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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Ardmore 17 year old 2003 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 598 for K&L

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

This Ardmore cluster begins with the baby of the bunch, a 17 year old refill sherry hoggie bottled for California retailer, K&L Wine Merchants. This is the only one of the dozen cluster members that was distilled after Ardmore switched from direct coal fired stills to indirect steam heated stills. I tend to prefer the older process (of course), but I'm always rooting for this distillery so I'll try the newer stuff.

Six years ago, G&M released a 2002 sherried beast of an Ardmore, a bottle I enjoyed only at full strength. Let's see if this 2003 works...

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Series: Connoisseurs Choice
Age: 17 years old (2003 - 20 August 2021)
Maturation: Refill sherry hogshead
Cask #: 598
Batch #: 21/178
Outturn: 196 bottles
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 54.9%
(from a bottle split)


An entertaining mix of coffee, tar, eucalyptus, and moss starts off the nose. Some cloves and cranberry juice appear next. There's also something reminiscent of the cask heavy armagnacs from L'Encantada. The bold palate is all cigarettes and Chambord at first. There's some salty bacon and good brisk bitterness in the middle. Hints of lemon in the back. The long finish is full of salt, berries, grass smoke and citrus.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or < 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose has gotten a little funkier and nuttier; notes of dried apricots, raw almonds, smoke, and stones mostly, with an industrial hint in there. The palate gets smokier, with herbs and grasses in the midground, lime and salt in the background. It finishes with herbal smoke and a touch of dried fruit sweetness.


This was better than I had expected. Possibly better than my bottle of the 2002 G&M. Its contemporary approach to Ardmore, with lots of smoke and cask influence, probably makes it a good place to start this cluster. Good news: The sherry cask + peat combo worked. Not-exactly-good-news-on-Diving-for-Pearls: This whisky could have come from any one of 20+ other distilleries. So I can say it was well-produced, and I may have considered a bottle at a lower price.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $140
Rating - 87

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