It’s not entirely unique, but Ardmore seems to be the distillery that uses other distilleries’ casks most. And I’m not talking about bourbon casks being used in Scotland, but Scottish single malt distilleries’ casks being reused at other single malt distilleries in Scotland. I know of some others, but from the top of my head, Ardmore is the one that does this most.
Mostly, when disregarding Ardmore, it’s distilleries reusing casks from other distilleries, when they reusing distillery doesn’t make peated whisky and they want to do something with a touch of smoke. Balblair has a ‘peaty cask’ range, Tormore has some ‘Islay casks’ out there, and even Balvenie does, even though they also make a portion of peated whisky themselves.
Strangely, Ardmore is already a peated whisky, and they add more peat. Different peat, I might add. Ardmore is a Highlands distillery, using a highland style of smokiness. Heather and moss instead of sea week and marram grass, so to say. And then they use Laphroaig casks, like in this one.
Let’s say I’m a bit skeptical.
Straw, barley, vanilla and a hint of dark chocolate. Smoky, but with a more salty tang than usual for Ardmore. A bit more sweet than I expected, with sponge cake, lemon drizzle.
The palate is really hot with a mountain of chili peppers and alcohol heat. Straw and smoke, slightly salty again. Dark chocolate, pound cake, and a bit of porridge.
A short blast of peppery heat again, before it gets very dry, and a tad cardboardy.
My skepticism is not unwarranted, I think. It’s a bit like they took a rather decent Ardmore (because which bourbon matured Ardmore isn’t at least decent?) and then it got messed up. Of course, it’s impossible to tell where the original whisky ends and the Laphroaig cask influence begins, but compared to what I know of the distillery’s output, this one is too dry, too harsh and that cardboardy note on the finish doesn’t sit well with me either.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad dram, but I just don’t get it. I don’t see the point. There’s quite a lot to like, but there are some aspects that don’t sit well with me.