We continue with our flight of whiskies from Singaporean independent bottler, Malt, Grain & Cane (MGC), whose goal is to bring in to Asia good quality spirits straight from Scotland. Something we can all get behind!
We have on hand a 22 Year Old Ardmore, vintage is 1998, bottled at 49.7% abv.
Now here’s something you don’t see every day. Ardmore is a Highland malt, right on the outskirts of Speyside to be precise. It belongs to Beam Suntory and is actually the secret sauce to the popular Teacher’s blended whisky, bet you didn’t know that! Given that most of it goes into the creamy Teacher’s Highland blend, you don’t often see it on its own and as such we’re reliant on independent bottlers to unlock them.
Located in the Scottish Highlands, Ardmore is the secret gem of the incredibly smooth and creamy Teacher's blended malt.
They’re actually a rather traditional but unique distillery, they’re one of the few Highland distilleries to make peated whiskies and Highland peat is wildly different from Islay peat – the former is sweeter and more earthy, while the latter is more medicinal and briny. They also kept direct heating for their pot stills up till 2001, something that we’re seeing make a comeback. The practice is what helps the whisky to take on a more robust and firmer body.
Let’s see what this Ardmore will bring.
Fragrant and Floral
Note: We have assigned every bottle we review to one of five Flavour Camps, based on the most dominant flavours found. The Flavour Camps are : (1) Fragrant and Floral, (2) Fruity and Spicy, (3) Malty and Dry, (4) Rich and Round and (5) Smokey and Peaty. To learn more about each Flavour Camp, please click here.
First up, color. A light honey or well-steeped light-roasted Oolong.
Clean, crisp but so aromatic. (Image Source: Simple Loose Leaf)
Now for a nosing. A gentle herbal scent with a deep oak quality to it. Even on the nose there is some indication of the richness of the malt. It is velvety and syrupy almost. It actually reminds me of an old-school candy that you don’t see very often these days; traditionally it is called Mai Ya Tang which translates into “maltose candy”. I used to have these after school as a treat when I was a kid, really takes me back to those good old memories.
The gooey fondness of childhood memories. (Image Source: Party Mojo)
Snapping out of my reminiscence, I also nose wafts of earthy smoke that snake in and out of the thickness. This Highland peat certainly has a distinctive quality about it, its aroma is closer to that of smoked ham, truffles and sauteed mushrooms on a skillet – it is earthy, umami and woody.
You can smell it even from this collection of pixels. (Image Source: Get Inspired Everyday)
But wait there’s more. Beneath the buttery rich scents, there are some fruitier notes that I get. That of Soursop and Guava, maybe even Jackfruit. There’s also a floral tea perfumery to it. Gentle scents of Chrysanthemum and Jasmine green tea - freshly brewed. The oak mingles with the florals to give a slight bitterness that I can put my finger on as poached ginseng.
A nice herbal dessert, with a good spoonful of honey.
A really complex nose, gentle but rewarding for those who are patient, almost unveiling itself in delicate layers.
On the palate. A good weight, medium to slightly heavy. Here the notes on the nose transforms itself into flavors on the palate. The same sweet ash hits first on the palate, a nice approachable singe that crumbles delicately away. Again I get the same notes of Chrysanthemum tea brewed with slices of ginseng, that sweet honeyed notes alongside some more bitter earthy undertones. It is also very similar to candied ginger or wintermelon strips.
There is a nice creaminess to it that coats the tongue, almost like ice cream soda; hold off on the fizz. Or maybe those tidbits of char alongside the buttery honey would be more comparable to French toast. With the malty, cereal notes, I’d put it closer to the French toast.
The nose is remarkably similar to the palate, very consistent. No surprises here but in a good way. Y’know how sometimes you want exactly what you asked for, there’s certainly value to simple things done well.
The finale. Quick and clean, it leaves a crisp finish. There’s some gentle smoke that lingers with a tart oak-yness that has a drying sensation to it.
You don’t see Ardmore very often but when you do it never fails to surprise you with its complexity; a gentle marrying of smoke, earth and florals. It’s almost a liquid embodiment of a field in the woods just as you approach noon when the sun begins to warm it up. Somehow my mind visualizes this malt as a sunflower, warm, mellow, cheerful.
Warm, mellow, cheerful.
This particular Ardmore demonstrated a maturity that can only come with age, it is well-balanced, rounded, harmonious. The flavors weave seamlessly in and out of one another like a well synchronized symphony; as the woody herbal florals drift off, the wafts of earthy smoke fills its place. It keeps going, never an intermission to be had.
The texture was also commendable, it was creamy and buttery, delivering the flavors gently and smoothly, sliding between one another.
The aroma is so unmistakably Asian, how could this be Scotch?!
There’s almost an Asian touch to this malt, bringing back some fond childhood memories of maltose candy and Chrysanthemum tea with poached slices of ginseng. How could this hail from Scotland? An Asian diaspora perhaps?
This made me feel like a child again and it's asian flavors really intrigued me. It gets a little boy running around in the garden.
Well Ardmore’s are not ample, when you find one, you should give it a try, you’ll be in for a delightful surprise. Here’s one you don’t wanna miss.
If you're into Chrysanthemum tea, candied ginger, or even French toast, you can still get this bottle at Malt, Grain & Cane.
Alternatively, find them at one of MGC's partners, LMDW, Auld Alliance, The Single Cask, Swan Song, Limehouse Asia, Cafe Gavroche (all based in Singapore), or Miles Whisky Bar (Indonesia) and Rudder (Japan).
Of course be sure to follow MGC on Instagram and Facebook (@MaltGrainCane) or follow Marcus himself @HampdenPirate.