I tried Ardnahoe inaugural 5 year old whisky - and it won’t disappoint Islay whisky fans

The Islay distillery launched its first ever whisky in early May. Rosalind Erskine was on the island for the whisky’s reveal.

Published 20th May 2024
Updated 20 th May 2024

It may have been technically spring, but it was a cold, rainy and grey day on Islay when Ardnahoe was gearing up to reveal their first ever whisky.

The weather, however, couldn’t dampen the excitement of the team, who had a hand written blackboard sign counting down the days until the whisky would finally go on sale to the public. “There’s only so many tours you can take, and explain ‘the whisky will tell us when it’s ready’” reminisced one member of staff.

Now, the whisky has spoken - or rather distillery manager Fraser Hughes has (he’s been overseeing the whisky making process) and the Ardnahoe Inaugural Release is now on sale. 

This whisky is the first in a series, and realises the dream of Stewart Laing, who travelled to Islay over six decades ago to learn how to make whisky. Stewart, and his sons Andrew and Scott, are the family members of Hunter Laing & Co, the business who built Ardnahoe in 2018.

It’s Andrew and Scott that reveal the whisky to the waiting press and photographer in the picturesque still room, with its beautiful views across the Sound of Mull to Jura.

The classic bottle with black and white labelling is modernised slightly by the simple graphic distillery logo.

Inaugural release is emblazoned across the label with the age statement a bit further down. It’s a deep amber colour and, as we’re passed around braided Glencairn glasses filled with the whisky, I could really appreciate the colour and sweet smells coming from this dram.

On the nose I got the famous Islay peat - Ardnahoe gets their malt from Port Ellen maltings - but there’s a sweetness and fruitness, a hint of apple. On the palate this sweet, smokiness continues, with notes of lemon meringue pie and toffee. On the finish, the smokiness lingers.

Ardnahoe inaugural release whisky

It’s an Islay dram for sure, with a big presence thanks to its ABV (it’s bottled at 50%)  and peatiness, but it’s not a peat monster, there’s a delicate elegance to this whisky which will appeal to most.

It’ll also hold its own in a cocktail, with the lingering smokiness making it ideal for an autumnal old fashioned or smoky highball.

12 whiskies for £50 and under for Father’s Day - including Macallan and Jack & Victor

Ardnahoe Inaugural release  5 year old is priced at £70 and you can pick up a bottle here.

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Ardnahoe, Isle of Islay, UK
Ardnahoe, Isle of Islay, UK, PA46 7RN
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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