It is no secret that whisky marketing has been one of my recent rants. I went on a bit of a ramble in both my recent Daftmill article (which you can read here) and during my review of The Lakes Distillery Steel Bonnets (which is here)
Perhaps I’m getting a little old and grumpy but the focus on the story behind the dram now seems more important that the qualities of the liquid in the bottle. In the case of Daftmill it was exceptional and arrived without fanfare or hype (other than that generated by the enthusiasts who eagerly awaited it’s arrival)
In the case of The Steel Bonnets it was . . . actually, just go back and read it, it is easier than me repeating myself.
Now there is a new dram on the tasting table that has a story behind it.
This time it has been to the South Pole… Sigh *head hits desk*
Now to be fair I’m a bit of a polar history geek. Tales of the epic adventures of Shackleton, Scott, Mawson and Crean are still as thrilling to me today as when I first read them as a boy. The ‘heroic age of antarctic exploration’ is a fascinating time and arguably contains tales of some of the greatest feats of endeavour in human history.
The Ardgowan Distillery will (as it is currently not yet built) sit on the Ardgowan Estate in Renfrewshire. Revised planning consent was secured in October 2018 for the £12 million project which should be completed in 2020.
In the interim they plan to release some limited edition malts during 2019 as well as the recently announced Ardgowan Expedition 20 year old blended malt which is the focus of todays review.
The Ardgowan Expedition was selected by Ardgowan Chairman Willie Phillips (ex-Macallan and various others) and, according to the press information, includes classic malts from upper Speyside and and the Northern Highlands which have been married together in a sherry cask before bottling.
Each bottle of the £500 limited release of 600 bottles contains whisky which has travelled to the South Pole and back, carried by explorer Robert Swan and his son Barney on their recent South Pole expedition.
Now that the waffle is out of the way, lets get into the review.
Ardgowan Expedition, Blended Malt, 20yo, IB, 46%abv, Press Sample
Appearance-wise it is a lovely dark auburn colour and leaves slow, long legs in the glass.
The nose is full of red fruits, raspberries and redcurrant, all wrapped up in a fresh baked pastry. There are slight floral notes of perhaps Honeysuckle and touches of unlit cigar intermingle amongst the soft sherry notes.
The palate is full of soft muscvado sugar and has some really punchy orange notes, giving the palate a feeling of marmalade on buttery brown toast. There are flashes of ruby grapefruit and slight notes of tobacco. It is wonderfully waxy in the mouth and has fantastic elements of beeswax and honeycomb.
The finish is white pepper, ginger and cedar all mixed in with some delicious milk chocolate notes.
It would be fair to assume that given Willie Phillips’ involvement that there is more than likely a little Macallan involved here and there and I’ll go out on a limb and say there is perhaps a spot of Clynelish here too judging by the waxy presence.
That is a quality backbone for a 20 year old blended malt but it is still nowhere near to becoming good value at £500. This is a really good, balanced and flavoursome whisky which I really enjoyed that is unfortunately aimed and priced for collectors as some sort of investment rather than for drinkers, which is a shame as it is really is very good.
I’m just not getting why such a good whisky, who’s obvious quality should be heralded is overshadowed and hidden behind its origin story.
Even as a polar enthusiast I’m in no way tempted.
The next releases from Ardgowan are planned within the much more sensible £50 range and are going to be, according to my sources, in the style that they envision that Ardgowan Single Malt will be when it eventually arrives.
You can find more tasting notes and whisky news in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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