The Ardmore distillery is located in the far South-East of
the Speyside region. Actually, this Ardmore isn't the first
distillery to carry the name. Between 1817 and 1835 there
used to be another 'Ardmore' distillery on the island Islay.
That one was closed & incorporated by Lagavulin in 1837.
The current Ardmore distillery is located at the edge of the
Grampian mountains. It was built in 1898 by Adam Teacher,
son of William. Even today, most of the whisky the distillery
produces is reserved for the Teacher's blends which get a
lot of their malty character from the Ardmore malt whisky.
Bottlings of Ardmore as a single malt are relatively rare.
Ardmore was founded during one of the industry booms at the end of the 19th century.
It was actually quite modern at the time; the entire distillery was powered by a single
steam engine and a railway ran alongside the buildings. This was convenient when it
came to the transport of supplies like barley and coal. Until 2002 the stills at Ardmore
were heated by the traditional coal fired furnaces but like most of the other malt whisky
distilleries in Scotland, they use internal heating now. Until the 1970's, the barley was
malted on the premises, but like so many other distilleries in Scotland the Ardmore
distillery depends on specialised maltsters these days.
Ardmore is one of the largest distilleries in Scotland.
The distillery has been expanded not once but twice
since WWII. The original number of two stills was
doubled to four in 1955 and then doubled again in
1974 to a grand total of eight. Ardmore has a malt
storage capacity of +/- 1,000 tonnes, a 25 feet mash
tun and 14 wooden wash backs with a total capacity
of 90,000 litres.
Rumour has it that Ardmore uses relatively heavily peated barley, which may account for the rich, powerful character of the malt whisky produced there. The original distillery maltings were converted into warehouses and a filling store some time ago, but the Ardmore distillery still has its own cooperage.
Scores & tasting notes:
Ardmore (Pronounced: ard-MORE)
57°13'34.81 N, 2°46'38.15 W
Glendronach, Glen Garioch
14 sources on Knockandy Hill
4 Wash & 4 Spirit stills
4,200,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Fortune Brands (since 2005)
Kennethmont, Huntly, Aberdeenshire, AB54 4NH, Scotland
+441464 - 831213
Yes, including a 'traditional cask' (no age statement)
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
2002 - In 2002 Ardmore was one of the very last malt whisky distilleries in Scotland to switch from coal firing
(which means direct heating of the pot stills) to steam heating (indirect heating).
2005 - Beam Global Spirits & Wine (a.k.a. Jim Beam Brands) purchases a number of distilleries and brands from Allied, including the Laphroaig distillery on islay. They manage their distilleries via the 'Fortune Brands' company.
2007 - The first official bottling in quite some time is launched; the Ardmore 'Traditional Casks' malt whisky.
This expression lacks an age statement, but is said to contain mostly younger, bourbon casked whiskies.
2008 - A 25 years old official bottling of the Ardmore single malt whisky is released for the UK and duty free.
1) Like many distilleries, Ardmore has a name with Gaelic origins. It means 'big headland'.
2) The Ardmore whisky distillery still has its own cooperage for the production and repair of casks.
3) All the eight stills of the Ardmore distillery were coal fired until circa 2001/2002.
4) The Ardmore single malt whisky is slightly peated - with a PPM between 12 and 14.
Under the name Ardlair they also produce an unpeated version of their whisky, which is used for blending.
5) Ardmore is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded during the 'whisky boom' of the
late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
Ardmore NAS 'Traditional Casks' (46%, OB, Peated, finished in quarter casks, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Light, fresh & grainy. Sweetish with a faint hint of peat in the background. Peat grows stronger over time.
Farmy. Perhaps something faintly oily as well. Spices and malty notes too - a well rounded profile.
Even some organics, although this isn't a peat monster. Something faintly fruity too. Anthracite?
Taste: Much smokier than the nose suggests. Fairly sharp and not as complex as the nose would suggest.
In fact, the palate is a little unsatisfactory. Touch of liquorice or salmiak in the finish. No peat monster.
Score: 82 points - works a lot better than the Ardbeg 'Blasda' that was released around the same time.
Ardmore 12yo 1994/2007 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#578+598, 745 Bts.)
Nose: Fairly sharp at first, settling down after a minute. I would have guessed overproof here.
Subtle spicy notes pop up from under the grainy and 'veggy' base. Grows fattier; 'Appelflappen'.
Taste: Quite harsh initially, sweetish followed by a trace of peat (?). Vague hints of apple.
A fairly rough mouth feel. Long but nondescript finish. Not a lot of cask influence it seems.
Score: 79 points - interesting but also very subtle. Better than average but not for everybody.
Ardmore 1987/2003 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky)
Nose: Hey, that's different... Once again, furniture polish - but quite subdued.
There appears to be a hint of oil, but it's good olive oil instead of cod oil. Clay?
Malted barley. Peculiar aroma's under the layer of grainy sweetness in the nose.
Peppermint. Organics. It's a bit of a 'dichotomic' malt with a dark side to it.
Spices and organics. Wet dog in the background. Hey, is that a hint of peat?
Taste: Smooth and balanced. Slowly dries out. This has a fabulous mouth feel.
Smooth and pleasant on the palate, before turning much drier. Smokier as well?
At times I thought I found traces of smoke and peat, but I wasn't quite sure.
After five minutes I was finally sure; there is some peat in here - but not a lot.
Score: 84 points - this packs quite a punch, but without the peaty burn of an Islay malt.
Hurray, this is one of the first Ardmore whiskies I got really excited about. Great stuff.
Ardmore 11yo 1990/2001 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Unchillfiltered, 70cl)
(Distilled 31/05/1990, matured in bourbon casks #6360/61, bottled 31/05/2001, bottle #57 of 642)
Nose: Quite restrained in the beginning. A little spicy, with hints of ripe pears. Well balanced.
Soft honey and toffee notes appear after a while. Pleasant, but it has relatively little character.
Taste: Malty. A hint of peat after a while? Smooth. Sweetish in the start, but not in the finish.
Score: 71 points - in this case Ardmore doesn't quite live up to its reputation.
Ardmore 11yo 1990/2001 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Unchillfiltered, 70cl)
(Distilled 31/05/1990, matured in bourbon cask #6367, bottled 12/12/2001, bottle #20 of 323)
Nose: Lemon, apple, pear & other fruits. Light. Something nutty. Very nice indeed.
Pleasant organics after a while. Veggy - a little too much so for my tastes, in fact.
Taste: Sweetish and slightly gritty. Vegetables. Not as pleasant as the nose.
Score: 78 points - above average, but not enough to make it 'recommendable'.
Ardmore 1985/2000 (40%, G&M OB, sample from Serge)
Nose: Sweetish, creamy and slightly oily at first. An old, dried out Golden Delicious.
Very faint spices in the background, developing into organics. Holly? Petrol? Peat?
The peaty component grows stronger with time, although it never reaches Islay levels.
Taste: Yeah, there's definitely a pinch of peat in here - but not much and it doesn't last.
Smoky. Pleasant, but rather flat. That being said, it packs quite a punch at just 40%.
Score: 80 points - I had it a few points higher until the watery finish dragged it down.
Ardmore 21yo 1979/???? (50%, Douglas Laing OMC 0345, DL266, November 1979)
Nose: Quite mellow, growing creamier and oilier. Surprisingly restrained at first. Maggi?
After the first peaty punch on the palate the nose suddenly seems to open up as well.
More organics and a hint of smoke emerge and grow more complex with time. Chalk.
Taste: Wow! A very sweet start, quickly followed by an unexpected peaty punch.
Quite amazing; one of the most satisfying palates I've encountered this year. Lovely.
Sweet, smoky and solid from start to finish. Liquorice. Easily mistaken for an Islay malt.
After a few drops of water the fruit and wood come to the surface. Like Lagavulin 16yo!
Score: 90 points - and for once a malt earns this score mainly on the palate. Earlier experiences with Ardmore never quite convinced me that this was the highly underrated malt many people rave about - most of them scored between 78 and 82 points. That can be translated as 'good but not spectacular'. Well, this one IS spectacular; simply the very best Ardmore I ever tried. Especially the palate is highly addictive. This is the first expression I tried at a strength of more than 46%, so maybe I need that extra proof to lift these peaty traits upwards.
Ardmore 21yo 1977/1999 '100th Anniversary' (43%, OB)
Nose: Sherry fruits and a whiff of smoke. A classic profile, growing bolder with time.
It's not terribly complex at first, but it opens up with time. Hint of marzipan?
Taste: Hmmm. A tad perfumy in the start, growing smoother and sweeter.
Chewy. Fruitier after a little while. Some smoke as well? Oh yes, definitely.
A little bitter and winey in the finish. Something 'piney' as well. Hint of menthol?
Score: 82 points - the nose justifies a score in the upper 80's, but the palate doesn't.
It's clear that I'm not as big an Ardmore fan as some of the other malt maniacs.
This one somehow reminded me of a Bowmore, although it isn't quite as peaty.
Ardmore 1981/1997 (40%, G&M Licensed OB)
Nose: Sherried & fruity. Polished. Hint of smoke and organics in the background? Beautiful nose.
Taste: Soft, almost watery start. No sweetness at first, but then there's lots in the finish. Interesting.
Score: 82 points - recommendable, but it would have been even more so with a palate to match the nose.
Ardmore 1981/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, code IE/AEF, 70cl)
Nose: Nice! Deep sherry with something very pleasant that I can't put my finger on.
A hint of oranges and soap perfume. Something that feels 'sparkly' in the nose as well.
Taste: Very nice. Smooth and sweet like whipped cream. A treat for your tonsils.
A decent malty burn, followed by a relatively short, dry finish. Very drammable.
Score: 78 points - better than average but hardly spectacular.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Ardmore Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Ardmore page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Ardmore expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
The four wash stills receive a constant flow of 'wash' (a mix of 'grist' and water).
Just like the wash stills, the four copper spirit stills at Ardmore hold 15,000 litres each.
All this fancy whisky making equipment is responsible for an output of (wait for it...)
more than 3,000,000 litres of pure alcohol each year. Pretty impressive, eh?
Even more impressive: the Ardmore distillery is able
to produce 4,200.000 litres of alcohol 'on full steam'.
Think about it; if you wanted to you could fill many king
size swimming pools with that. But why would you?
The Ardmore malt whisky (and the Teacher's blend)
are far better suitable for drinking than for swimming.
Well, at least I assume they are; I've got quite some
experience in the drinking department but I've never
actually tried the swimming...
Appartently, Ardmore is one of the few Speyside distilleries still using peated barley.
An unpeated version of Ardmore whisky used only for blending is called 'Ardlair'.
Is the distillery or