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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Ardmore 21 year old 1997 SMWS 66.146

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

This is the second of four single SMWS hogsheads of Ardmore with the same distillation date, 23 October 1997. I tried them all side-by-side, neat and diluted. Each was different, though often sharing a characteristic or two. Yesterday's 1997 worked very nicely with a little bit of dilution. This one is probably a few months older, yet has a much lighter color.

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 21 years (23 October 1997 - ????)
Maturation: refill bourbon hogshead
Cask#: 66.146, "Sensational sweet smoky ‘noble rot’"
Outturn: 244 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
(from a bottle split)


Like yesterday's pour, this whisky's nose begins with apples and gunpowder, but then it goes in a different direction. Cheddar cheese and water crackers meet flowers and pears. But the gunpowder note keeps growing and growing. The palate is......a thing. Buttery, bitter, and acidic at first, it's actually kind of unpleasant. But then the sweetness arrives, bringing oranges and lots of caramel, washing away most of the difficult notes, but adding little depth. The acidity stays into the finish, as does the caramel, with hints of black pepper and lemon in the background.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is like some sort of snickerdoodle-laced newmake, which is not as good as it sounds. Meanwhile, the palate improves a little bit. More smoke and oranges. Cinnamon and dried oregano. But it's also a little bit papery, and the acidity continues to linger. The finish has gotten briefer, but is a pleasant mix of cinnamon, lemons and sugar.


Every Ardmore can't be great. And this one isn't great. Cheese and sulfur don't pair well, and the palate feels a touch off, making me wonder what was going on with the cask. The whisky can probably be better salvaged with more dilution, but I don't see it ever lifting off. Maybe something went wrong with my sample because other people like the whisky quite a bit. That's okay, there's more Ard!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - maybe £95?
Rating - 78