I left the south of France and I'm back in Scotland (without any problem of 40aine because in virtual travel - you have to find some advantage there -). My direction: the Isle of Mull in the west of the country.
On the road that leads me to the town of Kilchoan, from where I have to take the boat, as I walk along the beautiful Glenmore Bay, the beauty of the place attracts me and I decide to take a break to have a look!
Leaving my faithful BRADPEAT on the side of the coastal road D8007, I face a beautiful gulf and already guess in the distance the contours of the island I have to go to. However, while my nose is whipped by the sea spray, a familiar smell comes in. Peat smoke! Well, we are in the Scottish countryside and there must be some old houses where the fuel remains natural! I look around me but I don't see any farms, only trees and heather. However, the smell of peat smoke that I perceive is not that of a banal smoky bothy, it seems less heavy, more subtle. A distillery drying its barley, it can only be that.
As far as I remember, my map does not show any distillery in the area! A new one maybe?
I let myself be guided by my nose and go north. At the bend I see a row of white and black barrels and behind a modern building covered with a pagoda roof! There is no mistake! I am in front of a distillery! On the barrels is marked: ARDNAMURCHAN DISTILLERY. This is the new ADELPHI distillery I heard about !
As I enter the courtyard of the distillery, I see a moustachioed man (with the false airs of Charles Maclean, well, well!!) in a kilt and decides to approach me to talk to him. He seemed to be dancing !??? He stops and says to me " hello, my name is William Glad, can I help you ? ». I tell him how I ended up there and tell him that I didn't know this new distillery very well.
So, he tells me that he will tell me his story and especially make me taste one of the beautiful achievements (not yet a single malt because less than 3 years old but still great promises), the 2019/AD.
Starting the visit, he tells me that the distillery was built in 2013 and started producing whisky the following year under the name ARDNAMURCHAN (which is pronounced ardnamouran with the accent -NDLR-). However, the experience of the brand is much older since the first ADELPHI (LOCH KATRINE) distillery in Glasgow was opened in 1826.
He also tells me that it is thanks to one of his ancestors (William Gladstone) that distilleries can store their tax-free distillate as long as it is not aged and bottled (the famous "duty-free warehouse"). He tells us that to celebrate this, he had made a little dance step, later caricatured (the "Dancey man"), and now taken over as the symbol of the brand !
He also tells us that the history of the ADELPHI brand is linked to a catastrophe in Glasgow at the beginning of the 20th century (which sounded the death knell for its malt production in favor of grain distillate) during which the ripping open of malt vats caused more than 500,000 liters of whisky to spill into a street in the city (a dream you could say but which turned out to be fatal for one person).
In short, a story full of anecdotes.
He explains us that since 1971 (date when the LOCH KATRINE distillery definitively closed its doors -NDLR-) that as a good Scotch who does not give up, the brand has continued its way as an independent bottler (with great successes that we know him with a speciality in rare malts).
He finally ends by telling us that the ARDNAMURCHAN distillery was inaugurated in 2013 by crowned heads (Monegasque and English) and will earn its single malt stripes in 2021!
He shows me around the distillery, the malting room, the beautiful stills room (2) with a view on the sea and above all, the wharehouse on the earth floor where he proposes me to taste the realization of 2019.
In this distillery everything is modern. The bottle that he presents us is a good representation of it. It is opaque grey and hides the liquid, letting only a small net in the shape of a densimeter. However, it shows a nice copper color.
Will especially tells me what is clearly one of the main characteristics of this new distillery: the importance of product traceability. Seeing the bottle (on which the information from the barley used to the type of cask is already noted) I can tell myself that there is traceability. Nevertheless my host tells me to pass my smartphone in front of the flash code stuck just next to the label!
And that's when I really see what traceability means. On my phone appears the whole pedigree of the bottle. And when I say everything, that's it! Of course I discover that it is the bottle n°4006 (out of the 5100 produced of the distillate 2019 - against 2500 for the first two) and even who filled it. One can also discover when the (locally grown) barley was malted, when and by whom the alcohol was distilled, on what date and in how many casks it was kept... total traceability. And since you register your e-mail address, you know who will drink it in the end...
Without Will needing to do so, I thus discover the characteristics of the bottle I have in front of me: It is composed of peated and non-peaty distillates and was bottled in October 2019.
When one knows ADELPHI and the fact that the "Chief Nose" is none other than Charles Maclean, one could suspect that the ARDNAMURCHAN distillate was not going to be a simple distillate. The one I have in my glass was produced between July 2015 and June 2017 but above all it was produced from 9 different heatings. This makes it a 2 year old distillate. And just to add a little finesse, it comes from a blend of 3 barrels of Oloroso, 18 barrels of Pedro Ximenes for the non-peaty version and 5 American oak barrels ex-sherry olorosso for the peaty version, all with different capacities (from 508 to 56 liters!). You add to this a wharehouse half on the ground (earthen) half elevated and above all a maritime climate which plays of course on the ageing process ... Enough to make this whisky very complex.
So what does it all add up to, apart from the dizziness?
In fact the youthfulness of this distillate requires a progressive adaptation of the nose. I advise you to approach it progressively to the glass. Before plunging it well inside, you will at first have rather vinous notes, then a very light peatiness. When the nose enters completely in the glass it is there the heat but also the ardour of the youth which they enter in the nose. Beautiful sweet notes of sherry, phenol that tickles (57,4 % still the angels hadn't detected yet that there was a distillery to be served in the corner).
At the second passage the smell gets even rounder with the arrival of a smell of raisins and a hint of pecan. Finally, we finish the third passage on the heat with a note of ripe mango and caramel.
With water the journey will be rounded again and let you curl up in the warmth and roundness of the caramelized sugar.
And to think that this whisky has not spent more than 2 years in casks! You'll have to see what it will give once it has grown up, it already has all the makings of a sherry bomb.
William starts again in his little dance step (it must be a custom of the west highlands!) while saying "slainte mhath my friend".
As much as on the nose this distillate announced itself as "hot" and "round", in the mouth it will be more fresh! Its youth and strength will make it a little more "tense" (as one could say for a wine). However, and this is a surprise, we will find ourselves here with a "marine sherry". It remains quite sweet on the sides of the tongue but fresh and salty on top. I will once is not customary to go beyond the rule of 1 second per year (because it would only make a brief passage in the mouth), and will still keep it a little longer. The time to discover first nice raisin notes and then switch to more mentholated and aniseed notes (with even some peppery notes on the bottom taste buds). It is at the moment of swallowing it that the peaty point remembers to us.
It is besides these peaty and aniseed notes that will remain for some time in the throat once we swallow it. Its youth it will remain more on the tongue with a point of astringency.
As I say goodbye to my new friend Will and continue on my way to the Isle of Mull, I allow myself to share a little dance step with him (57.4% anyway), but above all I thank him for making me make this beautiful discovery.
This "new" distillery promises us great things for the future. Indeed, with an already well laid down and expressive nose, the distillate, although still young, gives us a glimpse of a high level whisky when it will have stayed a little longer in the sherry casks.