Next up in the series of single cask releases from the Exclusive Malts batch #5, an Ardmore that's almost as pale as the Ledaig, despite having spent nearly twice as long in oak.
Ardmore is a Speyside distillery known for primarily making peated whisky. They use moderately peated malt at ~12 PPM, which is similar to Springbank. Until 2001/2002 they were also the last distillery in Scotland to heat their stills with coal. So this whisky was some of the last distilled before they switched to steam coils.
The spirit was aged in what I'm assuming is a 2nd or 3rd-fill ex-bourbon cask for 14 years before being bottled at 54.3% without coloring (no surprise there) or chill filtration.
The Exclusive Malts Ardmore 2000/14 Year Cask #233
Nose: classic Speyside notes - honey, malt, fresh apples, rich but not overwhelming oak, undercurrent of faded peat, slightly coastal, meaty/fresh leather. After adding a few drops of water, the nose becomes much more youthful, with fresh grain, floral, and coastal/peat notes dominating, the apple notes become more like apple skins, and the oak mostly disappearing to become more cardboard-y.
Taste: rich malt sweetness that carried all the way through, augmented by fresh/baked apple notes, earthy peat, and mild oak tannins in the middle, fading out with floral/herbal notes at the back. After dilution, the flavors become more youthful - with sweet young grain dominating at the beginning, with a fade out of muddled peat, dark chocolate, new make, and floral notes.
Finish: alcohol heat, mild oak and malt, peat residue, floral
This is a very pleasant single malt and, while almost as pale as the 2005 Ledaig I tried, much more mature. If I was making an analogy, this seems like a mashup of younger bourbon cask Balblair with Springbank, though this doesn't have as much of the oiliness that characterizes Campbeltown malts.
While quite pleasant at full strength, even a little bit of water made it seem much younger and less mature. It might help if I had enough time to really let the water integrate, but if, like me, you only have a pour, I would leave it undiluted in the glass.
The only major flaw here is the price. With every retailer I can find online stocking it at well over $100, the quality to price ratio just isn't there for me. Under $70 and I could feel like it would be worth grabbing a bottle, but as is I would leave it alone. There are some Ardmores available from Signatory's Non-Chill Filtered line which, while not at cask strength, stand a better chance of being a good value.
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