Last fall, we got our first taste of the single malts of Ardnamurchan, a new distillery from Adelphi, a longtime independent bottler who decided to finally get fully into the Scotch whisky game. The distillery makes both peated and unpeated spirit aged in a mix of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and European oak, and it’s located so far off the western coast of the Scottish Highlands you’d think they were hiding it from the rest of us. Chris tasted their flagship, AD Small Batch, not once but twice and was doubly impressed. I was able to run down samples of three limited releases, one a U.S.-exclusive bottling. Thoughts follow.
Ardnamurchan The ArdnAmerica Tour Bottling – A limited release of only 900 bottles exclusively for the American market (hence the name) comprised of peated and unpeated spirit up to six-years-old aged in a mix of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. Like the flagship, the mix of peated and unpeated spirit is an ideal blend of barley sugar and campfire smoke, which forms the foundation of the aroma. The finishing, however, introduces even more complexity and depth with a lovely top dressing of dark raisin, berry compote, sugared almonds, and worn leather. The palate is redolent with fruit, kicking off with a silky rush of sugary figs and plump raisins then turning a shade brighter across the palate with notes of strawberry jam. It’s gently peppery and warming with a lacing of salty smoke and ash that hints at its coastal origins. The finish is generous and mouthwatering with cranberry, damp tobacco, and clove. A gorgeous young single malt. 115.6 proof. A / $100
Ardnamurchan Madeira Cask Release – This is all unpeated spirit aged five years in ex-bourbon before finishing in Madeira casks for a year. That lack of smoke gives this Ardnamurchan an entirely different profile on the nose, showcasing honey syrup, crisp malts, and custard. The sherry is deftly balanced, adding layers of dried orange peel, fresh red berries, and a slight nuttiness. The palate is much bolder than the nose suggests, kicking off with big notes of sesame candies, currants, and raw honey before revealing a bit of green apple, lemon oil, and golden raisin on the midpalate. It’s lively with a chalky texture and a balanced warmth that spikes ever so slightly into a long finish of Linzer cookies and lemon tarts. Fun and engaging. 116.4 proof. A- / $100
Ardnamurchan Paul Launois Release – Again, all unpeated spirit aged in ex-bourbon but this time finished in barrique casks from Champagne producer Paul Launois. One of at least three other Paul Launois Champagne releases, from what I can gather online, and not yet available stateside. The nose is elegant and rich with barley sugar, white peach, and buttery yeast rolls. A touch of lemon zest brightens things a bit, becoming almost pineapple as it opens in the glass. The palate is oily and full of flavor, beginning with golden raisin and lemon merengue notes that become sweeter and juicier, almost tinned peaches, as it evolves across the palate. It’s balanced with a hugging warmth, and there’s also a generous brown butter quality at play that lingers into the finish with fading notes of green apple and pear candies. Another truly impressive young single malt. 114.2 proof. A / $100