Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Ardnamurchan has reason to celebrate 10 years

 One of my favourite “new” distilleries is Ardnamurchan, far away in the Lochaber district in the west of Scotland. I remember travelling through these parts for a Summer holiday in 2007, taking the old-fashioned route to the Isle of Skye (by ferry from Malaig). In the distance the ‘empty quarter’ of Knoydart looked dark and brooding. So mysterious. The peninsula of Ardnamurchan is more to the south, closer to the Isle of Mull. Truly remote! The people behind independent bottler Adelphi choose it nonetheless, and this year in July they can celebrate 10 years of Ardnamurchan.

Maybe with a 10 Years Old expression at the end of this year? That would be lovely.


Someone once slipped me some new make of Ardnamurchan, and I was mightily impressed. The aged expressions are impressing as well. I started following their regular releases and by now also collected some interesting single casks. So, because it is a year of celebration, let us fill the glasses with two expressions of Ardnamurchan! Also, enjoy some pictures of the exterior and the stills, kindly provided by my dear Swiss friend Conny König.

Ardnamurchan AD/ Rum Cask Release, bottled at 55 % abv

 Makeup: This batch of 8334 bottles was created out of 18 unpeated ex-Bourbon Barrels from 2016 and 13 peated ex-Bourbon Barrels from 2017. All finished in Jamaican Rum Casks.

General impressions: This follows hot on the heels of another 2023 expression, the Sherry Cask Release. That was a more traditional single malt, in sharp contrast with the funkiness of the Rum Cask Release. At first, the peat is dominant over the entire vatting, but when the whisky has had some time to breathe, a more dry and grassy character arises. Also bright yellow bananas, dry hey in Summer and horse’s hair. Slightly alcoholic, so I will return after adding some water.

First a sip, undiluted. The arrival is quite hot so I think a drop of water is mandatory, unless you like your ability for detecting subtleties burned off. That is not to say the drinking experience is bad. Those bananas return and there is a thirst-quenching sourness that one would almost like to experience a little chilled. A Summer whisky; the influence of the rum?

With water a chalky minerality takes over, bringing us closer to Scotch whisky. The taste is more of the same, but friendlier, and with a gentle waxiness. We are not far from the likes of Ben Nevis and Springbank here. In fact, I like this sweet & sour layer of the rum influence over this kind of whisky. Last year’s Springbank Local Barley had 10 % rum casks in the vatting, something that worked very well.

Conclusion: Not an easy dram and also not for the faint of heart. I am also amazed at just how mature Ardnamurchan comes over at this still young age. Mind you, this is around 7 years old. The peaty casks, is my conclusion, add this complexity that could be taken for maturity. That said, the parts do not seem entirely integrated. A dram to wrestle with.

Score: 84 points
Disclaimer: self-bought sample from a share with friends.

Ardnamurchan AD/12:14 CK.435, bottled at 60,2 % abv for 12Barrels

Makeup: Single cask 435 from 2014 was an unpeated First Fill Spanish Oak Oloroso Sherry, bottled at cask strength for a group of friends called 12Barrels. As the name suggests, they have bottled some casks already, this being their tenth. Age around 7,5 years old.

General impressions: Despite a hefty abv of 60,2 % the smell from the glass is soft and friendly, displaying a fruity character. Forrest fruit dominates over red grapes but there is also a slight chalky character. Very west coast, very mature.
The taste is incredibly sweet and the liquid truly covers the tongue with a delightful creaminess. Because this is an unpeated Ardnamurchan, the cask is allowed to be the centre piece, but I don't feel like this maturation was intended to create a nice dark colour in the glass. The spirit is there, with strong shoulders, on which all the sherry notes rest pleasantly.

It's only on the finish that the high alcohol gives a little bite. But it does leave a nice and warm feeling, while the red fruits that started the journey linger on. With a bit of water the finish becomes much better, while the overall feel of the whisky gets a bit more musty, like walking in a dunnage warehouse. It's a good swimmer, the taste stays more or less the same.

Conclusion: My conclusion is that Ardnamurchan did an amazing job, getting it right from the start, way back in 2014. This is a flawless whisky, youthful but also very mature, perfectly balanced even for a single cask. Also, European oak over American oak any day. This is more juicy, as compared to the dryness that normally comes from American oak hogsheads.

Score: 90 points

Disclaimer: taken from a self-bought bottle from the 12Barrels (private cask owners). Thanks H!

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