Ardmore Traditional Cask Peated Highland Single Malt Whisky – Review

Before I bought this one, I’d asked a salesman what he thought of it and he just shrugged his shoulders, grunted primally, and said only “I think you can do better for the money”, which I found fairly surprising because one, I’d heard very good things about it, and two, it’s a $38 bottle of Scotch, I wasn’t really expecting it to set the world on fire and send me flowers the morning after, and three…he and his bad moustache just left it at that, no attempt at another recommendation or sale whatsoever. I decided right then and there, partly because of his incredible salesmanship and all-around bon vivant manner, to really stick it to him and buy the bottle anyway. No one tells ME that I can do better with MY money, I KNOW I can do better with my money. For $38 dollars, I could get a haircut, lord knows I need one, and that’d last me just about as long as the bottle would. Anyway, I’m sure I really taught him a lesson.

I love Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask, as does most of the legal drinking age world, so after learning more about Ardmore’s Traditional Cask, there was really no question that it would end up in my cabinet one day. Both Ardmore and Laphroaig are owned by Fortune Brands (Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club, etc.) and “Traditional Cask” is apparently Highland marketing speak for “Quarter Cask” which is the small sized cask this particular malt has been finished in. I suppose traditional cask is an apt name given that back when booze was transported mostly by cart, horses were apparently too lazy to haul big barrels so these littler ones made shipping a whole lot more feasible. The idea is that the quarter cask…okay…sorry, traditional cask, because it’s roughly a quarter the size of an American bourbon casks, exposes the spirit to a lot more wood so it matures uniquely and more quickly.

Ardmore’s Traditional Cask is a peated Highlander made up from a vatting of 6 – 13 year old bourbon cask-matured malts which are then finished in the smaller casks for at least a year. It’s not a distillery you hear much about, Ardmore, but it’s actually one of the largest distilleries in Scotland, producing more than 3 million liters of spirit a year, most of it somewhat peated and most of it for use in the popular Teacher’s Highland Cream blend. In fact, the distillery was built by the son of William Teacher in 1898 specifically to support their classic blend. Only recently has Ardmore started releasing single malt expressions and along with the Traditional Cask, which debuted in 2007, there are 25 year old and 30 year old malts.

The Nose: A honeyed but outdoorsy, earthy kind of nose. I’m gonna sound awfully contradictory here, but there are nice notes of dry leaf smoke, wet leaves and hay, and damp earth and fresh cut wood. Though they say “lightly peated”, the peat does come through pretty well, it’s a little rubbery and faintly medicinal. Over it all, there’s a decent sized candied ginger and raisin-y sweetness that ties everything together.

The Palate: Spicy sweet to start with more candied ginger and honeyed grain. The peat and smoke here almost seem to trade serves with the grain and oak. They’re kind of on opposite sides of the net, it works, but they’re a little at odds with each other. Towards the end, there’s more ginger, anise and oaken dryness.

The Finish: Sweet and nicely long with decent peat continuing, more dry wood smoke, and nice mix of mouth-watering acidity and oakey tannins.

Thoughts: This is a pretty evocative Highland malt.  The earthy tones on the nose, the peat and woody tug o’ war on the palate, it’s refined but yet still kind of wild in its way.  The sweetness and oakiness don’t quite work perfectly with the peat and smoke, but in a way they play off each other well, and although it’s a fairly sweet malt, there are a lot of good earthy, smokey hooks to hang your hat on.  I found this bottle for around $38, which I think is a great value, definitely worth a look.

Ardmore Traditional Cask Peated Highland Single Malt Whisky, Highland

46% ABV

Score:  86


13 thoughts on “Ardmore Traditional Cask Peated Highland Single Malt Whisky – Review

  1. Just bought this : 17€ …

    Peat, wood (are those bourbon oaks ?) and pears on the nose.
    Light on the palate, I get a sweetness/peatness combo that’s quite nice.
    A medium long finish, mostly peat but pears come up again.

    At that price, hard to find a better single malt.
    Very nice stuff.

  2. Sorry to hear you had such a sour faced salesman but delighted you decided to stick it to him by buying a bottle – he is obviously just killing time till he is accepted into the Ebeneezer Scrooge Academy of Hospitality Excellence!

    Glad you liked our dram – its actually finished in the Quarters for usually a minimum of a year and depending on how we think it is progressing, that time can, and is regularly, extended. Likewise, we select a range of ages from 6 to 13 years old (ex-bourbon casks) when vatting up prior to filling into Quarters. This flexibility of age is necessary to ensure a consistency of qulaity and flavour – coming from the House of Teacher’s, where we blend another 35 single malts onto the Ardmore base, this ability to vary the ingredients to achieve consistent flavour is what we feel makes a great standard expression whisky.

    Have a great festive period and keep enjoying and investigating the Cratur in all its wonderful forms!


    Alistair Longwell

    Ardmore Distillery Manager

  3. Great recommendation and I must say I am very impressed by the comments from the distillery manager, great to know that they care. I really cannot get over the range and affordability of quality single malt to the north american market.

  4. Just started my first glass. Really enjoying it. It’s a new option at my local liquor store. Can’t wait to try it with a cigar this weekend. This might be my new favorite for under $50 (and I got it for $32 here in Georgia) might have to stock up in case they stop selling it!! I like a good smoky scotch with some balance and they are hard to find at this price.

  5. Hello ,

    I have been just recently gifted this Bottle by a friend, I was waiting for a special day to uncork this Bottle. An amateur in whisky , I am from Mumbai,India, I usually drink Dark Rum & Vodka, My interests started with Jim Beam bourbon, there by I learned about Single Malts, I have collection of Isle of Jura, Dalmore, Macallan Select oak, Bowmore Enigma & Ofcourse the very Indian- Amrut Fusion.

    Hope to check out the Ardmore soon.

  6. Alistair: What a great posting. Ardmore Distillery (you, my buddy Simon and Beam Inc) is to be thanked for a sub-$40 46% ABV NCF/No Caramel Added single malt of such excellent quality! Ardmore Traditional Cask is one of the best buy in the single malt segment. The peat level is just perfect and extends the depth of flavors. It’s a good introduction to the world of peated whisky. The extra expense in re-racking Ardmore and extending the maturation period by circa 1-year is most appreciated by me. Thank you. (Point of information: I have been told that a ‘quarter cask’ aka ‘traditional cask’ is circa 125-Litres. I understand it to be 1/4 of a sherry butt of 500-L.)

  7. Are we sure it has no caramel coloring added? Ralfy says it has, and I find no contradictory information elsewhere.

      1. Thanks Scott, that’s interesting.

        I’m not sure that here in the U.S. anyone is legally bound to acknowledge the addition of caramel coloring so I don’t know if it’s on the bottle here, probably not. I’m not really up in arms over caramel coloring, I’d prefer that it was not in bottles and I definitely think more highly of distilleries that do not use it, but it’s not as big a hot button issue for me as it is to some. I think as a broader and greater appreciation of whisky grows, and more and more people are aware and against caramel coloring, more and more distilleries will cease to use it. In this specific case, the Traditional Cask is a relatively low-priced malt with a broader target base, it not uncommon for this kind of whisky to be colored. What really offends me, is when much higher priced expressions, ones that position themselves as ultra-luxury whiskies (Dalmore being the most glaring example)…still insist on using coloring. That’s just stupid.

        Thanks for the comment!

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