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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ardbeg Twenty One

Thinking they were made with the oldest expressions of LVMH-era Ardbeg, I made sure to get in on a bottle split of the 21, 22 and 23 year old. It wasn't until after they were in my possession that I realized these whiskies were distilled by Allied! Yay!

Terrible Metaphor Time: Star Wars and Ardbeg. Allied Ardbeg is the original trilogy and LVMH is the sequel trilogy. Fans can say about the latter Ardbeg, "Hey that one part was good" and "Remember that time..." and "That was kind of funny", but when compared as a whole with the former Ardbeg, the newer stuff doesn't hold up well and has occasionally been embarrassing. The current generation of fans will experience LVMH Ardbeg first, most often, or completely without perspective. And that's where the comparison falls apart because I can always fire up Empire Strikes Back, but old Ardbeg not so much. Also the prequels never happened.

Twenty One was released in 2016. Though I don't think the label offers a vintage, the single malt was birthed from 1994 or 1995 (math!) when the distillery was squeaking out occasional batches. The 10 year old distilled during that time period was great. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with more age. On all of us.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owners at time of distilling: Allied
Region: Southern Islay
Maturation: bourbon casks
Age: minimum 21 years
Bottling year: 2016
Outturn: 8268 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

Steel wool, coal, bits of cinnamon and anise, and cold kiln ash register first in the nose, then never relent. Hot asphalt, hot engine and manure. Old book and ocean notes arise after 45 minutes. The palate's earth, fruit and farm arrive in unison. Cinnamon cake and a puff of pipe smoke, then hints of mothballs, old books and industrial oils. It finishes with cinnamon cake, earth, stones and lemons. Peaches, industrial oils and mothballs.

"Lovely. It's been a really long time since I've had peated whisky like this," say my written notes. So engaged by the whisky, I forgot to take notes for at least half the sips. To be honest, I didn't expect this level of quality. It's not that I had doubts about Ardbeg from this era, rather I've been conditioned to set my expectations low when seeing a contemporary Ardbeg label. Ardbeg Twenty One is so good (and the secondary market so bats) that I must say its original price was not unreasonable. Should not this be something to which Ardbeg aspires? As opposed to Blaaack?

Availability - A few bottles remain in the primary market, a lot more in the secondary market
Pricing - £310 w/VAT (original price), £400-£700 now
Rating - 92