Ardmore 1996-2013, 43% – Gordon & MacPhail

Another one from the ‘The Wood makes the Whisky’ campaign. It’s bottled under G&M’s retro label series, in which they bottle whiskies with labels used by the distilleries decades ago.

A 16 year old Ardmore (or maybe 17, that’s not disclosed) means that it’s a decently aged peated highlander. Some sources name it a Speysider, but just like GlenDronach they officially fall just in the Highlands.

It’s not a distillery I’m hugely familiar with, although I’ve tried quite a few over the years. Normally, the whiskies from Ardmore are a bit middle of the road, even though they are ‘peated’ Highlanders. Peated is, of course, subjective and it means something entirely different than it means on Islay. On islay Bowmore is considered lightly peated at 25 ppm phenol or so, while Ardmore sticks to 12 to 14, if my sources are correct.

A diesel like hit of smoke hits me first. Behind all that is a layer of old fashioned oak, with hints of barley. Quite sweet with some dried fruits, peaches and apricots. A slight hint of glue behind it all, but not in a bad way. It adds a bit of contrast. Some licorice too.

Like with the earlier Speyburn, there’s quite an old fashioned oakiness about this. Again, it results in a rather peppery palate. The smoke adds a bit of sweetness that’s interesting, but never overpowering. The sweetness also has a bit of dried peaches.

The finish goes back to the diesel kind of smokiness. Slightly oily and thick too, but with a hint of pepper and a good bit of oak. Not much fruit here, except for a minor hint of peach. Quite long, and the smokiness lasts.

I enjoy the smokiness in this one. It’s, once again, quite old fashioned and the smoke is big and oily. Very different from the far more briny kind of Islay smoke. Good stuff, and it shows that Ardmore is actually quite an interesting distillery.

While that sounds very positive, there’s a big side note. A lot of goodness is in this whisky. A different kind of smokiness, some good old fashioned flavors, a combination of peat and sherry, and so on.

However, I think this one is all a bit, well, average. I tried this little over a week ago and can barely remember it, while yesterday’s Speyburn is still fresh in my mind (I tried that in the same sitting). I think the problem with this Ardmore is the same as with many others: it’s just a bit forgettable.


Ardmore 1996 – 15/11/2013, Refill Sherry hogsheads, 43%, Gordon & MacPhail. Available for highly varying prices (€ 62 to € 82)

Thanks to Gordon & MacPhail for the sample!


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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