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Ardmore distillery owes its existence to Adam Teacher of William Teacher & Sons. Seeking to secure a reliable source of malt whisky for his Highland Cream blends he travelled to Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire to visit family friend Colonel Leith-Hay who recommended a spot on his land near the village of Kennethmont. With excellent barley fields nearby, free flowing fresh water and convenient proximity to the Inverness / Aberdeen railway link, Teacher had found everything he required in one place.
William Teacher & Sons had started out as a chain of ‘dram shops’ in Glasgow, but through the creation of bespoke blends for his customers, the young William had laid the foundations for an empire. By the time he passed away in 1876, his Highland Cream recipe was so successful the company had moved into the wholesale wine and spirits market, opening a warehousing facility on Argyle Street in the heart of Glasgow. By 1884 they had an office in London, opening another in Manchester two years later. When construction began on Ardmore distillery in 1897 it was the family’s first foray into the world of distilling but the unusually peated malt produced at this new distillery would go on to provide the backbone of their blend for generations to come.
Adam Teacher passed away before Ardmore could be completed, but the distillery remained in the family until they sold the company to Allied Distillers in 1976. Under new ownership, Ardmore became sister distillery to Laphroaig though little of its spirit was bottled as a single malt. Only a relatively few drops found their way to the likes of Gordon & MacPhail and Cadenhead’s.
Allied, including Teacher’s, Ardmore and Laphroaig was acquired by Beam Global in 2006 only for Suntory to take over the lot in 2014 putting all three alongside Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club and Courvoisier Cognac under the same Japanese ownership as Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch.
Under Beam, Ardmore appeared for the first time in an official bottling back in 2007. Their “Traditional Cask” took the same approach as the hugely successful Quarter Cask release at stablemate Laphroaig by “finishing” the liquid in smaller oak casks to increase spirit to wood ratio and enhance maturation. Bottled at 46% it came priced at £35 though often appeared at heavily discounted rates in UK supermarket chains. Despite generally favourable reviews however, the Traditional Cask was discontinued towards the end of 2014 and replaced with “Legacy” a budget friendly bottling reduced to a disappointing 40%.
I recently found a miniature of this discontinued malt for sale on the Whisky Exchange and decided that it would be nice to enjoy a dram again before stocks disappear forever. It’s worth noting however that the distillery website mentions a travel retail bottling called “Ardmore Tradition” that sounds none too dissimilar but having never tried it, I can’t say how it matches up to the original release.
Smell: Quite a full nose. Honey and vanilla. Apple and pear. Grilled pineapple. Over time the presence of smoke becomes all the more noticeable. Also lemon, orange peel and malty biscuit. Salted caramel.
Taste: Buttery toffee. Touch of citrus. Honey. Apple. Sea salt and black pepper. Vanilla fudge. Barley malt. Oak. Decent length on the pleasantly smoky finish.
Value for Money: The Legacy bottling which is to be found in supermarkets up and down the UK is a drinkable enough dram but its predecessor was a class above and it feels like something of a tragedy that it has been lost to the market. I only hope the travel retail version is at least of comparable quality.
There aren’t many peated highland malts around but it is a style Ardmore seem to do rather well. This Traditional Cask bottling was affordable, un-chill filtered, bottled at a good strength and most importantly, tasted really bloody good. A lovely (and sadly missed) little bang for your buck buy.
Visit the Ardmore distillery website here.