Stalla Dhu Ardmore Review, Recipes & Pairings

Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho has the Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce whisky, gin, rum, vodka and liquors. They were kind enough to sponsor Cigar Inspector with samples so we can write about pairings.

Stalla Dhu Ardmore

Stalla Dhu is an independent bottler. They purchase barrels from famous distilleries and bottle them. The first- and second-generation members of the family carefully select whiskies that show promise and then age them in their own casks before bottling. Often the name of the original distillery is mentioned but not always. But in this case, it is, the distillery is Ardmore, the original peated highlander. It’s now part of Suntory, a Japanese company but the distillery has been around since 1898.

This single cask, cask strength bottling is limited to 220 bottles from an ex-bourbon cask. When the spirit was distilled is unknown, but it comes in at a whopping 60.5% ABV or 121 proof. The label says Caol Ceò, which is Gaelic for light smoke. But I have a feeling the smoke isn’t going to be light.

Recently was at a whisky tasting where I was shocked by the difference in glass. In Glencairn glass the whisky was like liquid chocolate, in a highball glass, the same whisky was almost undrinkable, flat and not palatable. So, I am trying this whisky in both glasses, neat and diluted with some water or ice, then as an old fashioned, and as a whisky smash to see what to pair the whisky with.

Glencairn

I fear this whisky. I mean, if you read my other whisky and cigar pairings you might have picked up that I don’t like peated whiskies. Ardmore is peated, the original peated Highland whisky to top that. And then the 60.5% ABV, which makes it very strong. This is a whisky for tough guys, and I am not playing in that league. Not by a long shot. The spirit is thin yet oily, with a light golden colour. The alcohol aroma is strong, with fresh apples, toffee and vanilla. I was expecting a more smoke and peat aroma, but none of that at all. Could it not be that scary of a whisky after all? Or is the nose deceiving? It is the latter. The nose is deceiving, the first sip makes that clear. This is a peated whisky with muscles. But it’s nice, it warms you up with a nice vanilla sweetness and rich spices over a foundation of oak, peat and smoke. This is not a daytime whisky, and I would not pair a daytime cigar with it either. The cigar has to be a big boy too, something like a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Digger, or an Oliva Serie V Double Toro. Something big, something strong. Honestly, I would not know what Cuban cigar to pair this with, as this is a whisky for very strong cigars with girth, and there aren’t many options in that particular field in Cuba. Something I praise Cuba for by the way, as I’m not a fan of big ring gauges but that’s for another time.

Highball

On the nose, the same whisky in a highball glass is less strong. It reminds me more of  barbecue with toffee and vanilla sweetness. The flavour more intense though, with peat, smoke, but also salt and liquorice over wood and sweetness. The Stalla Dhu Ardmore is balanced and the 60.5% ABV doesn’t come on that strong. There is a slight burn from the high alcohol content, but nothing too abrasive. Stalla Dhu is part of the Dominique London group and they also carry some exclusive cigars from Alec Bradley. The CGars Ltd website mentions pairing this with an Alec Bradley skinny exclusive cigar and I do like this pairing. Otherwise ,a Balmoral Anejo XO Oscuro would be a good option. For the Cuban smokers, maybe a Cohiba Siglo II or a Bolivar Coronas Jr would be a good choice.

Old Fashioned

A classic, and probably the cocktail I drink most. It’s so simple to make at home, all you need is a sugar cube, a bottle of bitters, a big ice cube, whisky and an orange peel. And these simple additions to the whisky can alter the spirit completely. It’s also fun to see how the orange peel reacts differently to different whiskies. In this case, the orange aroma isn’t overpowering at all. It’s there, its subtle with a smoky barbecue aroma. There is more smoke than expected in the nose and in the flavour. There is a slight burn when the alcohol goes down. The cocktail has a beautiful balance between the sweetness of the orange and vanilla and the smoke and peat on the other side. When the ice starts to melt and dilutes the cocktail, it becomes smoother, more welcoming and friendly. Most medium bodied and full-bodied cigars will go well with this Stalla Dhu Ardmore Old Fashioned.

and now for the Old-Fashioned recipe:

1 sugar cube
3 dashes of bitters

2 oz or 60 ml of Stalla Dhu Ardmore Caol Ceò

orange peel
Put the sugar cube in a highball glass, add the dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle the sugar cube. Add ice and the whisky. Stir for 10 seconds, then add an orange peel.

Boulevardier

Loosely translated, a boulevardier is a man-about-town. A cocktail by the same name was created by Erskine Gwynne, the publisher of “Boulevardier,” a magazine for expats living in Paris during the 1920s. The drink was popularized after it was included in Harry MacElhone’s 1927 book “Barflies and Cocktails.” In it, the author credited the cocktail to Gwynne, a regular at MacElhone’s bar. It’s a tidy story, like the drink it inspired.

On the nose this is a fresh cocktail with an herbal aroma due to the Campari and orange due to the orange peel. The smoke and peat aren’t present in the aroma.
The first sip reminds me immediately of a negroni but on steroids. There is a slight hint of peat with a strong bitterness that is definitely for an acquired taste. And I haven’t acquired that taste, I don’t think I ever will. But for those that have, try this cocktail. The difference between the nose and the taste is huge, night and day. The aftertaste is definitely the Stalla Dhu Ardmore. This calls for the strongest and earthiest cigar possible. I say EPC pledge or a fresh Montecristo Double Edmundo.

And now for the Boulevardier recipe:
1¼  ounces or 37 ½ ml of Stalla Dhu Ardmore Whisky

1 ounce or 30ml Campari

1 ounce or 30ml sweet vermouth

Garnish: orange twistAdd the Whisky, Campari and sweet vermouth into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

Inspector X

 

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