restore the Malt Society’s inventory to more than just a jumble sale of bourbon casks or dunked 1 year finishes. In the meantime, we have memories such as 66.32 to tide us over.