Review: Ardlair 2011 – The Ultimate

If you’re anything like me, the name Ardlair 2011 won’t instantly start ringing bells of recognition. And that is not all that strange, as there are very few bottlings that carry the name Ardlair to begin with. The distillery it comes from is a fair bit more famous though, as Ardlair is a brand from the Ardmore distillery. Jokingly, Ardlair is often also dubbed Ardless. But don’t be fooled by that nickname, as it’s not aimed at the quality of the dram but at the fact that in opposition of traditional Ardmore, Ardlair is manufactured peat-less.

The fact that a bottle of Ardlair is rather uncommon is underlined when you have a look at Whiskybase and notice that they have less than twenty bottles from the brand in their system. In the Netherlands we’re lucky enough to have the version I’m drinking today readily available from The Ultimate, by van Wees. This Ardlair 2011 was aged in a refill butt for 11 years and the good people at The Ultimate made sure to bring it to us at cask strength, un-chillfiltered, and with natural colour!

Tasting Notes: Ardlair 2011 – The Ultimate
Stats:

ABV: 64.2% (128.4 proof)

Age: 11 years old

Distillery: Ardmore Distillery

Owned by: Beam Suntory

Category: Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Setting:

Why do I always postpone my walks for too long… what started as a beautiful day, quickly turned grey when I decided it was time for my walk. Though that couldn’t dampen my spirits too much, as today I get to enjoy a lovely dram during my walk. I put my boots on and hiked towards Vreeland, a little town one village away from where I live. It’s a very picturesque little town and I decided to rest by the old bridge for a wee dram. Back home I sat down behind my desk with what was left in the bottle. Which I poured neat into a Perfect Dram glass.

Nose:

The first thing I’m getting on the nose is a dry white wine, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc. Oddly enough the high ABV barely shows up at all on the nose of this one. The fact that it’s a staggering 64,2 percent ABV is near impossible to detect based on your olfactory senses alone. I’m also getting some red apples (pink lady’s to be precise) and there’s some bread and cinnamon notes in here as well. Those last two flavours combined give me the feeling of waking up to the smell of French Toast as a child (or to “wentelteefjes” as we call them in The Netherlands). A note I’ll say no to as often as I said no to French Toast… I never have and don’t think I ever will. Water makes the nose even more delicate, giving of a sense of cheap perfume. A “Lily of the Valley” kind of scent.

Palate:

That ABV that was missing on the nose for me? It’s there on the palate, and how! Ethanol burns the tongue, while at the same time imparting heavy flavours of tannins and liquorice root. Everything that was subtle on the nose seems to have left as soon as I put the glass to mylips. Aside from tannins and liquorice root I’m also finding a fair bit of black pepper and some darker fruits. Dried prunes and blackberries come to mind specifically. There’s a sweetness in there that is reminiscent of a resin, giving off a kind of wood workshop quality to the dram. Water gives it some added warmth. Hot apple pie, home-made marmalade, and a crisp wood fire all come to mind. It gives a wonderful sense of comfort.

Finish:

The finish is very long and filled with sweetness and bitter tannins. Thanks to the sweetness – which I would describe as thick chunks of candied honey – the tannins don’t become overwhelming. Leaving you with quite the pleasant aftertaste, albeit quite a hefty one. I’m getting some tobacco notes in here as well, specifically dried tobacco leaves (the kind you’ll get stuck on your tongue if you’ve made a poor cut on your cigar). Water dials down the tannins a little bit and instead leaves me with more of the home-made marmalade and wood fire that I also found on the nose.

Verdict:

I’m very happy that I got to try this Ardlair 2011, as an unpeated Ardmore is something I hadn’t even heard of before finding this sample. It’s not the best dram I’ve ever had, but it is unique. And if you’re looking for something unusual to surprise a fellow whisky afficionado with, this dram will surely do the trick. At roughly 55 euro I also think this bottle is priced more than fair. You’re getting a cask strength 11-year-old Single Malt, without chill filtration or added colouring, for it in return. And that’s as good a deal as you’ll possible ever get. To truly enjoy it you do have to appreciate some of its bolder flavours though, which personally I do (but only to a certain extent).

Rating:

85/100

Value:

B+

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes. And how I determine rating and value.

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