There’s a lot of love out there in the whisky-sphere for the Ardmore Traditional Cask. And please believe me when I say that I really want to like it more than I do.
A couple of years back when I first tried this expression, I recall being slightly underwhelmed. Fast forward to the days leading into 2014 and…well…sadly, I’m still kinda underwhelmed. It’s not a bad whisky, but for all it has going for it, it simply never quite takes the plunge into ‘great whisky’ territory.
Ardmore is a distillery which has long produced malt whisky for blending purposes. Primarily for Teachers Highland Cream, if what I’ve read is correct. The distillery was built in 1898 in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Highlands, and produces a ‘fully peated’ Speysider. The results are…well…pretty much what you’d expect, but with a few quirks that allow it to boast a rather singular profile.
The folks at Ardmore, much like Laphroaig, are using Quarter Casking for some of their maturation. This allows for increased spirit to wood contact and a substantially accelerated ageing process. While this works with bog beasts like Laphroaig, whch benefit from being dished up young and fiery, I’m not sure the experiment is as successful in this case. Maturation in Quarter Casks, by nature, has to be short, or the resulting whisky will be nothing but oak. The flipside, however, is that the barrel hasn’t really had enough time to knock the jagged edges off the young spirit. And there are definitely some edges here.
Do note…this is a whisky which absolutely needs time to open up. It’s not entirely at its best right off the cork. Let it breathe. Let it relax. It does deliver with a bit of patience, but still…not quite to the standards I’d hoped. There is a lot of promise here, but something seems to be just not quite there yet. Maybe an extra point for the nose.
Nose: Leather and earthy peat. Then more leather. Some iodine. Man…can’t get over the ‘saddle-like’ leather notes. Very ‘dry’ smelling, if that makes any sort of sense. Light raw tobacco. There are some fruit notes, to be sure, but rather generic and typical of what you’d find in one of the ‘Glen’ distilleries. Nothing unique. There’s a vague hint of salmon with lemon and capers. Some caramel. And…a bit of a floral note. Not tooooo far off a Springbank, really. Think this would age well, but as it stands…middling at best.
Palate: That salmon note carries here. Wish it hadn’t, to be honest. Some earthy peat notes and leather too. Smoke and tannic fruits. Disappointing.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt