Monday, May 20, 2024

Review | Ardnahoe Inaugural Release 5 years old

The Ardnahoe Inaugural Release 5 years old is the first ever bottling from the Islay distillery, which is owned by renowned independent bottlers Hunter Laing & Co. It is the first new whisky from a new distillery on Islay since Kilchoman released their first bottling back in 2009. Ardnahoe translates as 'height of the hollow' from Scots Gaelic and sits on the rugged northeastern coast of Islay. They make a mid-range peated style of spirit. 

Ardnahoe was founded by Hunter Laing & Co. in 2017 and began production in August 2018. It sits between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila, and looks across the fast flowing Strait of Islay to the neighbouring island of Jura and its famous Paps. Ardnahoe has an annual production capacity of 740,000 litres, which makes it one of the smaller distilleries on the island. It is also the only one on Islay to have traditional wormtub condensers, and one of just a handful in the entirity of Scotland.

The Inaugural Release 5 years old marks the beginning of a series of whiskies that Ardnahoe will launch during 2024. It features barley malted at Port Ellen Maltings on the island and is peated to a level of 40ppm. The whisky is bottled at 50% ABV and is both non-chill filtered and of natural colour. The bottle will be available now via, and in specialist retailers in the UK and beyond. The cost is £70 per bottle.

Our Tasting Notes

The colour is vibrant cold with a coppery tint and the nose is smoky and sweet. Aromas of bonfire ash and dried moss and heather rise from the glass and are joined by golden syrup and honey. Further aromas of baked apple, hazelnut praline and crystallised ginger. These are accentuated by some warming background spices, especially cinnamon and clove.

On the palate this whisky has a silky and velvety mouth feel. Again, the peat smoke rise first and has a distinct ashy charcoal edge. This is reminiscent of dying barbeque or bonfire embers with elements of burning peat and heather entwined, and a hint of dried moss. Then comes the fruit - green apple and big, juicy sultana lead the way. Again, the apple has a cooked or baked quality and this is particularly true once the warm baking spices kick in, especially the cinnamon.

Some much needed sweetness evolves in the form of golden syrup and caramel, plus some heather honey. Further notes of soft fudge and butterscotch also come through. The latter part of the palate is dominated by warming spices - think of white pepper, clove and mace plus that cinnamon from before. A lovely late note also develops that is reminiscent of fresh gingerbread straight from the oven. 

These spices in combination with the ashy smoke create a deliciously drying finish. The sweetness and fruitiness both slowly fade with the green apple and golden syrup fading slowest. This gives a peppery and woody edge to the whisky and the peat smoke draws out the length superbly.

What's The Verdict?

We always enjoy sampling the first whisky from a new distillery. It gives you an idea of what they are trying to achieve and the direction they may be heading. There was a lot of excitement about this inaugural bottling from Ardnahoe given that it was from a new Islay distillery and one owned by a reputable independent bottler. 

They have not rushed to put a whisky out at three years old but waited until they feel their liquid is ready to introduce to the world. And the result is delicious and shows great promise. The classic Islay peat smoke sits in a mid-range zone and is similar to other smoky whiskies such as Bowmore, Caol Ila and Talisker. It will be great to see what subsequent whiskies from Ardnahoe are like when they come out later this year. But this is a great beginning.

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