Ardmore 13yo 1994/2008 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, The Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead #65, 303 bottles)

Ardmore, my poor-man’s Brora. Since coming across several Ardmore’s over the time, I see huge potential in this Whisky. Very good spirit, and if it is filled into a cask of equal quality, activity, this stuff can really shine. Just have a look at the three I reviewed earlier. Whiskyman’s 1992 (89 Points), Gordon & MacPhail’s 1993 (87 Points), and finally Mo Ór’s 1992 (84 Points), where the last one was reduced to 46%, Why would one do that? All three were bottled some time ago and the reviews were written a few years back as well, so let’s continue with another one from the past. We move up only one year, since this was distilled in 1994, and bottled some ten years ago.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Well, this most definitely doesn’t smell like White Wine. Slightly buttery, with vanilla, some soft oak, and a slightly acidic side-note. Typical Hogshead remade with American oak staves. Green, grassy and even slightly meaty. Gravy? Not very peaty and hardly any smoke at all. When searching for peat I’m welcomed by a more fruity and lemony note as well as a leafy and green note. Hmmmm, it is the lemon you get from detergents. Nice oaky note taking over from this little faux-pas though. Pencil shavings even. Yes some peat seems to be coupled with the oak, soon to be followed by the return of the creamy and buttery notes from the start as well as some cold dish water. Remember you washed the dishes yesterday and forgot to pull the plug? This may not be one of those complex Ardmores, since it is clearly from a cask that has been filled several times before. Its friendly and fruity, almost summery in demeanor. Some notes seem a bit off, but pull together just in time. Interesting feat.

Taste: Oak and sawdust first. Hints of pepper. Yeah. Right after the characterful statement, the more fruity, citrussy, notes appear. Almost with a carbonated quality to it. Although very tasty, friendly it is not. Too much alcohol for that. I love the oomph which you can sense does great things to balance this Whisky. Ashtray and nice peat mixed in with the citrus fruit. It switches effortlessly between the (fatty) creamy & woody/cardboardy part and the more fruity acidity. Although not very complex, what it does, it does it good. Quite a long finish, although it maybe better to describe it as a prolonged body, since you get all the aroma’s, all the time. Aftertaste is bitter (wood) and again all of the above. This one fools you into thinking its simple, and fruity, it is, but it is not an easy one, and that’s not only because of the high ABV.

Definitely not your typical Ardmore. Where in the past I called a particular Ardmore a potential Brora, this one most definitely isn’t. This bottling is an interesting Whisky, made form excellent spirit, but not good enough to be a Brora to be. I feel Ardmore is somewhat overlooked and underestimated by its owner Beam Suntory in favour of the other distilleries in their portfolio. Ardmore has to compete with Auchentoshan, (one of the last Lowland distilleries), Laphroaig and Bowmore (big, big Islay brands) and Glen Garioch (Highland), which seems to get a lot more love and attention than Ardmore (also Highland). So Ardmore seems to be the ugly duckling in the portfolio. Maybe Ardmore isn’t getting the best casks the company owns, since the Mo Ór example and this The Single Malts of Scotland offering seem to come from somewhat less active casks, yet still manage to turn out quite good. Apart from this, the official output doesn’t seem to be hurling at the consumer as well. Still, I have a lot of faith in Ardmore, it holds a place on my favourites list. It can be a truly amazing Whisky. As long as it stays under the radar, we have to hunt for examples from the independent bottlers world, that were ‘accidentally’ filled into good casks.

To the people of Ardmore Distillery. Keep doing the excellent work, your moment to shine will come!

Points: 85


Campbeltown Loch 30yo (40%, Springbank Distillery, 09/507)

I get this all the time. “You always write about Single Malt Whisky, as if there is no other Whisky”. Yes, those people might have a point, but I do prefer Single Malt over today’s Blends, but forgetting about blends altogether, would be a mistake. Just have a go with a blend from the olden days to convince yourself. Mind you, most of them still are very inexpensive at auctions, so it doesn’t cost a lot to be adventurous.

Here we have a Blend that was brought to you by the good people of Springbank. Hence the use of the standard Springbank bottle. For now, let’s give this 30yo blend a go, and more about the ingredients of this Blend later…

Campbeltown Loch 30yoColor: Gold.

Nose: Grainy, dull at first, with some paper notes. Cola freshness. The whole is very malty and light, so there probably is a lot of Grain in this Blend. Not a lot of old Whisky aroma is oozing out of my glass. Hints of old Sherried Malt, yeast and cardboard. Next some old wood emerges with dusty and, slightly smoky, notes of very dried out apricots. So slightly fruity and waxy, typical for old Bourbon casked Malt. Oak spice and some woody mint, but not as much as you would expect after 30 years.

Taste: Grainy, Malty and sweet. Very light. Light mocha and milk chocolate notes. Nice cookie dough and waxy depth and although quite thin, it has a bit of chewiness to it. Still, the body remains very light and fragile, grainy and lightly fruity. Towards the end a vegetal and a soury note from the oak leads into the weakish and quite short finish. It comes across as watered down, and hardly seems 40% ABV at all. You know what my next remark would be…

Before we continue, here is what Springbank had to say about this Blend: “Around 45% of the Campbeltown Loch 30yo is made up of the old 25yo, which was allowed to mature on. That 25yo blend was almost 100% malt and contained some 1964 Springbank along with other single malts including 1977 Ardmore, 1977 North Port, 1978 Tomatin, 1977 Imperial, 1976 Glengarioch, 1976 Ardbeg and 1976 Glen Grant. 30yo grain from Girvan was added to that, to complete the new 30yo Campbeltown Loch.“ Well I couldn’t have said that any better myself.

The old 25yo they mention was made from almost 100% Malt Whisky, so it almost was a Blended Malt, or Vatted Malt we used to call it back then. This 30yo however, contains only 40% Malt Whisky, so a lot of that Girvan was added to the old 25yo.

Yes it’s nice, but also very light. This Blend has a lot of fans and why not, just read the list of its contents again. Check out the age again. Personally, I don’t really get a lot of the old malts in this blend and I don’t think the Girvan was matured in very active casks, that mask the old Malts even more. Nevertheless, nice stuff and I won’t have a problem finishing this, but I can’t help but feel this could have been even better by adding less Girvan and bottling fewer bottles, since there weren’t any more old Malts available. I do hope I get to try the old 25yo Blend someday…

Points: 85

Ardmore 18yo 1992/2011 (46%, Mo Ór, Bourbon Hogshead #5013, 286 bottles)

Three months ago, I reviewed two Ardmore’s, and was very pleasantly surprised, not to mention impressed. At a certain moment I even called it the present day’s Brora, or something of that nature. First a 1992 bottled by Domiek Bouckaert a.k.a. The Whiskyman, that scored a nice 89 points, and second a 1993 by the omnipresent Gordon & MacPhail. G&M’s version still got a very nice 87 points. Both malts were available for (much) less than 100 Euro’s, and that’s a steal in today’s feverish market. Today after a week’s absence, let’s have a go at this 1992 bottled by Mo Ór. Let’s hope it will do as well as the other 1992.

Color: White wine.

Nose: Nice, fresh acidic and aromatic lemon, but it has a lot more going for it. The wood comes across as pretty sweet with lot’s of vanilla. A storm of fresh air, as I said, very fresh and quite clean. Barley. I remember the other Ardmore’s as more dirty versions of Ardmore. I can hardly detect any peat in this and the smoke does need some time to manifest itself. Perfumy it is and slightly buttery (hot butter). Actually this is a lovely whisky on the nose. Not very complex, but it does have a well-balanced nose.

Taste: Hmm, licorice, clay and the (earthy) grains from the nose return. I expected a bit more of an attack, but it stays a bit back. Well don’t underestimate the smoke now! That’s here in abundance, but there isn’t a lot more coming from this. I guess this one was quite clean and lovable from the start, but I feel the reduction to 46% ABV didn’t benefit the Whisky this time. It has a late and mild fruitiness to it, pineapple and the fatty, sweetish smokiness is quite nice. Still as with the nose, the palate is undemanding and of average balance. The finish is of medium length.

This time around, the cask didn’t do much for the whisky, probably second or third refill considering the color and age. Still a well-earned…

Points: 84

Ardmore 17yo 1993/2010 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Reserve, First Fill Bourbon Barrel #5747, 244 bottles)

Let’s do another Ardmore and compare it to the day before yesterday’s offering by The Whiskyman. We all know that 1992 is somewhat of a good vintage for Ardmore. So let’s see what happened in the distillery a year later. This 1993 was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail and they were so kind to do that for Van Wees of The Netherlands.

Color: Gold

Nose: The same meaty, slightly peaty nose as The Whiskyman’s offering. Nice soap with green apples and other fruits. Leather. Dryer and more powdery. A little more wood too.

Taste: Great fruity sweet start, more ashy. Somewhat less complex and a tad more sourness from the wood. Same kind of peat. The peat itself is more chewy and more farmy. Toffee. Some mint in this one too. Rare black fruits in the drier and warming finish, but overall, a little less impressive than yesterday’s Ardmore.

This is an Ardmore, no doubt about it. Just nose it and you’ll smell the family resemblance to The Ardmore bottled by the Whiskyman. It’s from another year, but the nose is quite similar. In the taste department it’s a bit less balanced, but still has a lot going for it. I’m always a sucker for those black fruits in the finish. Like old style Bowmore for instance.

These 90’s Ardmore’s seem to me to be the Brora’s of the modern age. Great stuff. Recommended. I definitively have to look into Ardmore some more. So hopefully to be continued.

Points: 87

Ardmore ‘Peat fighting man’ 20yo 1992/2012 (49.9%, The Whiskyman, 146 bottles)

Dominiek Bouckaert is known for being the billionth ICT guy that does something in whisky. When I started with whisky I was an ICT guy myself and of course was introduced to the stuff by another ICT guy. In fact I was introduced to Whisky by two of them. One was partial to Laphroaig (eventually my first self bought Single Malt), and the other was more into Talisker (I’m something of a Talisker-collector now).

Besides ICT, Dominiek took it upon himself to dabble a bit with distribution of the Malts of Scotland (A german bottler) and play a bit with Luc Timmermans doing their Hand Written Labels. and last but not least, Dominiek has his own label now. The Whiskyman. Nice psychedelic colorful labels with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge to music. Beatles and Stones to start with, and this is an example of the latter called peat fighting man.

Color: White wine

Nose: Sweet, citrussy and malty, but this time with depth. Fishy, salty peat, lemon and wet grass. Given some time, the lemons are replaced by oranges. Fresh. Smoke, soap and latex paint. Ultra clean wood and hay. All elements fit nicely together. Very bold statement. From the name Dominiek gave to this Whisky, I would have expected some kind of peat attack, but far from it. The peat is there, but fits in rather well instead of singing the lead. A bit like how Charlie Watts fits in the Stones.

Taste: Sweet with a lot of liquorice. Again, not in your face peat, but nice warming peat. It’s not quite farmy, but it has an organic quality to it. Toffee, tea and clean wood again. Fruity. Lots going on here. Nice, very nice.

Very well-balanced malt. Great find, well done Dominiek. Now we want another one!

Points: 89

Thanks go out to Jack for handing me this sample.