Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

The Whisky Odyssey Fèis Ìle 2024 Special

Bonus tasting note: Ardnahoe Inaugural Release

From the foundation of the Stewart Laing family company of blending and bottling Scotch whisky, rose a new addition to the already impressive list of distilleries on the Hebridean island of Islay. The distillery was named Ardnahoe. Late in the year 2018 the first cask was filled at the beautiful location by Loch Ardnahoe, on the northeast of the island. You will find it almost exactly between the Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain distilleries, making this coastline one to be reckoned with! For the aficionados of Gaelic names for distilleries, Ardnahoe means “Height of the Hollow”, and I think that is beautiful.

Whisky Odyssey wants to congratulate Ardnahoe for releasing its first single malt whisky. It is always a special moment when a new distillery joins the fold of mature whisky producers, but in such a renowned region it is just a tad more special. Ardnahoe is set for a bright future, with a water source just nearby. Interestingly, the distillery also joins the exclusive club of distilleries that uses a Worm Tub. On the other hand, it seems that newcomers prefer this old method of cooling down the vapours from the stills. Speyside distillery Ballindalloch, that we will taste next week, installed them, and the revived Lowland distillery Rosebank started using them (again) too. The plans for the new Kythe Distillery actually has a drawing of a Worm Tub on their website, worth checking out.

Enough with the introductions, we want to know what it tastes like, don’t we?

Ardnahoe 5 years old, bottled at 50 % abv

Makeup: Matured for 5 years in a combination of American White Oak ex-bourbon and European Oak ex-oloroso sherry casks. Bottled in a majestically beautiful bottle. Thanks for the age statement!

General impressions: Here we go, long awaited, a new Islay single malt in the glass. I feel lucky to say this is the second time I can experience an inaugural release from this legendary whisky region. In 2009, it was the Kilchoman Inaugural, matured in bourbon with a few months sherry finish. Now we taste the Ardnahoe 5 years old.
Great depth on the nose, with a little more complexity than one could expect if only straightforward bourbon casks were used. Soft, sweet smoke, modest peat but solidly putting a signature on this whisky. 

Smouldering burned wood sticks, the day after a campfire, lying under a rainy sky. You can also smell the sea in your glass, a breeze coming in over the water, straight in your face while you enjoy the views across the sea to neighbouring Jura.

The taste is profoundly sweet, the fruity spirit working well with the sherry casks made of European oak. On the finish, you get a good dose of peat heat. Fantastically balanced. I really love the unexpected fruits in there, even some oranges next to apples, but of course all smoked above a crackling fire.

Conclusion: A worthy addition to the Islay family, already a lot to offer on this young age. I look forward to variations. Welcome Ardnahoe!

Score: 88 points
Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned bottle.

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