A review of the Ardmore 8yo single malt released by North Star Spirits as a part of series 001.
The Ardmore 8yr old from North Star Spirits was the second of the three whiskies poured for our monthly tasting session. The first one being Glenrothes 20yr old. You can read that review here and more about North Star here.
Ardmore in my opinion is an easily overlooked single malt thanks to in part due to its unremarkable official range. The distillery produces a staggering 5.5 million litres of distillate, bulk of which feeds the omnipresent Teacher's Highland Cream blend (India is a significant market for the Teacher's blend). The remainder gets bottled as Ardmore single malt both as official and independent bottlings. It is in the indie market where it has good following. Some of the Gordon & Macphail, Cadenhead's and BBR bottlings have received critical acclaim and are very much sought after. Currently they don't have a full age statement range as one would expect instead only one 12yr old Ardmore Port Wood and three NAS expressions, Ardmore Legacy, Tradition and Triple Wood. In the past they've had some older age expressions which have been discontinued.
Ardmore is medium peated at 12-14 ppm levels. They use peat from Aberdeenshire (St.Fergus) and as compared to Islay peat it burns differently with more wood smoke notes and is less pungent. Perhaps this is because it is high in carbohydrate and wood based lignins (Lignin is a constituent of the cell walls of almost all dry land plant cell walls. It is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose-Lignoworks). Incidentally Aberdeen peat is also used by Paul John whisky.
Up until 2001 Ardmore's stills were directly fired by burning coal. This along with descending lyne arms created a heavier style of new make. In fact when they moved to indirect firing with the help of steam the team deliberately introduced imperfections in the steam coils to replicate the hot spots often created by coal firing which also contributes to the flavour. In the past they have also produced a small amount of unpeated malt called Ardlair. On to the review now.
North Star Spirits-Ardmore 8yr old-Series 001
Price paid £57 | Sold out
Natural colour|Non chill-filtered
Distilled Jun'08-Bottled Oct'16
Color: Light Amber
Nose: Smokey right off the bat. It is very sooty and leans more towards bonfire smoke and not the pungent in-your-face medicinal Islay peat. This certainly seems much higher than 12-14 ppm. Now there are secondary aromas of sweet lime, lemon tart and cured meats. With some time you get delicious grilled pears and peaches, barbecue sauce, caramelised chocolate sauce on a sizzling brownie plate. Ohh I could nose this all day!
Palate: Follows the nose but the smoke is a lot more gentle and soft and the sweetness is more pronounced. Almost chewy on the palate with hints of liquorice, roasted pineapples, red fruits and brine. With water it gets sooty and spicy with lots cinnamon and cloves. The salt dials up as well and then there is this gorgeous mix of sweet, savoury and smoky flavours. Think salted caramel popcorn. Very tasty and dangerously quaffable.
After 20 mins in the glass the peat becomes almost heather like with vanilla and dates. Reminded me of the old Highland Park 18 before the Vikings ruined the whisky. There is now a little tarry quality maybe just a tiny touch of sulphur? The balance is fabulous. The morning after a perfect breakfast dram. I'd pour this over my sunny side up. Figuratively speaking of course. But I'm sure you knew that!
Finish: Intensely long with peat, honey and smoked meats.
Impressions: Wow! What did we just have here? Was the response from the group. When I revealed the bottle everyone was gobsmacked. Ardmore! Can this be true? A single malt of just 8 yrs punching way above its age in terms of balance and complexity. In fact the previous Glenrothes 20 yr old felt far more youthful than this. And not to forget £57 is a good price for what it delivers. I have one parting question. If this kind of quality is slumbering in the Ardmore warehouses then can somebody please tell me why in God's name do they dish out Ardmore Legacy?