Ardnamurchan’s Paul Launois editions are a partnership between two producers that take the utmost pride in their craft. One on a remote peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, the other in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a grand cru in France’s Champagne region.
The first edition popped up last year and was a big hit. Maybe hyped even. Unpeated spirit initially matured in bourbon barrels and finished in former Paul Launois Champagne casks. People were raving, and bottles were sold out before I barely knew they existed. However, when I visited the distillery earlier this year it was still available in the distillery’s bar, so I brought home a sample.
I have been sitting on it because there wasn’t any urgent reason to publish a review well over a year after release. But now that Ardnamurchan launched a second Paul Launois-finished this summer, it made for the perfect opportunity to compare them head-to-head.
Ardnamurchan AD/04:21 (57.6%, OB, 2021)
Nose: It’s sweet and silky initially with touches of buttermilk biscuits and yeasty dough, but also guava, Chardonnay, grape must, hay and plenty of cereals, as well as ripe banana and syrup-y pancakes. A really pleasant, sophisticated experience. Taste: Creamy, almost oily mouthfeel. The arrival is somewhat astringent, with quite some oak spices and ginger. Fairly herbacious too. Minerals aplenty. It benefits from some water, opening things up to green grapes, apricots, lemons and tobacco. Finish: Long, spicy, gingery and ending on lingering orchard fruits.
The palate couldn’t keep up. I thought it was just a tad too hot, and not as elegant as the nose was, which was quite something. So, maybe a bit of a discrepancy between the two, but really rather enjoyable irregardless.
Ardnamurchan AD/06:22 (57.5, OB, 2022)
Nose: Prickly, somewhat fizzy almost with a touch of resin and vanilla. Subtle yeasty touches, warm custard and wet pebbles, but also a whiff of limoncello, almonds and candied bananas. Water brings out a touch of mint and honeyed apples. Taste: Same envying mouthfeel, but also a similar hot, spicy arrival. I’m sure the French oak has something to do with it. Water slightly settles things, making room for banana, honey and sweet fruits. Finish: Somewhat oaky and bitter with soft fruits. Long.
Certainly not the same dram, but similar to the first Paul Launois release. It's maybe a little less balanced and lacks some freshness comparatively. Hence the lower rating.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding these two, but I’m not sure I understand why. There’s nothing really that transcendent about these. And are they better than other Ardnamurchan expressions I’ve had? Probably not. Certainly not more affordable. I can’t really explain the fanfare.
Having said that, both these Paul Launois editions from Ardnamurchan are very solid, mostly enjoyable single malts. A tad too spicy at times, but water helps. And the fruitier, sweeter elements really are a highlight. As is the mouthfeel.