Ardmore Traditional Cask Review

Ardmore Traditional Cask127

46% abv

Score: 83.5/100


There’s a lot of love out there in the whisky-sphere for the Ardmore Traditional Cask.  And please believe me when I say that I really want to like it more than I do. 

A couple of years back when I first tried this expression, I recall being slightly underwhelmed.  Fast forward to the days leading into 2014 and…well…sadly, I’m still kinda underwhelmed.  It’s not a bad whisky, but for all it has going for it, it simply never quite takes the plunge into ‘great whisky’ territory. 

Ardmore is a distillery which has long produced malt whisky for blending purposes. Primarily for Teachers Highland Cream, if what I’ve read is correct. The distillery was built in 1898 in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Highlands, and produces a ‘fully peated’ Speysider. The results are…well…pretty much what you’d expect, but with a few quirks that allow it to boast a rather singular profile.

The folks at Ardmore, much like Laphroaig, are using Quarter Casking for some of their maturation. This allows for increased spirit to wood contact and a substantially accelerated ageing process.  While this works with bog beasts like Laphroaig, whch benefit from being dished up young and fiery, I’m not sure the experiment is as successful in this case.  Maturation in Quarter Casks, by nature, has to be short, or the resulting whisky will be nothing but oak.  The flipside, however, is that the barrel hasn’t really had enough time to knock the jagged edges off the young spirit.  And there are definitely some edges here.

Do note…this is a whisky which absolutely needs time to open up. It’s not entirely at its best right off the cork.  Let it breathe.  Let it relax.  It does deliver with a bit of patience, but still…not quite to the standards I’d hoped.  There is a lot of promise here, but something seems to be just not quite there yet.  Maybe an extra point for the nose.

Nose:  Leather and earthy peat.  Then more leather.  Some iodine.  Man…can’t get over the ‘saddle-like’ leather  notes.  Very ‘dry’ smelling, if that makes any sort of sense.  Light raw tobacco.  There are some fruit notes, to be sure, but rather generic and typical of what you’d find in  one of the ‘Glen’ distilleries.  Nothing unique.  There’s a vague hint of salmon with lemon and capers.  Some caramel.  And…a bit of a floral note.  Not tooooo far off a Springbank, really.  Think this would age well, but as it stands…middling at best.

Palate:  That salmon note carries here.  Wish it hadn’t, to be honest.  Some earthy peat notes and leather too. Smoke and tannic fruits.  Disappointing.


– Reviewed by: Curt

– Photo: Curt

15 thoughts on “Ardmore Traditional Cask Review

  1. Robert

    Sitting in my easy chair watching “throw ball” with my coffee mug containing a few ounces of Ardmore with a couple pieces of ice. I haven’t had this in about a year so I bought a bottle today for $30 + tax Now I’m wondering why I waited so long! Definitely not disappointing to me! I really like this stuff. Not complex, but smooth (w/water), spicy, sweet/bitter on the tongue, and a bit of peat smoke. This is the scotch I’d give a bourbon guy, esp. a Wild Turkey guy (Oooppps! That’s me!). Peaty scotch at a bourbon price! Bring it on! Kinda reminds me of JW Double Black, but cheaper and better mouth feel.

  2. Robert

    I found out yesterday Ardmore is replacing this with a “new and improved” NAS version. Went out and bought two more bottles, all I could find at three stores. I understand you and others are not fond of this, but it really hits the mark for me. Next you know WT will pull the 101, and I’ll really be pissed.

    BTW Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batch 6 is out and it is epic! Only $33 here with 140.2 proof. Great nose and tastes like the best candy ever. First sip was amazing, on the same level as first sips I’ve had of excellent bottles of Lagavulin 12. Neither whiskies are very complex, but both are excellent anyway. Try it if you get the chance (but avoid the 5th batch, which is only good).

    1. Jeff

      I haven’t tried it in some time, but I did like it a little more than Curt did; the small casks work at least as well as they do for Quarter Cask and otherwise, yes, the profile is very similar in terms of structure. I think it really comes down to which young whisky you prefer with which peat. As for what (the perhaps younger, who knows?) Ardmore Legacy will be, with dropping down 6% ABV to 40%, it’s hard to tell, but I’ve never found thinning a whisky which is already only in the 40s to be an improvement.

      1. Skeptic

        I prefer the Laphroaig QC to this expression, and not by a small margin… I think I bought this at a duty free in 2011 but just opened it this year. Oh the things I would change if I could go back…

        1. Robert

          QC is the better dram, but is about 70% more expensive in my area. I only pay $30 for Ardmore, but $55 for QC. However I’d rather put out the extra $10 for CS and pass on QC. The real mistake I made lately was shelling out $67 for Laphroaig Triple Wood. Weird unbalanced wooden disappointment. I coulda had a CS and some WT 101 mini’s for the same price!

          1. Jeff

            I’m surprised with the take of some others on Triple Wood (although Robert’s far from alone), because I liked it better than either QC or Ardmore TC (scored 91, 88 and 90 respectively). It was the whisky that actually convinced me that “cask management” wasn’t just all smoke and mirrors and I’m looking forward to an unopened pre-boycott PX for comparison. For a whisky that, if I’ve done my math right, can’t exceed 15 years in age, I thought Triple Wood was very good, although I think the Scotch Guru and I gave it about 40 minutes to open up while we tried the somewhat disappointing Sheep Dip. Extended opening/settling time, I think, isn’t lost on any of these whiskies, as they’re all pretty raw and have a lot of cask influence.

    1. Robert

      I’ve tried it three times over a month’s time and didn’t see improvement, but I’ll go back again since its been a couple more months. Hope I find what you guys did! So far the only single malts I’d rate lower are Jura 10 (bleech!) and …… Well I guess that’s it! I like almost all single malts and Laphroaig is typically decent (10) to very good(CS), so maybe it’s a bad bottle. I did get a poor 2012 Lagavulin 16 fairly recently.

      1. Jeff

        Ironically enough, I kind of prefer Jura 10 over the Dalmoresque half-sherried approach of Superstition or the almost peat-flavoured, rather than peated, Prophecy. I think the base spirit of The Diurach’s Own 16 yrs. is very good, but the finish, as with the others, leaves a little to be desired. On the Triple Wood, maybe consistency IS an issue but, with five more years in cask, I think it could be serious competition for the 18.

        1. ATW Post author

          Jura 10 is likely one of the most improved whiskies I’ve seen over the past few years (Bunna would be another). You’re right though. A lot of the Juras (and Dalmores, for that matter) come across as a little too wine-heavy for my liking. Having said that, there’s a romanticism I associate with Jura simply due to its Hebridean mystique. Just my own personal bias. The Prophecy, however…I like that one. Quite a lot.

  3. Robert

    Back to Ardmore, I saw two video reviews recently on the TC. Whiskeybitch thought it was disjointed between the peat and sweet but was not bad, while “Serious Scotch Gals” (?) really liked it and, like you, found an unusual salmon note in both nose and palate (I love salmon). It is an unusual single malt that obviously isn’t to the tastes of many, but appeals to a segment out there. At $29 + tax, I’ll keep buying it until it’s gone. BTW, I like it better with a bit of ice, letting it sit for 20-30 minutes. The flavor changes to be more rounded and creamy and is really enjoyable (to me).

  4. Raul

    On first opening its kinda harsh. Peat is not very well integrated and there is this carboard smell that covers the possible fruits (lemon?). On the mouth its oily, spicy and astringent (dry, bitter). I regret my purchase indeed. Hope this will somehow evolve and integrate with time.

  5. lapi n-rouge

    Wow, 83.5 points for a ‘Disappointing’ whisky.

    How bad does a whisky have to be to drop below 80? or does your points system start at 80 and finish at 95?


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