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Friday, January 5, 2024

Ardmore 23 year old 1997 SMWS 66.195

To be honest, after trying Wednesday's whisky I was feeling ambivalent about drinking one more direct-fired-era Ardmore ruined by SMWS's cask fuckery. Writing bitter reviews can be energizing, but drinking disappointing Ardmore is not.

Then last night I looked at the details for the next two scheduled casks, and saw promising glimmers in their caskwork. So I tried them side-by-side. And I was not disappointed.

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 23 years (23 October 1997 - ???)
Maturation: 21 years on a hoggie, then two years in a first-fill Oloroso barrique
Cask#: 66.195, "If these walls could talk!"
Outturn: 275 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48.7%
(from a bottle split)


A gorgeous forest-like peat note stands above everything else in the nose; think earth, dead leaves, and mushrooms. Next: a damp dunnage floor. Mellow notes of dates and dried currants. A bit of mesquite smoke appears later on. Similar foresty peat notes appear in the palate, perhaps a bit smokier. But then there's some black coffee, a mild cigar, and bitter chocolate. Sweet oranges and raspberries highlight the background. Tobacco, mild wood smoke, oranges, and dried blueberries fill the finish.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or >¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Pulled pork, dried apricots, orange peels, and mild florals now fill the nose. The palate: blacker bitterer coffee, sweet berries, and a dunnage hint. It finishes with bitter coffee, bitter chocolate, and tangy citrus.


This one is okay with me. In fact, the nose is excellent. Despite what the sample bottle label shows in the picture above, this was not an STR cask. And it wasn't a sopping gooey first-fill sherry vessel either. The cask does show up more in the palate, but not tragically so. I'm not sure why so many Ardmore casks drop below 50%abv even before their 20th birthday, but most of them are disarmingly drinkable as a result. This one is no exception. Whew.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88