Ardmore Traditional Cask: 46% abv
Background: Ardmore is an interesting Highland Single Malt whisky. It does a lot of things to set itself apart. Ardmore started in 1898 by William Teacher’s son, in an attempt to bolster stocks for the Teacher’s Highland Cream blended Scotch. Interestingly, Ardmore is still the key single malt in Teacher’s. The “Traditional Cask” Ardmore is a very reasonably priced NAS whisky, but it also tries to contend with the Islay malts by calling itself a peated whisky. Some purists might raise the nose to the statement, but don’t get too indignant before you try this one. Aged in quarter casks, it is fair to say that this is not an old whisky, but it does get bottled at a nice 46%. The question we’re always asking ourselves is: should this whisky be on my shelf?
Nose: There is no question that this Highland malt means business. If you think this can’t shred with the Islay single malts, you’re sorely mistaken. The first sniff from this glass will greet you with a powerful, thick smoke. It smells a lot like smoked meats and burning fall leaves. The smoke is mossy and earthy, but a little bit different than your traditional Islay peat smell. Along with the smoke, there is a strong vanilla, malt, and some great dark fruit notes in here. There is a subtlety of burning cigar tobacco in the nose as well. There is some allspice and strong oakiness that starts to come out of the nose as well. The nose is very dense and ashy.
Arrival: The arrival starts off with a unique tartness, malt sourness, and some interesting fruitiness. The vanilla and oak are very dominant in the beginning, and there is almost a jammy fruit flavor up front. The arrival is quick, but blasts out the introduction to this single malt effectively. There is a slight, subtle smokiness to the arrival. The smoke basically acts as a good prelude of the whisky to come.
Body: The body is very ashy, with a lot of dense flavor to boot. Dry spices jump into the game as well, bringing out black peppercorn and cloves. More smokiness comes out of the whisky here, but it is still modestly subdued. There is some cinnamon and apple present in the body.
Finish: The finish is where the whisky starts to bring out the peat the most. There is a fresh tobacco flavor, with some woodiness and vanilla coming out as well. The maltiness presides over the entire event, but the fruitiness dies off. There is a large cinnamon aftertaste in the finish that becomes noticeable after a few sips. Although the Ardmore doesn’t take on the most complex finish, it finishes strong and thick.
Nose: As the whisky gets water, it does not contribute much more to the nose. It is still extremely dense and smoky on the nose. The intensity of the smoke to the whisky is still very prominent.
Arrival: After adding water, the arrival is very malty and vanilla-dominant. The wood notes are still very dominant in this whisky, which shows off the intensity of the quarter cask.
Body: The body is downplayed a lot after the water was added (it was probably a little too much water). Overall, this acts as a bridge between the arrival and the finish. It is slightly vegetal, and mostly smoky.
Finish: The vanilla and peat are really on display in the finish. That being said, after adding water the whisky finishes a little cleaner with just a little hint of bitterness that wasn’t present before. It is a botanical-like flavor that is coming out more. The vegetal notes from the body start to become prevalent in the finish as well. There is also just a tad of maple-syrupy aftertaste.
Final Comments: This whisky is a very similar story to Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve in terms of value per dollar. The whisky is good on its own accord, but when you see the price and presentation, it is a hard one to pass up. This isn’t necessarily a personal favorite, but I would NEVER turn down a glass of this. If you buy this thinking it will be an Islay whisky from the Highlands, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, why would you want that? This offers a much different experience for a much better price. The KCM recommendation is get at least one bottle of this. In terms of the whisky’s flavor? It is a gorgeously earthy, smoky, tobacco forward malt with some interesting contrasting flavors to it. It does not have the complexity to really make everybody happy, but I’m willing to look over that.
Why you’d buy it: You understand economics and good taste.
Why you wouldn’t: You are an avid Islay peat-head