These days you are not really a proper whisky business unless you have your own distillery it seems. Signatory Vintage own Edradour Distillery, Hunter Laing own Ardnahoe, Douglas Laing own Strathearn, Gordon & MacPhail own Benromach and are building Craggan. Weymss invested in Kingsbarns. Ian Macleod distillers are reviving Rosebank in addition to owning Glengoyne and Tamdu.
You could also argue Dornoch Distillery on behalf of the Thompson Bros, but for me that seems to be more of a labour of love than a strategic investment. A new Islay distillery will be built by Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh who, until recently, owned Speciality Drinks and the Whisky Exchange. R&B Distillers built Raasay and may a further distillery in the Borders in the future. Adelphi built Ardnamurchan.
Those big enough to invest in distilleries open direct access to whisky, which can be bottled or traded for access to whisky from other distilleries for future bottlings. The cask brokerage market has tightened due to reduced availability for workhorse distilleries in parallel with increasing demand from investors. Limited supply has pushed cask prices through the roof and indie bottlers have a challenge to turn around casks in a profitable way at a price that consumers will stomach. This is especially true for those who are purchasing casks at the end of the brokerage chain.
Adelphi have a strong reputation for high quality releases at the top end of the market many of which were covered in a bumper review from the Whisky Sleuth and the blends at the cheaper end of the range seem strong too as tasted by Andrew. The label design has been much lauded for letting the spirit do the talking and certainly helps contribute to the rapid selling out of any dark coloured drams to those who worship at the “Cult of Colour.” Often, the bourbon casks hang around on shelves a little longer despite often being of equal or greater quality than the sherry bombs.
I touched on the sustainable design of Ardnamurchan and the importance for the community on the peninsula. In that article I grumbled about the limited public details available about Ardnamurchan Distillery’s environmental performance. Since then they have been shortlisted by the VIBES awards as a great example of an environmentally friendly sustainable business. Why does this matter? Well, the VIBES awards are run by Scotland’s Environmental Regulator, SEPA, who assess applications against rigorous criteria through a multi-stage process with appropriately qualified judges from VIBES Awards partner organisations. If the national environmental regulator gives you an award, then you probably can be justified in claiming to be the Greenest distillery in Scotland.
The output from Ardnamurchan Distillery has been widely anticipated, no doubt in part due to the decision to hold-off releasing whisky until it was more mature than the standard 3-year threshold for new distilleries. Early batch releases flew off the shelves and single casks have been difficult to get hold of. Ardnamurchan distil peated and unpeated whisky, with much of the initial releases being 50:50 peated to unpeated batches or peated single casks with a fewer unpeated versions on the market.
One thing that has been causing some mild confusion is the coding used on the bottles. The codes look similar on the core signature release and on the single casks, but the code means something complete different. It took me a wee while to confirm the differences, so I prepared a key below. I understand that the core signature range will get a few tweaks soon which may help those still confused. If you buy a bottle yourself there is a QR code which takes you to much more information about each bottle to geek out over.
I was offered a chance to buy into a 7 bottle split that seemed to represent a solid 12 months of Ardnamurchan releases and thought it would be a great opportunity to bring Malt readers some thoughts on the output. Thanks to Alan McLoughlin for acquiring and splitting these bottles at cost and for providing the photos. Will Adelphi’s own spirit live up to the high standards they have established bottling other people’s whisky?
Ardnamurchan AD/05:15 CK.181 – Review
Bottled for the Good Spirits Co. Unpeated American Oak. 58.8% ABV. £85.
Colour: Lightly golden.
On the nose: Vanilla, light toffee, golden caster sugar, white pepper prickle, unripe orchard fruit, lemon, grapefruit, malty porridge.
In the mouth: Sweet and fruity, slightly peppery heat, apricot, lemony and briny, lovely lemon sherbet finish.
A great cask pick that expertly showcases the spirit here which is delicious. Yes, its youth is a little challenging, but it is very drinkable and takes water well.
Adelphi Ardnamurchan 6 Years Old RAF Benevolent Fund – Review
First fill ex-bourbon cask #144. 59.1% ABV. £89.95. bottled exclusively for Royal Mile Whiskies to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: Immediately fruity, sweet vanilla sugar, green apple flesh and skin, gooseberry, brininess.
In the mouth: Sweet vanilla, a little cracked peppercorn heat, a bit malty, a little flat on the mid palate before a big lemony burst toward the finish which is quite dry and dusty.
Not a patch on CK.181 above, and really a lot of money to ask for a single cask of this age but it’s for a charitable cause so I’ll give it a charitable…
Ardnamurchan AD/01.21:01 – Review
65% bourbon & 35% sherry (both PX & Oloroso), 50:50 peated and unpeated. 46.8% ABV. £47. This was the second batch released, the first in 2021. Core Signature Release.
On the nose: Inviting peat, rich sherry fruits, sweet sticky dried figs and dates, dry vanilla, ground ginger, smouldering peat.
In the mouth: Lovely balanced peat, sweet fruitiness developing, vegetal at the margins, malty youthful, a little salty with some crushed limestone, pricklier on the finish with orange oil and lemon zest.
Fairly priced, very drinkable with a reasonable amount of depth of flavour, the 46.8% ABV seems well chosen as it does not improve with water. A solid…
Ardnamurchan AD/04.21:03 – Review
65% bourbon & 35% sherry (both PX & Oloroso), 50:50 peated and unpeated. 46.8% ABV. £47. Core Signature Release
Colour: Golden, identical in the glass to the other batches
On the nose: Inviting peat, richer sherry, a slight hint of that seasoned sherry cask note I dislike but not enough to be off-putting, date paste, dry vanilla, ground ginger, peat ash.
In the mouth: that rounded peat, lemon, fresh green apples, deeper sherry fruit, fresh figs with honey, the initial sweetness drops off leaving a dusty dry finish which is marginally bitter.
Slightly dryer than the previous batch, perhaps not as fruity, but nothing that would change the score a level.
Ardnamurchan AD/07.21:05 – Review
65% bourbon & 35% sherry (both PX & Oloroso), 50:50 peated and unpeated. 46.8% ABV. £47. Core Signature Release.
Colour: Consistently golden.
On the nose: Peaty but less sherry forward than other batches, more subtle sherry, slightly brighter with more orchard fruits, apricot, green apple, the freshness and cask spice come through more and the peat is less prominent but consistent throughout.
In the mouth: Sherry fruit introduction, peat spice building, malty drying finish with some minerals and a pinch of salt before becoming a little peppery.
Solid whisky, this is slightly more to my taste as an interesting, but slight, batch variation. If the Adelphi intention is largely consistency whilst accepting some batch variation this is achieved successfully. I am sure that if you enjoy one of these batches, you will enjoy them all. There is not enough of a difference to warrant trying to buy them all, but well worth replacing with whatever batch is out with the next available when you finish a bottle. Consistently…
Ardnamurchan AD/08:15 Ck.560 – Review
American oak peated spirit initially peated to 30ppm exclusively for Royal Mile Whiskies. 58.9% ABV. £89.95.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: Gentle peat, whisps of peat smoke, fruit bursting through, ripe orchard fruits, plum and peach, most Summery, lemon zest and some sea salt, subtle peat lingering.
In the mouth: Spicy peat, charred oak, slightly vegetal, a bit meaty, great body, lovely lemony shortbread finish.
The lemon notes are consistent throughout these samples which I find very enjoyable. This greatly opened with water and is a strong…
Ardnamurchan Scotch Malt Whisky Society 149.2 “Peaty Peninsula” – Review
5 years old; 19.09.2015 – 2021. First fill ex-Oloroso. 60.7% ABV.
Colour: Rich gold.
On the nose: Blunt sherry, oloroso you probably would not enjoy a glass of on its own, aromatic peat, some brine, baked fruits, orchard fruit crumble perhaps, malty and a little buttery.
In the mouth: Sherry forward but balanced by salty brine and citrus notes, certainly lemon, some green apple peel and a lovely dry mineral finish that is peat with a spirit lead spicy finish. This comes alive with a good slug of water.
On the nose the sherry just overpowered and really had me worried but taste-wise, especially with water, this was very drinkable if a little one dimensional.