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This independent bottling from Signatory is my first acquaintance with Ardmore, unless you count the many drams of Teacher’s Highland Cream I’ve consumed. Ardmore is one of the main malts used in blending Teacher’s, with the result being something that tastes very little like Ardmore. Or something that tastes very little like this IB from cask #801154, anyway.
The flavors herein are familiar, but their combination is not. I like the prominence (but not dominance) of the peat from nose through finish, even if some other not-quite-complementary flavors compete for attention. I also like its surprises, deceptions even, along the way. So gentle and seductive on the nose, yet so fiery and merciless in its attack on the tongue. A B-level dram with never a dull moment.
I enjoyed a neat dram while writing most of this review, then had a second dram with a couple of drops of water. Water seems to bring out a little more vanilla and honey in each phase of the experience, and it helps to tame some of the bitterness in the finish. For all things pre-finish, however, neat is the way to go.
Nose: Lemons, smoky peat, white wine, and gasoline. After a 10-minute sit, traces of vanilla and honey emerge as the gasoline takes on a slightly floral quality. Components that don’t work well together are offset by the lightness of it all. I rather like it, even though I had to struggle to get the aromas I got.
Palate: Arrives with much more fire and pepper than the nose foreshadowed. Nice oily texture as the development reveals peat, a peppercorn medley, mixed nuts, and butterscotch. Layered but compact in that the flavors don’t seem to spread out on the tongue like most whiskies. Seems disappointing and one-dimensionally hot at first until you concentrate on all that’s going on.
The finish is a letdown, despite its length. The fire has been extinguished, the sweet and the peat have dissipated, and a bitter floral note is a new and unwelcome intruder. Apples and peat almost offset it, but only almost. The pleasant aspects of the finish are gone after about 20-30 seconds, so a little sip of water at that point helps stave off the nasties and retain a more pleasant aftertaste.
The good outweighs the bad in this Ardmore, and even the bad was more interesting than “Bleagh!” in nature. I’m not disappointed. It’s as good as any other $50-$60 Signatory IB in my cabinet, so my expectations were fulfilled and I got a bit of an education along the way.