In the context of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the number 66 is a lot more than just two digits clinging to each other. In The Society’s distillery code system it refers to the Beam Suntory-owned Highlands unit Ardmore. And at least in my opinion, this busy production site is always worth checking out. Traditionally, The SMWS has a particularly good nose for picking outstanding Ardmore casks – all the 66s I tasted so far had a big character and a unique flavor profile. So whenever an SMWS bottle bears this number on the label, I am all eyes and ears (and nostrils and palate). The latest 66 to find its way into my glass is “Smoke, soot and tarry ropes” from the September 2019 outturn. It caught my attention because its name and notes suggest it to be “the quintessential Islay malt that is not from Islay”. As a total fan of this style, I had to buy it! This turned out to be a wise decision, mainly for two reasons: On the one hand, “Smoke, soot and tarry ropes” is already sold out from The Society’s web shop (but there is still a chance that left-over bottles will re-surface in the next weeks). On the other hand, the whisky is a good and versatile smoker, offering a colorful array of differing peat notes that do the telling moniker perfect justice. Sounds good? Then fill yourself a dram and join me in my Ardmore celebrations!
Eye: Palid yellow.
Nose: A dense cloud of peaty, briny and mineral aromas enters the nostrils. Puffy smoke, chimney wood, grilled eel, BBQ-ed mango, spearmint gum, crusty salt. Though the whisky’s smell is generally thick and heavy, there is also a sweetish and even a somewhat snazzy side to it.
Palate: The spirit is oily, weighty and potent. It places on the tongue different styles of peat smoke as well as heather burn, engine grease, bonfire wood and grilled artichoke. Additionally, I find restrained fruit notes of dried lemons, half-ripe apricots and brown-turned apples in there. With time, the liquid turns from oily to milky. During that process, the number 66.150 also develops a flavor reminiscent of dark, tart chocolate – the one from a specialist shop that has unusual things like pretzles or mushrooms stuck in it.
Finish: Normally I do not read a whisky’s official tasting notes before I have brought my own sensations to paper. But in this case, the description in The SMWS’s outturn catalogue was my main motivator to purchase the bottle. And there is one flavor in there that is spot on: Fisherman’s Friend! The stinging freshness and slight bitterness of these powerful mint drops is the most dominant note in “Smoke, soot and tarry ropes'” finish. Other than that, the long and memorable aftertaste also has lemongrass, chimney puff and beef jerky.
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Region: Scotland (Highlands)
Age: 10 years
Alc. volume: 59 per cent
Cask type: Refill ex-bourbon barrel
# of bottles: 217
Bottle size: 0.7 litres
Price range: ~65.00 Euro
More info: https://www.smws.com/ (Bottler)