The Ultimate – Ardlair 2011 65,5%

This “From the Shelves” review was requested by Michael, the male counterpart of the couple that owns Café Zilt. He requested this review not because he wanted to push it on his customers, but because he himself fell head-over-heels in love with this dram. In his words it’s interesting, unique and above-all highly intriguing. So, today I’ve set out to see if I agree with that statement.

When I started reading up on the bottle that was pointed out to me, I noticed that I already reviewed an Ardlair 2011 from The Ultimate, albeit at a slightly different bottling. Which might make it fun to compare the two tasting notes together. If you’d like to know the differences you can click on the following link: Ardlair 2011 64,2%. Keep in mind though that both reviews were written almost a year apart, so it’s by no means a side-by-side comparison on my part.

The bottling from today has an ABV of 65,5% but other than that the two drams are both bottled at cask strength, from the same year and matured in the same type of cask! There is even a third Ardlair bottling from The Ultimate, but I haven’t got to try that one yet.

In the Sneak Preview of today’s dram, I asked my followers what the nickname for Ardlair is and those who answered “Ardless” were correct! The “less” of course being a playfull jab at the fact that Ardlair is unpeated whisky produced at the Ardmore Distillery.

These “From the Shelves” reviews will be posted on my own blog and on the blog from Café Zilt, but aside from that cooperation I get no compensation for my blogs and my reviews will always remain independent and unbiased.

Tasting Notes: The Ultimate – Ardlair 2011

ABV: 65,5% (131 proof)

Age: 11 years old

Distillery: Ardmore Distillery

Category: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

With the previous Ardlair I stated that the high ABV was barely noticeable, but that’s one thing that surely doesn’t apply to today’s dram. This is a dram to nose with caution. I’m getting scents of burnt toast, marmite, and roasted almonds. There’s also an abundance of vanilla and caramel, slightly reminiscent of burnt custard on the bottom of a pan. A ‘splash’ of water (trust me this dram can take more than a few mere drops) makes the nose much more approachable, but the notes I’m picking up stay roughly the same.

On the palate I’m getting less heat than I was expecting from the nose and a far more balanced sweetness. The burnt aspects I was getting on the nose have almost disappeared and the mouthfeel is thick and almost cloying. I’m picking up on pine-resin, manuka honey, sticky toffee, and caramel apples. Some dark wood flavours balance the sweetness out a little though, as if you’re spooning it all up from an old wooden bowl. Water reveals a lot of candy and some fruity elements as well (think figs and dates).

The finish is far shorter than I would have expected from nose and palate. There’s a slight sense of winegums and liquorice root that lingers, but most of the flavours I found on the palate are dropping off fast. With some water the finish lengthens considerably and I’m picking up notes of dry white wine, and molasses licked from a wooden spoon this time.

This is a whisky that excels once you add a splash of water to it. The nose suddenly becomes much more approachable, which allows you to really delve deeper into those notes. The palate reveals a lot more nuances and the finish is lengthened considerably with some new added notes as well.

I completely understand why Michael found this such an interesting dram and it surely is intriguing. This is one to really sit down for and play with water. A whisky that challenges you to dilute it and find your very own perfect ABV. So, make sure to drop by Café Zilt soon. Come find out what a few drops of water can do to a dram!

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