Some Peated Ardmores from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

From Ian Stopher

Ian has previously reported for rantandwhisky.com on the Scotch 22 selections at Whisky Galore in Christchurch. 

Ian Stopher – photo by Richard Mayston

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:

The SMWS Ardmore Bottles
And their contents

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.

Score: 8.5

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.

Score: 7.4

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.

Score: 8.2

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%.

Score: 8.3

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.

Score: 8.4

Conclusions:

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.

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