Fundamental to Ardmore’s success is a longstanding, unwavering commitment to traditional distilling methods and today it’s one of only two Highland distilleries to ‘peat’ its standard malt, as was traditionally the case in both the Highlands and Speyside. Over the years, the region’s flavour profile has shifted in favour of the non-peated style, leaving Ardmore and Oban as the only remaining traditionalists. It’s a great shame because Highland peat gives a very different aromatic smoke to that of Islay and the Islands. It’s a delicate, earthier, less overpowering smoke that delivers an exquisitely balanced drinking experience and appeals to both lovers and haters of peat. The region’s loss is Ardmore’s gain however, with a loyal group of “in-the-know” single malt aficionados seeking out special Ardmore bottlings for their undeniably unique and delicious alternative to the more mainstream West coast peated whiskies… and this month, with the help of Berry Bros. we’re very excited to introduce you to that inner circle – this is really unlike anything you’re used to.
Ardmore was established in 1898 by the Teacher family, and is one of the undeniable hidden gems of Scotch whisky. The quintessential workhorse distillery, Ardmore has powered away in the background for the past 120 years producing the backbone for Teacher’s Highland Cream, with only a privileged few ever able to taste the true greatness of its unique spirit.
Thanks to the continued success of Teacher’s, today one the world’s biggest blends with more than 1.5 million cases sold per year, and Ardmore’s intrinsic importance to the blend, the distillery has enjoyed a privileged and sheltered existence, protected from closure or – worse still – interference in its unique processes. Ardmore’s only major ownership change came in 1976 when Teacher’s sold to Allied Breweries. Since then it’s essentially been in the same hands: first Allied was folded into Jim Beam in 2005 and a few years ago Beam merged with Suntory. This linear ownership, coupled with Ardmore’s importance to Teacher’s, has ensured that the distillery’s essence and values have been respected and carefully preserved over time.
One of Scotland’s largest distilleries, Ardmore was established at the height of the previous great Scotch whisky boom (we’re going through another one right now if you’ve not noticed) and was a very modern distillery at the time of course, powered by a single steam engine and its own special railway branch. The 1950s enjoyed another, albeit smaller, whisky boom necessitating the addition of two new stills to double capacity and a further doubling to eight stills occurred in 1974 as blended Scotch continued to boom thanks to the real-life Don Drapers of the world. Ever the traditionalists, Ardmore was one of the last distilleries in Scotland to abandon the use of coal heating for the stills, switching to steam-heating in 2001, and is one of the very few distilleries to still have its own cooperage on site for the production and repair of casks. Other than that very little, if anything, has changed in 120 years.