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Monday, January 8, 2024

Ardmore 23 year old 1997 SMWS 66.198

There was one more Ardmore sibling cask (66.199) after this one but, for only the third time out of nearly 2000 tastings, my glass's contents wound up in the carpet. Please shed no tears over this, as that whisky's quality did not match today's pour.

I've grumped aplenty about SMWS bothering these direct-fired-era Ardmore sibling casks with aggressive finishes. BUT But but, if one was to apply a two-year second maturation then one could do much worse than refill French oak. So let me introduce Ardmore 23 year old 1997 SMWS 66.198.

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 23 years (23 October 1997 - ???)
Maturation: 21 years in a hoggie, then two years in a refill French oak barrique
Cask#: 66.198, "Serene sunset satisfaction"
Outturn: 235 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
(from a bottle split)


At first sniff, it's almost like a Highland Park, with rippling heather and Orkney peat. Then there's apple cider, oranges, roses, and (yes) mango, which all works flawlessly with the smoky undercurrent. Also, somehow, barley appears, sticks around, then leads the palate. Yes, barley, peaches, clementines, grapefruits, chile oil, and gentle beachy smoke. After 30 minutes it gets slightly sweeter (toffee) and bitterer (horseradish). The grapefruits and peaches remain in the finish, framed well with a mix of bonfire and cigarette smoke.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose doesn't change much. It's still all apple cider, barley, mango, and roses, with subtle wood smoke. That smoke drifts away in the palate, leaving behind peaches, apricots, limes, and chile oil. The juicy finish matches the palate.


I must offer rare props to SMWS for the whisky's name, "Serene sunset satisfaction", as I wouldn't mind sharing a bottle of this at the beach while watching the sunset. The cask keeps the good parts of youth, while disposing of all the less palatable elements. It also offers the lovely balance of smoke and fruit that I seek in many distilleries, but especially Ardmore. Only the slow chemistry of gentle casks produces a whisky like this. If I never have another one of these Ardmore sibling casks, I'd be happy to end with 66.198.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90