Goldfinch Whisky – The Kilnsman’s Dram (Ardmore and Orkney)

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Goldfinch Whisky

Goldfinch is a an independent bottler of Scotch whiskies. The company was founded by Andrew Macdonald-Bennett after he had spent a number of years working with Whyte & Mackay and Edrington.

The Goldfinch name references a small bird that summers in Scotland and winters in Spain – a symbolic representation of the relationship between Scotch Whisky and Spanish Sherry.

Goldfinch divides its whisky into different ranges. In this article I will be looking at two single malts that feature in The Kilnsman’s Dram series. This range celebrates an unsung stage of the production process: the drying of the barley in a kiln fuelled by a peat fire. This is what gives some single malts their unique smoky character.

*Full disclosure: The samples featured in this article were sent to me free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.

Ardmore 13-year-old (Oloroso Sherry Cask)

Ardmore Distillery is in the north-east of Scotland. Unusually for that region, it still regularly produces peated single malt. Though there is a small range of official bottlings available, it is cask strength indie bottlings that have earned Ardmore something of a following. This Highland malt can make for a great alternative to the whiskies of Islay.

This expression is 13 years old and was matured in a first-fill oloroso sherry cask. It’s bottled at 52.4% and retails at £90.

Smell: Nutty oloroso to the forefront but it soon fades into woody smoke, ash and charcoal. Coal fires. Tobacco smoke. Oak char. Pepper. Vanilla and salted caramel. Cayenne Pepper. Golden syrup. Malted barley. Biscuits. Oatcakes and honey.

Taste: Sherry and intense spice on arrival. Quickly followed by a blast of smoke and hot peppery heat. Like the nose, the sherry fades into the background and you get a malty, gristy character coming through. There’s also a citrus element like lemongrass and lemon curd.

Thoughts: The sherry influence is more subtle than I expected from a full-time maturation. It’s there, but you certainly couldn’t call this a sherry bomb. Especially when water is added, you get quite a lot of the spirit character coming through with the peated malt to the fore. A powerful whisky that finds a better balance when a wee splash of water is introduced.

Price: The subtlety of the sherry cask isn’t necessarily a bad thing because Ardmore’s spirit is interesting enough to carry the experience on its own. That said, I’m not sure I enjoyed it enough to justify paying £90. There’s nothing wrong with the whisky but it perhaps feels a little “Ardmore-by-numbers” and I think you could probably get something similar for a bit less. Still, it delivers a lot of what you’d expect so I can’t see anyone being overly disappointed with their purchase.

Orkney 14-year-old (Oloroso Sherry Cask)

A peated single malt from the most northerly whisky distillery in Scotland. This distillery has often been described as a fine all-rounder. That is, a dram that showcases much of what Scotch whisky has to offer. In my experience, it also takes to sherry maturation rather well, so I have high hopes for this sample.

The whisky is matured for 14 years in an oloroso sherry cask. It’s bottled at 52.3% and retails for £85.

Smell: Walnut. Raisins. Mixed peppercorns. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. Ginger. Star anise. Rum and raisin. Treacle. Toffee apples. Caramel. Chocolate oranges.

Taste: Raisins. Toffee and Golden Syrup. Assorted nuts. Gingerbread. Nutmeg. Cloves. Brown sugar. Orange liqueur. Also some fragrant Heather Honey. Vanilla pods. Little bit of malt and some dusty old oak. Dry smoke on the finish.

Thoughts: Really nice viscosity to this one. Smooth may not be a popular term for some people but it’s a good description of the way this whisky feels as it glides over the palate. The sherry is more prominent but the spirit can take it without being drowned and the nutty oloroso makes for a winning combination with the dry smoke. It feels complete. Like the perfect balance has been found between spirit and oak. It’s balanced yet powerful. There’s big forward flavours but there’s also depth and complexity to back it up. Great stuff.

Price: £85 isn’t exactly budget friendly but I’d have no qualms paying the price given the quality that’s on offer. It’s a really wonderful whisky and if you consider the price of the official 18-year-old malt from this distillery, which is bottled at 43%, Goldfinch’s single cask 14 at full cask strength starts to look fairly reasonable.

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