November 2017 Whisky of the Month:
We’ve teamed up with Berry Bros. & Rudd, the world’s oldest spirits merchants and the British Royal Family’s official whisky supplier, to create something truly extraordinary for our Members only.
With over three centuries in the liquor trade, Berry Bros. & Rudd have amassed an inventory of gargantuan propositions including superb whiskies from distilleries not in the habit of releasing a great deal of single malt – real treasures from some of Scotland’s hidden distilleries.
Working closely with Doug McIvor, the man in charge of Berry’s whisky selection, we’ve ‘slaved away’ for the past few months, tasting our way through a most delicious slice of their inventory before finally settling on seven casks from the mighty Ardmore distillery with which we’ve created a truly unique, very small batch Club bottling.
Distilled in 2008, these seven sister casks were matured in American oak for eight years before re-racking in traditional quarter casks from Laphroig for a few months prior to bottling. It drinks perfectly at 46%ABV, is non-chillfiltered and natural colour: the result is a showstopper and it’s also our favourite whisky of the year… decadent butterscotch mingled with leather, vanilla ice cream, delicate peat-smoke, hints of banana, melon and citrus and a long lingering finish. It’s everything that’s good about Scotch and without a doubt one whisky you won’t want to miss.
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Country of Origin:
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.
About Berry Bros. & Rudd:
Berry Bros. & Rudd has been the British Royal Family’s official liquor supplier since the days of King George III and hold a Royal Warrant from both H.M The Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H Charles The Prince of Wales. Today it’s recognised as one of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands, sitting at the very pinnacle of the liquor trade.
Founded in 1698 at No. 3 St James’s Street, London, it is the world’s oldest spirits and wine merchant. Today, some 319 years later, the business is still running from the same address, and owned by the same family. Originally a grocery store, Berry Bros. shifted their focus to liquor in the very early 1800s, later joining forces with fellow wine merchant Hugh Rudd to become Berry Bros. & Rudd in 1920.
History and Royal Warrants aside however, Berry Bros. & Rudd is famous for the impeccable quality of their goods. While their range includes all of the biggest names in wine and spirits, it’s their “Own” selection, BBR’s independent label, that’s earned them their place in history. Drawing on centuries of experience and relationships, the Berry Bros. & Rudd team today have access to some of the world’s most extensive inventories and are able to pick and choose only the very best for their own releases. We’re incredibly privileged to be a part of that history this month as our collaboration has afforded us access to their inventory, and the result is a show-stopping Ardmore for the Club’s November release.
About Ardmore Single Malt Whisky:
Despite Ardmore Distillery’s massive output, the demand for Teacher’s is so large that aside from the occasional independent bottling, there was no official Ardmore single malt until 2007 with the release of Ardmore Traditional, later replaced by Ardmore Legacy, a NAS expression bottled at bottled at 40%. While it’s wonderful that Ardmore single malt is now widely available, it’s a massive shame that this mighty distillery’s potential has been limited to only one standard release.
But where there’s a will there’s a way. Fortunately, Ardmore is open to the occasional independent bottling and over the years a few privileged bottlers have had access to their stores and what’s come out of that has been magic, inspiring a cult following for the last remaining true Highland peated whisky. Having said that, the whisky itself isn’t particularly peaty, officially described as “slightly peated” and much, much lighter than the typically peaty West coast whiskies. The allure however is the unique flavour of the peat; an earthier, delicate, less overpowering, richer flavour to mainstream peat and a truly rewarding drinking experience for both connoisseurs who prefer a bit of peat, and also for those who don’t.
Our collaboration with Berry Bros. & Rudd this month has given the Club access to Ardmore’s exclusive stores and the result is The Whisky Club team’s favourite whisky of the year by far. Following a lengthy and very enjoyable tasting and sampling process with Doug McIvor, the man with the enviable task of Berry Bros. & Rudd spirits selection, we settled on a set of seven sister casks to create a one-off vatting exclusively for the Club. Created to showcase all that is good about Ardmore, this is an imminently quaffable traditional Highland malt whisky fit for a King or Queen. Bottled especially for the Club, our whisky comes from seven American oak casks laid down in 2008 and matured for eight years before re-racking in traditional quarter casks from Laphroig for a few months prior to bottling. It drinks perfectly at 46%ABV, is non-chillfiltered, natural colour of course and represents the very best of Ardmore, created exclusively for you, our Members.
$120 per bottle + $15 flat fee postage
Age on release:
Matured for eight years in American oak casks before re-racking in traditional quarter casks from Laphroig for a few months prior to bottling.
Ardmore Quick Facts
Region: Highlands, Scotland
Location: Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire, AB54 4NH, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water source: 15 springs on Knockandy Hill
Washback: 14, Wood
Mashtun: Semi lauter. Cast iron body with copper dome
Number of stills: 4 wash and 4 spirit
Heat source: Steam
Capacity: 5,400,000 litres per annum
Colour: Pale straw.
Nose: Butterscotch mingled leather and gentle peat smoke. Just the faintest touch of citrus mixed with notes of vanilla and cacao.
Palate: Delicate peat smoke carried by fresh yellow fruit skins and a hint of banana and melon.
Finish: Long and lingering with notes of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Raspberry panna cotta with cranberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.