...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Kilkerran 16 year old, 2020 US Edition

Going from good stuff (Ardmore) to good stuff (Kilkerran), but I won't make you sit through 12 reviews of Glengyle's single malt. Just three.

First up, the 2020 American release of the Kilkerran 16yo(!). My how that baby has grown! Also, good on the Mitchell folks for holding on to so many 2004 casks.

Each batch of the 16yo has its own cask mix. For instance the 2021 US edition was 75/25 bourbon/sherry and the 2022 European version is 70/30 bourbon/sherry. Today's batch was 98/2 bourbon/Madeira, a combo I kinda like, a light seasoning of alternative casks.

The 2016 round of the standard 12 year old (also distilled in 2004), was very good without being a knockout, to my palate. I'll pick up a newer batch of that before the price gets any worse. In the meantime, here's a 16...

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 16 years (2004-2020)
Maturation: 98% bourbon casks / 2% madeira casks
Bottled for: U.S. of A.
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose beings with clay and smoked fish, with orange candy highlights. And it works. It seems to get younger as it sits, with pineapple, pear, yeast, and a sencha-like brothy note arriving next. After 45 minutes, the nose shifts to ocean water with a hint of mango.

A mix of sweet citrus fruits leads the palate, with medicinal hints in the corners. It picks up notes of ginger beer, toasted grains, manure, and salt after some time. It never gets too sweet.

It finishes with a menthol and ginger glow. Oranges, cereals, and salt float through the background, along with perhaps a whiff of manure.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

A good move by Glengyle, starting the 16 year olds with this sturdy batch. I ♥ the nose on this one, as it shifts phases (or faces?). The palate reads like a good everyday drinker, never really ascending from there, but I'll take that over all those cask-heavy Kilkerran limited editions. The 16 is likely a half step ahead of the 12yo, but keep in mind the Springbank/Glengyle tendency towards batch variation. Better and worse versions of each are out there.

Availability - This batch is probably sold out
Pricing - other batches are $150-$200
Rating - 87

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Concluding the Ardmore Cluster

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

I'm pretty sure I am the only one who benefitted from this cluster. Here are the things I "learned":

  1. Ardmore is a very very very good single malt.
  2. When matured in hogsheads it can be too young, too oaky, or fabulous.
  3. When matured, even partially, in sherry casks it can be amazing or not.
We all knew this, yes?

The intent behind this cluster really wasn't to glean any deep understanding of the Great and Powerful Ard. Rather, I wanted to greet 2023 with a dozen pours of decently aged malt from this Kennethmont distillery as a way to convince the universe that this January didn't need to be the 37th month of 2020; like a prayer to appease the Whisky Kami, Whisky Buddhas, and Whisky Ganesha. And with all that heresy, I've probably doomed us all. At least the whisky was good.

The cluster did bring the blog its first and second 90+ point non-1992 Ardmores, including my Whisky Doris bottle, and possibly the best sherry cask Ardmore I've ever had. In fact, the cluster members were so good overall that I forgot there was one semi-stinker. But the most satisfying result was the proof that there isn't just one magical Ardmore vintage (aka 1992), rather the distillery's direct fired stills produced excellent stuff right up until the end. As for the steam-coil heated stills......that's a tale for another day.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Ardmore 22 year old 2000 WhiskySponge, edition 69

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

It's time to finish up this cluster with its second dark sherry cask Ardmore. As I'd mentioned in the G&M cask review, I tend to prefer bourbon cask Ardmores, but that sherried hoggie was awesome. Today's whisky had a different life. It spent its final two years in a sherry butt, and the first 20 in at least two refill hogsheads. Thus, it's a single cask that really isn't. But is it good?

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: WhiskySponge
Age: 22 years (1997 - 2022)
Maturation: 20 years in hogshead, two years in a first fill sherry butt
Outturn: 541 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.2%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose arrives with an oaky California pinot noir note. Once the red wine slips away, the cask remains. Butter, raspberry jam, almond butter and a hint of pipe tobacco fill the front and middle; cinnamon, brown sugar and a touch of tar in the back. There's less sweetness on the palate than expected, more walnuts and roots (a good thing IMHO). Dark chocolate, almond butter and metal develop with time. It becomes earthier and bitterer too. Lots of dark chocolate, mint leaves and roots in the finish. A little bit of smoke and oranges as well.

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

Nuts, butter, orange peel and toffee in the nose. The palate has become almost all bitter roots and earth, with a touch of berry sweetness in the background. The finish is more dusty than smoky, with smaller notes of bitterness and mint candy.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Though it's far from matching the aforementioned Gordon & MacPhail cask, this Ardmore works well in its own way. The palate has its act together, as opposed to the.....extremely contemporary-styled nose. There aren't many reviews of these two WhiskySponge Ardmores online — the Whiskybase folks have barely touched it and Whiskyfun hasn't said anything — so I'll reference Good Sir Opinions again. As he noted, the finishing cask seems to have covered up most/all of the Ardmore element of this Ardmore. Luckily the result is nutty and earthy. Thus this is an Ardmore for sherry cask fans rather than Ardmore fans.

Availability - Still available as of the date of this post
Pricing - £235
Rating - 86

Monday, January 23, 2023

Ardmore 24 year old 1997 WhiskySponge, edition 76

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

The final two members of this Ardmore cluster were bottled by Mr. WhiskySponge himself. I'm not sure why I saved them for last, but pre-tasting nosings tell me they're different than the other ten in this series. Starting with the Sponge's refill hoggie, the oldest non-sherry cask of the group...

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: WhiskySponge
Age: 24 years (1997 - 2022)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Outturn: 250 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose arrives intensely piney, with crushed lemongrass and pickle brine (MGP-style) in the background. Notes of lox and lemon candy develop after a 20+ minutes. Oh my ganja, the palate. Wow. Uh okay, yeah, "hops" and dried oregano, grapefruit, pineapple, and some of the nose's pine. Then mezcal and metal and a whiff of peppery smoke. It finishes mostly peppery and metallic with some pineapple and IPA in the back.

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

The nose is a little more Ardmoreish now, with more beach and stones, rather than pine. Some rock candy in there as well. The palate indeed turns more towards hops than "hops". A bit more vibrant overall, sweeter and rootier, but still quite metallic. Its finish lingers sugar-free, plenty bitter and metallic.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

My Annoying Opinions reviewed his part of the bottle split two weeks ago. We found different notes and he seems to have liked it better than I, but we both were disappointed with this whisky that reads younger than its age. Devoid of the charm and grace found in the cluster's other 24 year old, this malt feels like it wasn't done cooking when it was bottled. May I dare suggest that a second maturation — like Sponge's other Ardmore — could have helped a little? Yes, this is me that's tut-tutting a spirit-forward whisky. I'll shut up now.

Availability - Still available as of the date of this post
Pricing - £230
Rating - 84

Friday, January 20, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Ardmore 21 year old 1997 Whisky-Doris, cask 901456

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

Whisky-Doris's white label Ardmore masterpieces were pivotal to my palate's development. It's as if I needed them to show me what I actually like. Ten years ago, I was into BIG flavors. Overwhelming peat, thick sherry influence, or ryes of considerable size. Hyperbolic whiskies led to hyperbolic reviews. But Whisky-Doris's monochrome bottles held '92 Ardmore single malt that dialed the smoke down to 4, citrus up to 6, salt to 5, sweetness to 3......

I just looked back at my last Ardmore TIRD, and discovered I wrote essentially the same thing. It's not that I'm getting old, it's that I tell the same stories over and over. But this habit surely won't worsen with age.

Back to this tale. I bought today's 1997 whisky because Ardmore + Whisky-Doris. It cost 60% more than the '92s did eight years earlier, but I was happy to make questionable monetary decisions during the those early pandemic months because I was depressed AF. Anyway, Ardmore!

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Whisky-Doris
Age: 21 years (November 1997 - June 2019)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 901456
Outturn: 180 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.4%  ← there's that low abv again!
(from the upper third of my bottle)

NEAT

The nose starts with peaches, mangoes, and orange peels. Wood smoke, marzipan, and milk chocolate fill in the open spaces. The fruit gradually smothers it all. The palate arrives "totally in tune" (per my notes). Salt + savory + smoke + sweet citrus. "It's kinda perfect." As if more was needed, dried herbal and tart lemon notes grow with time. Ah, the multi-gear finish. First gear: brine, grapefruits, oranges, and a subtle sweetness. Second gear: savory smoke. Third gear: bitter herbs and grapefruit (again).

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is all wet stones and peaches and bacon and yes. The palate is fruitier, mintier. Plenty of salt and savory remain, but less smoke. The mangoes in the background carry over into the finish, along with ultra-tart citrus and salt.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I treasure this run of excellent TIRD bottles (see here and here and here, and yes I'm ignoring less than excellent bottles, but that's not the point, and this shouldn't be within the parenthetical anyway). As noted above and in a previous post, many '90s Ardmores have curiously low ABVs, no matter who bottles the casks. And it works. I'm also happy to say that this one can take a little bit of water as well. One question remains, will I open my next Ardmore in 2024, or will I be unable to wait that long? Answer: I'll enjoy this one in the moment.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - €160 w/VAT in 2020
Rating - 90

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Ardmore 21 year old 1998 Thompson Brothers

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

The brothers Thompson from Dornoch got themselves into the indie bottling business six and a half years ago, wisely getting their hooks into at least six casks of Ardmore, two of which held spirit distilled in 1998. Today's cask duked it out with this week's other two Ardmores. Who won the day (other than me)?

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Phil and Simon Thompson
Age: 21 years (1998 - 2019)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Outturn: 256 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.5%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

A Caol Ila-style peat envelops apricots, citrons, roses and jasmine in the nose. An early toasty note slowly develops into a beach style similar to yesterday's '96. The palate begins very smoky and peppery, reading almost Islay-like at the start. Sea salt, tart citrus, and green bell pepper highlight the mid- and backgrounds. Not much sweetness going on. It all gets very peppery with time. More salt and bitterness in the finish. Lemons and citrons as well. Smoke residue and hot sauce linger longest.

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

Much of the nose's peat has been replaced by broken stones, vegetable skins, and citrons, with a hint of fennel seed in the back. The palate gains a great herbal bitterness and mineral smoke, with a sweet orange float on top. It finishes with peppery smoke and the sweet citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This one is more of a brawler than yesterday's Ardmore, smokier and pepperier. I might even like it better, especially once it's diluted. It also illustrates my silly opinion that Ardmore can read like a relative of Caol Ila, with a little less (though similar) peat and more fruit once it gets into its twenties. This time though, the phenolics remain high, while the fruit rests mostly in the nose, all merging well with minerals and pepper.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - €140-ish?
Rating - 88

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Ardmore 20 year old 1996 Old Malt Cask, cask HL13770

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

I'm fascinated by how many 18-22 year '90s Ardmores are bottled at ~49%abv. It's not just the quick alcohol drop that interests me, it's the consistency. The parcel of '92 indie Ardmores that knocked me out of my boots were all 48-49%abv, and the majority of this cluster's casks are 49-51%. For instance, today's Ardie is part of the Old Malt Cask range that normally bottles its whiskies at a reduced 50%abv, going higher only for exclusive releases. But this one was bottled at 49.3%abv, cask strength. I'm not complaining here. 48-49%abv tends to be the money spot for my palate. Maybe Ardmore and I were meant to be together.

Oops, the sample was completed and the bottle recycled before I took a pic!

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 20 years (Oct 1996 - Apr 2017)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask #: HL 13770
Outturn: 278 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 49.3%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

It's a beachy Ardmore, as its nose lifts off with brine and distant rotting kelp. A little bit of mesquite smoke as well. Flowers, bananas, pineapple and yuzu slowly fill it out. The palate is very toasty (nuts and grains) and salty. Shortbread, limes and a mild sweetness in the midground, savoriness and wood smoke in the back. It finishes with limes, shortbread and wood smoke, as well as subtler notes sugar and salt.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose holds onto its beach note, but picks up some cherries and more smoke. Leaner now, the palate is mostly minerals and cracked pepper. Tarter limes and less sweetness. The finish is all ginger candy and peppercorns.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is an example of a clean, lean 20 year old single malt with just a touch of oak influence. The palate somehow tops the very good nose. Had the finish more oomph, this could have pushed the 90-point mark. Instead it's merely great. And I'm satisfied with that.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87