Ardmore 1996/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, Refill Sherry Hogsheads)

Why review one Ardmore, when you can review two? Hidden far away in a wooden box, where I keep my odd-shaped sample bottles, I found this more recent Ardmore. All Ardmores I reviewed up ’till now, were somewhat older bottlings, and this one is more recent. 2014 is not that long ago isn’t it? Gordon & MacPhail released 1996 Ardmores in 2013 and 2014, and both are still available, so I guess they hold off a new release, untill both of these sell out. Where on one side we have official bottlings (OB’s), in this case the range released by Beam Suntory (the owners of Ardmore), on the other side we have independent bottlers (IB’s). Usually, firms that buy casks of Whisky and bottle them as a single cask (usually).

However, this particular Gordon & MacPhail bottling lies somewhere in between. This series is known as the licensed bottlings, but are also known as the distillery labels. This comes from the time the owners of certain distilleries allow Gordon & MacPhail to bottle a Whisky and market it as the “official” release, since back then the owners didn’t release an official bottling themselves, probably using the output from that distillery for blends.

Gordon & MacPhail do their own wood management (The wood makes the whisky). They bring in their own casks and fill them at a distillery. Sometimes they leave the cask to mature at the distillery, but more often they take it with them to their own warehouses.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Creamy, vanilla and ice-cream, oh and Sherried as well. On top some smoke. Right from the start this is very well-balanced. Everything is where it’s supposed to be. Sherry casks from American oak. Very sweet, big and thick smelling. Nutty. Almonds, with hints of clay. Add to this a fruity cloying sweetness with an edge of perfect peat, with sometimes some burnt match-stick aroma’s, with only a tiny hint of the sulphur. The sulphur is a mere trace, and I don’t pick it up every time I try this. Next to this the Sherry gives off a funky note which should be an off-note, but here, it works well in the construct of the nose. Almost like artificial orange powder (Sinaspril). Fire-place in the middle of winter. Almost christmas. Lots of vanilla comes next and the smoky note stays. Works very nice together. As I said, very well-balanced indeed. Medium complexity though, and it shows its hand quite quickly. After that, not a lot of development is happening.

Taste: Ahhh, yes. Nice (simple) sweet, creamy, nutty and (red) fruity Sherry nose, mixed in with vanilla and big toffee. Cold black tea. It’s big on the Sherry, the almonds and the cream this is. Also a slightly bitter oaky edge. Peat, but it’s aroma is different from the nose. Stricter and more modern. The fruit evolves in acidity. Excellent smoky note. Come to think of it, where is the wood influence? The wood may have made this Whisky (imho, the Sherry did), but where is the wood itself? Sure it has a lot of vanilla and creamy notes, so American oak was used, I believe, this one would have been better in European oak. A similar thing happens as it did with the nose. Everything is there right from the start and hardly any evolution happens after that. Balanced, yes, sure, but not as much as the nose. Lacks even more complexity than the nose.

Right from the start I thought it was nice, and it is. The journey, however, I was about to take with this Ardmore didn’t happen. Alas. A good Whisky, but it is what it is. The start was promising, and it started with a nice statement from the nose. After that it all went a bit downhill and simple. The Ardmore I reviewed last, also has its flaws, and I can’t say this one is better, hence the similar score. Both are good, but I expected a bit more, especially since in this one, the Ardmore distillery character is obvious in the nose, but not on the palate.

Points: 85

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Longmorn 1971/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, JD/AII)

The old Jameson opened my eyes for old bottles. Not true actually. I’ve known it all along. I just needed a kick in the bee-hind, to open some more, before I one day, kick the bucket. Luckily I had a birthday two months ago, and that is always a good reason to pick a nice one from the collection and “because you’re worth it…”. Of course, “Thursday” is also a good reason in my book. 1971 is quite a legendary year for Longmorn. At Longmorn nobody will concur, because they haven’t done anything different in the years before and since 1971. However, there somehow are a lot, very good sherried, and otherwise matured, Longmorns from around 1971. I particularly love the 1971 from Scott’s Selection, although true Longmornado’s tell me there a many better ones. Great!

Longmorn 1971/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Label, JD/AII)Color: orange gold.

Nose: Waxy. Old black fruits and just like the Jameson I reviewed last a bit of steam. Buttery and beautiful Sherry and black coal. It doesn’t leap out of the glass and I believe that is due to the reduction to 40%. I’m not worried yet, because these old distillates can handle a lot of water. Today’s Malts do need a higher strength. Nevertheless it seems the nose suffered a bit in power. Maybe this is one for a Cognac copita (the big balloon glass). Luckily I have a whole bottle of this, so I can experiment a bit. Slightly tarry but right after that a fresh note of faint menthol/mint. Way down deep into the nose some licorice pops up, well hidden in the dark fruitiness. Again, a wonderful old bottle.

Taste: Sweetish black tea, and again pretty fruity. Raspberry hard candy, and some cherries. The whole is quite soft, so again, maybe this was reduced too much. It’s great as it is, but I can’t shed the feeling, a lot was taken away from this Malt as well. Now it’s too damn drinkable, so I don’t think this will last me a long time. I’m sorry the body isn’t a bit bigger. I’m accepting this now and I move on. This is great stuff extremely well-balanced. A nice nuttiness comes to the fore and then even some honey. Hurray for air, breathing and developing Whisky. Great combination of fruit and the hints of tar and black coal. Tiny hint of burnt Sugar towards the end. The finish could be longer, but we’re rewarded with a wonderful aftertaste. It even reminds me a bit of some Rhum Agricole in the finish. Be patient and give it time to breathe. It opens up. wow!

I’m a sucker for Sherried Longmorns from the second half of the sixties through the first half of the seventies. These Whiskies are so good. Sure there are a lot of Longmorns around that are better than this one, but there are not a lot of Whiskies better than Longmorns like this. Give it time to breathe, it will open up and become bigger than it initially was.

Points: 91

This one is dedicated to David Urquhard (1952-2015) who passed away on 30 November 2015, aged 63.