The search for the next great cask, Scotland – Day 2 – Part 5

The thrill of the hunt in Denis’ quest to bring you the next great whisky cask….

The thrill of the hunt is what kept me going that morning at Edradour/Signatory, knowing that within the confines of these old stone walls lay cask upon cask of magical whiskies only waiting to be discovered. And discover them we would, as we ambled along from one warehouse to the next, talking, tasting and discussing various whiskies and their place in the world. By mid-afternoon Des and I had wandered into one of Edradour’s newly built warehouses, and he was keen to show off the new barrel racking system that his team had constructed and that now held hundreds of aging casks.

It was here that things got really interesting. As I had my nose in a glass of Glenlivet, contemplating as to whether it was a winner or not (it turned out that it was not), out of the corner of my eye I spotted Des and he had a mischievous look on his face, which suggested I throw the Glenlivet out and follow him, which I dutifully did. Off we went down into the inner sanctum of what I can only describe as whisky heaven. It’s fascinating to watch someone like Des at work, he knows just about where every cask is as if they were his own children. He stopped abruptly, turned around to face a barrel at the end of a rack, and with a flick of his wrist the big wooden mallet that he was holding came crashing down on the top of the barrel, the resin wrapped bung flew out and with his other hand he reached into the barrel, drawing out the sweet liquid with his trusty copper dog. A pour for him and a pour for me and then silence.

I felt the waves of sea spray and delicate smoke aromas hit my nostrils before I even got my nose to the tip of the glass. When I inhaled I was greeted with beautiful aromas of orchard fruits and white grapes, cereal, soft vanilla and a gentle peatiness. I knew this whisky but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I looked over at Des; he was swirling the malt around his mouth and had a big smile on his face. He informed me that this was a personal project that he was working on and I could see that he was pretty proud of it. I put the glass to my lips and the sweet juicy malt hit my tongue and worked its way into every nook and cranny, bringing with it flavors of salty crackers, spiced orange and savory peat. It was beautiful in every way and curious to find out more I moved to look at the bottom of the cask for more information. Stenciled in black paint were the words Laphroaig, but…

Des looked at me as I was scratching my head trying to figure it out. He informed me that the whisky was in fact from the Ardmore Distillery, Laphroaig’s sister distillery in the Eastern Highlands. Ardmore is without a doubt one of my favorite Scottish distilleries, yet it is rarely seen on store shelves as most of the whisky produced is destined for Teachers Blended Scotch. The distillery produces a style of whisky that is downright delicious, think sweet malty creamy notes, vanilla ice-cream and a touch of wispy smoke. Des had managed to get his hands on freshly dumped ex-bourbon barrels from Laphroaig and had placed the Ardmore in them for a period of time, known in the industry as additional cask enhancement or finishing. The result is Ardmore with a twist. All of Ardmore’s character and then some is clearly on display with a subtle flavor injection from the Laphroaig cask, yet without its Islay sister dominating the conversation. This, my friends, is the fascinating wonder of single cask single malt whisky. Expect to see this well priced beautiful cask wash up on our shores later this year!


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 Vine & Table #301