From Ian Stopher
Ian has previously reported for rantandwhisky.com on the Scotch 22 selections at Whisky Galore in Christchurch.
This time he has reviewed a selection of his Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) collection of peaty Ardmores. He has very generously given us permission to reproduce his tasting notes here.
So, let’s get tasting!
As I had opened a few recently, I would give you my tasting notes by combining six SMWS offerings of Ardmores into one peaty lineup:
As the photo shows, colours range from a glorious light gold to burnished copper.
Glass 1: 66.167 “Big And Punchy”. 7yo Refill Oloroso Puncheon
Nose: Cream and toffee, newly waxed floor, lemons, not much peat.
Palate: So drinkable with water, creamy toffee, some tang of peat and a hint of Oloroso but it is so soft.
Finish: The same tang of peat and it does leave that whiff in the mouth afterwards. Maybe a bit short in length but acceptable for a 7yo.
Overall: A glorious whisky for 7 years. Water definitely makes it better, bringing out a sweet toffee note. No domination by either the Oloroso or the peat. Punchy at full strength but a soft purring kitten diluted.
Glass 2: 66.151 “Tiffin in a Blackhouse”. 10yo Refill Bourbon Barrel
Nose: Prickly and sharp, hand sanitiser, some chemical off notes.
Palate: Manageable (just) at full strength but hard almost mineral. A small amount of water still does not soften this down – it is tough going.
Finish: In the more lightly peated category but still quite noticeable. The peat and the spirit leave a rather hollow feeling in the throat: more of a “medicinal TCP with warm water”. Not what I was expecting.
Overall: I opened this a couple of days ago and was pretty disappointed. I don’t mind the odd Bourbon Barrel, but this one does not match me very well. More for the masochists.
Glass 3: 66.129 “Barbeque on a Banana Boat”. 12yo Bourbon Hogshead/Second Fill Hogshead (Heavy Toast Medium Char)
Nose: Lovely and spry, summer meadows, light tang with mild peat.
Palate: A little difficult to discern without water. Do-able but it is a touch hard work. With a reasonable amount of water those new oak end caps start to work their pepperiness. More peat now noticeable after some consumption.
Finish: Rather green stick, verging on sour and mouth-coating. This is not the finish I remember when I opened it a couple of days ago, it’s a bit over-cooked. The peat is there, with also that aspirin aftertaste.
Overall: It seems to start well but that finish is rather an acquired taste (so to speak); it might soften with some time open but so far this bottle isn’t the complete package.
As I was reviewing these notes, I thought this whisky was just a single maturation but something wasn’t right. I went back and checked and found it has an HTMC hogshead finish. This for me has wrecked the finish, which would explain my overcooked notes above.
Glass 4: 66.175 “From Arbroath to Bogota”. 12yo Refill Bourbon Hogshead
Nose: Overripe fruit bowl, moderate peating, dusty drawers, wet leather wallet.
Palate: Wow, this is nice and compact without any water. Lovely sweetness, quite syrupy, a dash of peat and lychees, very slight pepper, this is my kind of palate.
This seems to be in the Goldilocks zone for finishing with red wine,
Finish: Not that distinguishable from the palate. It does not leave a heavy mark but more a golden sliding ebb. The finish is not screaming hoggie though. I am missing the pepper or spice hit.
Overall: Water tends to harden this whisky, better with just 2 drops at most. This seems a good sweet spot for me: a good hogshead, a decent amount of peat, not released too early: a very good drammer
Score: 8.5 is slightly generous, on another day it might be an 8.4.
Glass 5: 66.161 “Chateau du Pork Scratching”. 13yo Bourbon Hogshead/First Fill Red Wine Barrique Finish
Nose: Raspberries, lanolin, quite mature and heavy musk odours.
Palate: Hot, hot, hot, crisp red apples rather than the fruits you might expect with red wine. The tartness is still on the side of likeable.
Finish: A bit acidic and refluxing, so something to contend with. It is evocative of those lees in the bottom of a bottle that really you should pour away rather than consume
Overall: While the above suggests I am not in favour of this dram, it does have a homely, warming winter evening aspect to it. It is perhaps more like a warm mulled wine equivalent of a drink, just at 58.1%.
Glass 6: 66.184 “Smoked Seaweed Smoothie”. 13yo Bourbon Hogshead/Second Fill Red Wine Barrique Finish
Nose: Peaches, office after the cleaners have wiped down the surfaces, mild peat.
Palate: Quite dry, but that fruit that was quite overt in Glass 5 is more reined in. That might be psychological, as I know this one is 2nd Fill Red Wine, not 1st Fill. But so far this one is a better match. It works without water giving an intense alcoholic punch but providing a glow from the wine. I added some water and I get more intense redcurrant coming out.
Finish: Still the fruit lingers, along with some marshmallow and a slight medicinal peat mixed with foot crème.
Overall: This seems to be in the Goldilocks zone for finishing with red wine, with some interesting elements thrown into the mix. Works well both with and without water, I even refilled this glass.
Originally this review was spurred by my disappointment with 66.151, Tiffin In A Blackhouse. But when put them head-to-head I am a little surprised by the result. Some final concluding remarks:
- When I opened the bottle for Glass 3 it was a definite improvement compared to Glass 2. But now I realise it is an HTMC finish it makes my misgivings about the finish plausible after the fact.
- I nearly finished the red wine finished bottles. I had been rather reluctant to embrace red wine finishes but these two show it does have an interesting dimension. As the notes above suggest I think the 2nd Fill Red Wine Barrique works better than the 1st Fill: as should be obvious, you can always overdo it.
- I knew I enjoyed the 7yo but I have not experimented with water with that one which really works. Fortunately, I have a bottle from a sister cask still unopened.
- I may be rather inured to the peat, but it wasn’t the thing I hope I harped on about: it was there but often it just served a supporting role.