We’re in the eye of the storm right now. The new so-called distillery release storm, codenamed greed by the weatherboard as it batters the UK and the wallets of those fortunate to be able to purchase a bottle at retail.
Nc’Nean has already made shore to a lukewarm effect. I’m still left guessing as to what is the character of that distillery, as was the case from Mark and Adam, who joined me to offer a trio of opinions. On the horizon remains Dornoch, Raasay and the mystery of GlenWyvis. It goes without saying we’ll try our best to track down and open these debut releases for you and bring a variety of opinions. And that’s what we’re doing today, with another new arrival in the form of Ardnamurchan.
First things first, as I can confirm we have a readable label that doesn’t require a magnifying glass, so that’s a great start.
A debut offers two stark choices. Firstly, you can go down the inaugural single cask or very limited run and sell for a higher price. Stick it in a wooden box and Bob’s your uncle as they say – boom – put a nice fat price tag on the release. It’ll sell quickly and then you can celebrate such a fact before really tackling what to do next.
The other option is to keep things affordable for the masses out there. Produce a big outturn and make it a celebration of the efforts of everyone involved. That’s what Ardnamurchan have decided to do by making this just £45 and a larger than life outturn at around 15,978 bottles. And I applaud their decision.
I’m not going to talk about the distillery, as I haven’t made it as of yet and our 2017 interview with Alex Bruce is still relevant today. We’ll have an in-depth visit one day, but for now, we have to confront the elephant in the room with any inaugural release. Yes, we’re talking about the investment/flipper brigade.
It is a sad reflection of where we’re at, when a whisky priced under £50 and that’s priced to sell, is already being touted online for £200 and auction prices nearing £300. See, I’m here for the whisky and that actually means doing what the above picture entails. I want to know if the whisky is good and whether I should return to purchase new batches as they become available; there’s only one way to find out. Sadly, I am contacted by some online who ask me whether bottle X is good, or when I’m opening it. At times I feel like I’m a gatehouse keeper, being used to determine whether a bottle is worth keeping, selling or opening.
A recent bizarre moment was an unopened bottle photograph on the Ardnamurchan account. I wish distilleries made a point of not posting unopened bottles – it just gives some form of acceptance to the practice. Although, you could suggest this would render the Bimber IG stories as a cavernous void. Still, the photographer didn’t want to risk any spillage in the woods. I just wish people would be honest. I’ve explored many forests, taken hundreds of photographs in such scenery and have yet to drop anything other than a camera. It’s a sad state of affairs when we’re not celebrating a distillery by opening their debut whisky.
For those who missed out on Batch 1, then Batch 2 will follow in 2021. Hopefully, we’ll see secondary market prices fall and then a realisation for many that they should open or sell for considerably less than the initial quick to market sellers.
Before we jump into AD/09.20:01, I do have one of their precursor releases in the form of the Ardnamurchan Spirit 2019/AD, that Mally kindly gave me ages ago. It seems like the ideal moment to finally check it out. This is the 4th release in the series and is just 2 years old. Matured in 1st fill sherry with an outturn of 5100 bottles and a strength of 57.4 %.
Ardnamurchan 2019/AD – review
Colour: bashed cooper.
On the nose: surprisingly fruity with some pepper and cocoa notes. Muggy in parts, blasted through with hints of strawberries and other red berries. A copper metallic note, sage, apples and green jelly sweets.
In the mouth: plenty of oak here with kindling, some coastal driftwood, cherry and drying in parts. Also toffee, honey and some of that sherry influence starting to take ahold of the experience, but early days still.
For its age, better than some young whiskies I’ve had lately. Needs time that’s for sure but there’s promise here and a promising act of blending to bring more to the equation without letting the wood totally dominate the experience. Moving on to the main attraction…
Bottled at 46.8% and roughly 5 years of age, this is 50:50 split of unpeated and peated spirit using 65% ex-bourbon casks and 35% sherry casks. There’s also a QR code so that you can access the information regarding the bottle: to be honest I’ve just remembered this, so I’ll punch it in. Apparently, Ardnamurchan is the first to utilise this blockchain technology, so let’s give it a look…
Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01 Single Malt – Jason’s review
Colour: worn gold.
On the nose: apples, orange peelings and a wisp of peat. Malty and a pleasing density, a flat ginger beer and coastal saltiness. A mineral note and crackers.
In the mouth: more peat and a fuller texture, caramel, chocolate, olives and a pleasant smokiness. A hint of soot on the finish and a sense of balance with the spirit. Salted crisps, soya sauce, a BBQ dynamic and earthy in parts.
Referring back to my notes it simply says ‘good stuff, promising and flavoursome’, which sums up the experience pretty well. I’d also say, well-priced and sadly being unopened by the majority of people who have a bottle. Things are pretty ridiculous when a circa £50 bottle of whisky isn’t being opened in the attempt to make some money. I can appreciate it with a 30 year old Macallan or whatever, as sad as it is, but this is priced for drinking.
As a whisky, it won’t rock your world, demand gold medals or receive 90+ scores. So, open and enjoy what the first foot from Ardnamurchan has to offer.
I reached out to 2 of the Malt team to give me their thoughts on their whisky. So, time for the gag about the Englishman and the Irishman…
Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01 Single Malt – Adam’s review
Colour: Oaked Chardonnay.
On the nose: Here’s something curious. This definitely carries the organoleptic signature of a young Jim Swan whisky – plump orchard fruits and dairy cream – but the cask breakdown doesn’t feature STRs, which I always assumed were at least partially culpable. Very Cotswoldian actually, as the peat is rather diffident on the nose. A slight oily saltiness maybe. The Cotswolds of the coast.
In the mouth: A little more peat here – earthy, heathery. Grows significantly on the finish into firewood and ash and sheepswool. Before that there’s barley sugar, custard cream and more of those juicy orchard fruits.
It’s young, still developing, but this is very good spirit. Anticipating my editor (the one who drinks soil rather than the one who drinks girders) I’d say that it does, in many respects feel incredibly similar to a large number of the Jim Swan-influenced Malts that are coming, or have come, online lately. But when the base spirit is good, would that be a little like moaning that too many people are insisting on holding interesting conversations these days?
Anyway. Yes. Good spirit. A Cotswolds in peat’s clothing and thus scored in line with my rating of the Cotswolds inaugural.
Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01 Single Malt – Phil’s review
On the nose: fresh linen and menthol. Pear and green apples, honeydew melon, some fresh lemon
zest too. A note of hay with a slight tinge of smoke, pencil shavings. Vanilla sponge, caramel sundae sauce and ginger nut biscuits.
In the mouth: sweet and spicy on arrival and still a bit spirit driven. Caramel and spun sugar
followed by a burst of white pepper spice followed by an earthy note. The green apples appear again with vanilla and lime juice. The finish is short with pepper heat lingering and a sweet honeyed note tempered by a light ashiness.
First of all, I have to say I feel pretty fortunate to get to try a sample of this as it seems to be rarer than hen’s teeth… much like most of the first releases of any new distillery will be nowadays. This is definitely a solid start and shows that there is much promise at Ardnamurchan. The nose was really lovely but the palate, for me, just didn’t quite match up to it. I also have to say that had I not known previous to tasting this release that there was a 35% sherry matured component in the vatting that I wouldn’t have guessed that from the palate at all.
Still, a bit spirit-driven and not fully integrated between spirit and cask, there is still much to admire from a 6 year old whisky especially at the asking price of £45. For that price, I don’t think anyone will feel short-changed.