Bruichladdich. Glenrothes. Ardmore. Three distilleries that I quite like, although in case of the latter two mostly because of independent bottlings. Lucky for me, all three whiskies I’m reviewing today have been independently bottled by Spiritfilled as part of their ‘Mythical Beasts’ series.
I’ve only written about one other Mythical Beasts release before, coincidentally (or maybe not) also a Glenrothes. However, the difference between them is about 19 years. I thought the 15-year-old release was absolutely wonderful and reasonably priced to boot. The new Glenrothes 34 Years Mythical Beasts looks equally enticing (matured in an Oloroso sherry cask), but the price is best ignored – it is unattainable for us mere mortals.
Another recent release and the only of the three I would dare call affordable, the Ardmore 14 Years Mythical Beasts matured in a standard bourbon barrel, which I think is usually best for Ardmore. I’m partial to Ardmore, but generally more so to the older releases (when the stills were coal-fed). The younger ones tend to miss some of that je ne sais quoi. Could also just be a consequence of the age difference.
Finally, there’s a 30-year-old Bruichladdich, also from the Mythical Beasts series, that was launched in the fall of 2022. No information here on the cask type, but based of my tasting session, it would probably have to be a bourbon cask. Let me put it this way: I’d be surprised if it were anything else.
Bruichladdich 30 Years ‘Mythical Beasts’ (53.3%, Spiritfilled, C#2283)
Nose: Hints of lemon zest, honeyed cereals and bandaids, as well as a touch of chalk, notes of damp forest floor and wet pebbles. Then slices of red apples, peach skin, and even some elderflower. Taste: Classic old-style Bruichladdich with a decent mouthfeel and a distinct maltiness. Oat cookies, digestive biscuits and soft oak spices. It’s the fruits that stand out though. Zesty lemon, orange marmalade, and even a touch of grapefruit. Finish: Long with crushed mint leaves, sugar icing and cloves. A hint of ginger too. Maybe even some dark-roasted coffee beans.
Pretty glorious old malt whisky, this Bruichladdich adheres to the distillery’s distinct character while highlighting the benefits of a lengthy maturation.
Glenrothes 34 Years ‘Mythical Beasts’ (42%, Spiritfilled, C#7038)
Nose: Highly elegant, there are notes of crème de cassis, blackberries and Maraschino cherries, accompanied by whiffs of nougat, marzipan and warm vanilla sauce. The oak is subtle – touches of dunnage notes, a whiff of tobacco, dark chocolate, and finally some cappuccino. It loses steam after a little while, maybe because of the lower strength. Taste: Loads of berries, a hint of eucalyptus, some cloves, and leather as well. The mouthfeel is fine, but the low abv doesn’t go totally unpunished. Some light tannins and bright orange-y notes too. Finish: Medium length. Somewhat acidic and dry, but also muscovado sugar and red cherries.
First impression was great, but upon closer inspection it doesn’t totally hold up. A delicate, elegant Glenrothes that might’ve been just past its prime.
Ardmore 14 Years ‘Mythical Beasts’ (56.8%, Spiritfilled, C#703864)
Nose: Touches of smoked barley husks, charcoal, and roasted almonds, as well as a touch of leather upholstery, tinned pineapple and chargrilled lemons. There’s a floral note here too. Taste: Powerful and spicy, but very drinkable. The mouthfeel is relatively oily, which is nice. Notes of nutmeg, sandalwood and pepper, along with cinnamon, earthy peat, and dark honey. Just a tinge of ripe banana. Finish: Medium to long. Warming, lingering, sweet peat.
It lacks some complexity, but otherwise, this Ardmore is a reliable peater from a very dependable distillery. Quite happy that it wasn't finished in some exotic cask or other.
An impressive line-up regardless of my thoughts on them. The Bruichladdich is the standout for me, but that could also be down to personal preference. I just love the old-style, cereal-forward nature of Bruichladdich in general, and this release specifically.
In a way, the Glenrothes is equally magnificent, but time has been a little less kind here. The mouthfeel may have suffered a bit from the angels’ taking their share of alcohol. Finally, the Ardmore is just what I’d expect from a younger release. Good, quaffable, but not the most complex.