Homeblend #7: Isle of Ardmore

by Matti

This week I’ll be using Isle of Arran 10yo single malt as a base for blending. One thing I should tell you first, though: I’m Dutch (okay, stop gasping, it’s not as if I can help it). And one particularly Dutch foodstuff is liquorice. So you can gauge the extend of our preoccupation with this bitter-sweet candy: we tend to have a section devoted solely to liquorice in our supermarkets roughly the size of the coffee-and-tea-shelf.

So you imagine my mirth when I first consumed a dram of Arran 10yo and found that it has a distinct liquorice-y taste and finish. Now, I happened to have a bottle of Ardmore Traditional Cask lying around as well, which has (among other things) a bay leaf (laurel) aroma to it. And now we come to the crux: I love bay leaf flavoured liquorice. So, I wasted no time in creating what must surely be liquefied laurel liquorice (don’t you just love alliteration?):

Isle of Ardmore: a schematic representation of two versions of the vatted malt whisky homeblend Isle of Ardmore.

Here we are. Blending kit all laid out, palate cleansed, folk-rock on the stereo and whiskies at the ready. My first attempt is a simple 50/50 blend which I’ve dubbed ‘Isle of Ardmore 1.0’. Unfortunately this doesn’t work so well when freshly blended: the peat in the Ardmore and the slight inherent bitter note in the Arran combine to form a intensely bitter taste to the exclusion of all other flavours. Hoping for a miracle I let this blend marry for a few days before letting the idea go. And there is indeed a small result: the bitter note is still there but has receded and now other flavours can come through: on the nose there are fruity sweets and some aniseed whereas the palate has laurel, a bit of liquorice and grapefruit. The finish starts off nice enough with some liquorice but then descends into bitter, bitter oak. Overall, it is drinkable, but not much more than that.

Well, I have now seen progress it is time for one final push towards greatness! And my idea to achieve said greatness and improve the blend is to add some sweetness to further reduce the bitter taste. Enter ‘Isle of Ardmore 2.0’ which has less Ardmore and a dollop of the fairly sweet Islay blend Black Bottle. Crossing my fingers that the peat in the Black Bottle doesn’t make the situation worse instead of better I let the blend marry for another few days only to discover…

It’s mediocre. The nose has oranges as well as peaches now and a much stronger presence of peat and smoke. On the palate there’s barbecued fruit (pineapple), then peat which continues into the finish and ends in a new whisky-flavour for me: chicory. All in all it is the bitterness that lets this blend down (again), and prevents me from scoring this highly. The biggest tip to take away from this (and a few other test-blends I’ve done): whiskies that have a bitter note to them tend to become exponentially more bitter when mixed with peated whiskies, so if you use these together in a blend, use one or the other sparingly.

Blend score: 2 Drams, Dissapointing

But despair not! Later this week I shall unveil another Arran-based blend which will blow your socks off. Stay tuned for the highest-rated blend so far on this blog *dramatic music swells, fade to black*