One of the greatest malts for the money?
I love whisky. I love it when you discover a bottle that helps rewrite your perceptions or challenge beliefs. I love it when you find great whisky can be had at a great price. This was the first whisky for me that made me take notice of what could be bought for relatively little yet still impress like a bottle two or three times it’s price.
Ardmore’s always been a bit overlooked. For years it was just a the distillery that went into Teacher’s blended whisky (not too bad for the bottom shelf) and hardly any of it got put into the wild as a single malt. Then the market changed and single malts got very sexy to the money men and every man Jack suddenly had a single out. Admittedly, Ardmore was VERY late to the party.
Ardmore’s first official toe in the water was the Traditional Cask. A creamy, peated, coloured, 46%, NAS, quarter cask matured, un-chill filtered Highland malt that perhaps, on paper should have been pretty average. But it wasn’t. It was a little gem. I use past tense as it’s been out of production for a good few years now and it only came out in 2007.
For a ‘cheap’ whisky it was amazing. Thick, creamy and very viscous, brimming with malty flavours, a beautiful peat note running through it, soft smoke, sweetness and a strange but wonderfully idiosyncratic finish; all for as little as £25! Some bemoaned the adding of caramel (and yes, it would have been better without it) but it certainly didn’t detract from the quality of the product. And at 46% it was noticeably aimed at a more discerning/demanding scotch drinker.
Although it’s a NAS, a little digging online reveals that the contents are vatted from 6 to 13 years (which might sound a little young for some) but the acceleration in character delivered by the quarter cask finishing makes it feel like it’s spent much more time in the wood. It’s not a complicated malt, far from it, its feels very simple, but this simplicity doesn’t mean it lacks character or depth. In fact, I think it actually becomes one of its strongest selling points.
It’s not for everyone, the nose and pallet divide opinion (but that’s no bad thing) but it can still be picked up cheaply in auctions and found in dusty corners of the internet in smaller retailers. If you can still find it for under £40 it’s a steal. In a world of increasingly expensive and alarmingly average malts it still remains, in my mind, a real bargain and a joy to drink.