Ardmore was founded during a whisky industry boom 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 while a railway line ran alongside the Ardmore distillery buildings.
This was convenient when it came to the transport of supplies like barley and coal.
The current Ardmore distillery is located on 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
whisky have been relatively rare in recent decades.
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 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.
Until 2002 the stills at Ardmore were heated by the traditional coal fired furnaces
but like most of the other Scotch whisky distilleries, they use internal heating now.
The Ardmore distillery is located in the far South-East of the Speyside region.
But this Ardmore isn't the first distillery with the name; between 1817 and 1835 there
was another 'Ardmore' distillery on Islay. The Lagavulin distillery incorporated it in 1837.
Two of the closest neighbours of Ardmore distillery
are two classic ‘glens’ - Glendronach and Glen Glarioch.
Ardmore isn’t the most picturesque distillery around, but
(just like some Scottish people - especially those in kilts)
it’s more attractive from some angles than from others.
I don’t think that regular passenger trains actually use the
railway line that runs past the Ardmore distillery anymore.
Since Ardmore is located on the outer Eastern edge of the
Speyside region, it’s not as easy to reach as many of the
other distilleries in the area - but it’s worth the effort.
The ruins of Dunnideer Castle are a nearby landmark.
Don’t expect a visitor centre or guided tour at Ardmore, though - it is a ‘working’ distillery...
1) Ardmore is one of the few Speyside distilleries that have used
peated barley since forever. The practice has become fashionable
again recently, but Ardmore has been doing it all along. An unpeated
version of Ardmore (only used for blending) is called 'Ardlair'.
5) The Ardmore distillery still has its own cooperage for the production and repair of casks.
2) The Ardmore single malt whisky is only slightly peated.
The PPM (phenolic level) of the whisky is between 12 and 14.
4) 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.
3) Like many Scotch whisky distilleries, Ardmore has a name with
Gaelic origins. The name literally means 'big headland'.
2002 - In 2002 Ardmore was one of the very last malt whisky
distilleries in Scotland to switch from coal firing (i.e. 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 Ardmore and Laphroaig malt whisky distilleries.
The distilleries are managed via the 'Fortune Brands' company.
2008 - A 25 years old official bottling of the Ardmore single malt whisky is released for the UK and duty free.
2013 - Not a lot seems to have happened at Ardmore since 2008, but the Scotch whisky world as a whole has been booming. The volume of Scotch whisky exports had only increased by about 30% over the past decade, but during the same period the value of Scotch whisky exports grew by 87%. Scotland currently exports whisky to 173 countries, including Australia, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and the Vatican City.
2007 - The first official bottling in quite some time is launched;
the Ardmore 'Traditional Casks' whisky. This expression lacks
an age statement and contains mostly bourbon casked whisky.
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, growing 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 1985/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail OB, sample from Serge Valentin)
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 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: That's different... Furniture polish - but quite subdued. Clay? Peppermint. Organics.
A hint of oil, but it's good olive oil instead of cod oil. Hey, is that a hint of peat? Spices and organics.
Malted barley. Peculiar aroma's under the layer of grainy sweetness in the nose.
It's a bit of a 'dichotomic' malt with a dark side to it.Wet dog in the background.
Taste: Smooth and balanced. Slowly dries out. This has a fabulous mouth feel.
Smooth and pleasant on the palate, before turning much drier. Smokier and peatier as well? Yes!
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, like some other Ardmores - 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 this a 'recommendable' Ardmore.
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.
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 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 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.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Ardmore malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Ardmore I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Ardmore.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
Ardmore isn’t one of the ‘biggest’ malt whisky brands in terms of name recognition;
names like Ardbeg or Dalmore have a bigger profile. Nevertheless, Ardmore actually
was among the ten largest malt whisky distilleries in Scotland until a few years ago.
With the recent launch of mega-factories like Ailsa Bay and Roseisle (and the
expansion of many other existing distilleries), this is no longer the case.
Nevertheless, Ardmore is an impressive distillery which was expanded not once
but twice since World War II. The original number of two stills was doubled to four
in 1955 and then doubled again in 1974 to a grand total of eight working stills.
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.
The four wash stills receive
a constant flow of 'wash'
(a mix of 'grist' and water).
Just like the wash stills,
Ardmore’s 4 copper spirit
stills hold 15,000 litres each.
Even more impressive: the Ardmore distillery is able to produce 4,200.000 litres of alcohol 'on full steam'.
Think about it; if you really wanted to, you could fill many king size swimming pools with that. But why would you?
The Ardmore malt whisky (and even the Teacher's blend) are far better suitable for drinking than for swimming in.
Well, at least I assume they are; I've got quite some drinking experience, but I've never actually tried the swimming...
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?