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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ardmore 12 year old Port Wood Finish

On one hand I'm happy that one of my favorite distilleries now has a full official whisky range. On the other hand, the entire range is essentially multi-casked. Tradition, formerly Traditional Cask, has a quarter cask finish. This 12 year old has a port cask finish. Triple Wood uses, er, three different casks. Even the limited edition 20 year old uses has an Islay cask finish. Legacy doesn't seem to have a finish, but it's NAS and 40%abv.

Ardmore makes an old school peated Highland spirit, so I'm not sure why they feel the need to futz with it. They do seem to be trying imitate their portfolio-mate, Laphroaig. How about an all ex-bourbon cask 10 year old Cask Strength edition then?

But back to the positives. Ardmore! A 12 year age statement! Also, Ardmore! And I do like a well done port cask whisky. I could barely wait to buy this whisky once we moved to Ohio, in fact I bought a bottle (not from Ohio) before we even had permanent housing. It took me only two years to open the bottle.

Distillery: Ardmore
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: bourbon casks, then port casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? possibly
(bottom half of my bottle)

The nose certainly has its fruits – green apples, green grapes and blackberry jam – but it also brings out plenty of brine and mossy wet stones. Smaller notes of roasted corn, honey and brandy linger at the edges. The palate has light-to-moderate levels of sweetness, pepper, smoke and minerals. There's some blackberry jam, limes, almonds and caramel. The finish goes darker than the palate, with Band Aids and beach smoke. Tart limes and a few berries roll around as well.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Shisha, lemon zest and cinnamon lead the nose. Then fennel, orange oil and gentle peat smoke. The palate is sharper and less sweet than when neat. Bigger on the salt and chile oil than the peat smoke and berries. The finish still has a good length to it. Very mineral and peppery. No glamour.

Though Ardmore 12 year old Port Wood Finish won't wind up on any reliable Whisky of the Year lists, it did make my (totes reliable) Favorite Single Malts Under $80 list. Its port, peat and oak levels are never out of whack. It's never too hot or too sweet. And it's impressively austere (the A word!) for an official bottling, especially on the diluted palate.

Or to be less thoughtful and more gutful(?), this bottle was consumed quicker than my average whisky bottle. In three head-to-head comparisons it tasted better than my 1991 Ardmore, which still sits in the cabinet more than half full. Kudos to the blenders at Ardmore for fashioning a good malt. Now how about a 15- or 18-year-old bourbon cask release???

Availability - Europe
Pricing - $50-$60 w/o VAT, w/o shipping
Rating - 85

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