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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Ardmore 20 year old 1997 SMWS 66.138

(Ardmore cluster homepage)

On Thursday, the 23rd of October 1997, tornadoes wrecked Southeastern Texas, Starship Troopers asked filmgoers if they'd like to know more, Luther George Simjian (inventor of the teleprompter) shuffled off this mortal coil, and at least 20 refill hogsheads were filled with Ardmore distillery's newmake, hogsheads destined for Scotch Malt Whisky Society's warehouses.

I have tried one of those 20 SMWS hogsheads. Now I am going to sample four more side-by-side.

First up, a 20 year old.

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 20 years (23 October 1997 - 2018)
Maturation: refill bourbon hogshead
Cask#: 66.138, "Deep, rich and burnt fruit"
Outturn: 265 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.4%
(from a bottle split)


Apple chips, gunpowder, and stones on the nose, followed by milder notes of manure and burning hay. Reads like a rustic calvados. The palate starts of smoky, peppery and mineral(ly), with a hint of tangy citrus. That citrus note grows, getting sweeter and slightly metallic with time. It finishes with pepper, cocoa, and apples, growing sweeter with successive sips.

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

The nose is maltier and fruitier now with green grapes and in-season pears. More mossy than smoky. Good dose of cinnamon and sugar. Mossy, woody smoke mixes with gingery molasses chews, stones, and salt on the palate. The finish matches the palate, and adds a lime.


This youngest of the quartet was also by far the darkest in color. Thankfully that didn't equate to an oaky pour. The neat nose's sulfured calvados style was a bit odd, but the slight dilution turned it into something very nice. Water also changed the palate into something I'd be happy to drink again and again. To recap: neat = curious and awkward; diluted = brighter and cuddlier.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - around £110 in 2018
Rating - 88 (diluted only)

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