Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review - Ardmore Port Wood Finish

The Port Wood Finish is the latest addition to the core single malt range from the east Highland distillery of Ardmore. It was released back in October of this year.  The whisky is made in the distillery's traditional mid-peated style, which has been produced there since the early 1900s.  It is currently the only Highland distillery to produce the majority of its whisky in the smoky style.  This whisky has been aged in ex-bourbon casks for 12 years before being finished in ex-Port half pipes. The Port Wood Finish comes in the new brand packaging, featuring map-style graphics of the local area and Ardmore's eagle logo.

The Ardmore distillery sits in the hills in the village of Kennethmont, which is about 45 minutes drive west of Aberdeen. It was founded in 1898 by William Teacher & Sons to give them a consistent and constant supply for their increasingly popular Teacher's blended Scotch brand. The distillery was designed by renowned architect Charles Doig and the whisky produced there has featured in the Teacher's range ever since. The first proprietary single malt was only released in 2007. It is a large distillery with an annual capacity of 5.5 million litres and many of the casks destined for release as Ardmore single malt are warehoused on site.

The Port Wood Finish is bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill-filtered and completes the Ardmore single malt portfolio, which comprises of the Legacy and two travel retail exclusives - the Tradition and the Triple Wood.  It has a recommended price of £50 and is available through selected specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is a deep amber gold and the nose has an interesting and complex mix of aromas.  There is initial earthy peat that leaps from the glass and this is complimented by some delicious caramel, dried dark fruits (especially raisins) and stewed cranberries.  Underneath are hints of milky coffee, cocoa, cinnamon and mace.

On the palate the whisky has a warming quality and a viscous mouth feel.  The sweet caramel and earthy peat notes are the first to appear and the combination is very good.  The peat is soft and gentle.  Then the fruity characteristics begin to develop and these are a mix of crisp red apple, raisins and the stewed cranberries from the nose.  These are complimented by a further fruity note of candied orange peel and a hint of strawberry jam.  There are also elements of honey, toffee, vanilla, delicate wood spices (especially cinnamon) and hints of milk chocolate and charcoal ash.

The finish is long and warming with plenty of initial sweetness.  The soft smokiness wraps around this and begins to domionate once the sweetness, especially the caramel and fruit, start to fade.  The result is a pleasant ashy dryness that serves to also accentuate the woody spices.

What's the verdict?
This is a superb offering from the much under rated Ardmore distillery.  Ex-Port casks are rarely used in the whisky industry in comparison to ex-bourbon or ex-sherry and the products that are on the market are generally a mixed bag.  This Port Wood Finish is one of the better examples that we can think of.  It is well worth checking out if the opportunity arises.

The addition of the ex-Port casks during maturation has added a lovely set of characteristics to the whisky, rather than dominate them.  These characteristics are complimented by the soft and gentle peat.  It also offers good value for money in our view as it has an age statement, an interesting cask finish, is non chill-filtered and presented at 46% ABV.  All of these criteria increasingly carry a premium these days.

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