I recently took the plunge and joined the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (I think I just got bored of seeing the same bottles on the LCBO shelves every time I dropped in). They send you a "starter kit" which includes a pin, book (which gives some genuinely interesting facts about both the SMWS and whisky, but is also too cutesy with factoids and old-tyme drawings throughout). It also includes three 100ml samples of three bottlings.
This Ardmore was distilled on May 15 2007, spending 9 years in a refill ex-bourbon barrel, yielding 208 bottles.
They're telling me the colour is a lemony gold, so let's go with that. On the nose we have almond skins, lemon pith, cardamom and light wafting smoke. Sea breeze. Like those Ricola cough drops: eucalyptus, lavender and medicinal. Wasabi. Band-Aids. Water adds some coastal brine and some floral notes. Interesting, but a bit too Vicks VapoRub for me.
Lemon curd on the palate, with some more smoke, anise and loads of spice: cayenne, lemon pepper and chili. Maltesers. Hint of dark chocolate. Slightly sticky-sweet mouthfeel. Surprisingly, not too hot despite the 60% ABV. Water makes it "stickier", with some malt and prickly spices. Mouth-watering and tasty, but borders on cloying, and the sweetness doesn't always jibe with the sharp-lemon-n-smoke notes.
The finish is more lemon pepper, with candied ginger and buttered croissants. A few years ago a reviewed an SMWS Ardmore, this one from 10 years in a refill sherry butt - very different of course but it had that smoky stickiness this one has (I used the words "BBQ sauce" a lot). This one is not bad - it's enjoyable to feel the brine, spice and sweetness mingling together, but a little goes a long way.