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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Ardbeg 22 year old 1996 (Twenty Something series)

Like the Twenty One, this 22 year old was aged solely in bourbon casks. But this one has a 1996 vintage which means it came from the very end of the Allied era, and it had a smaller outturn than the 21. I tasted these three whiskies together, and I am happy to report the 21 was wonderful. How about the 22?

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owners at time of distilling: Allied
Region: Southern Islay
Maturation: bourbon casks
Age: minimum 22 years (1996-2018)
Outturn: 2400 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46.4%
(from a bottle split)

The quiet nose takes a bit of cajoling to awaken. It has that almost peaceful balance of ocean and smoke that the great Ardmores possess (yes, Ardmore). Earth, ground mustard seed, cucumber skin, cut grass and newspaper print. Small notes of angel food cake and pear torte in the background. The palate begins like a lighter version of the 21. More basement than farm. More fruits, but also more tannins. Almonds, walnuts, lime juice, lychee and calvados. But the tannins move in after 30 minutes pushing almost everything else out. The finish holds notes of almond cookies, salted caramels, mild smoke, lychee and very old oak. More moldy staves with time.

I'll bet there were some gorgeous casks in here. But there were also at least a few that were already past their prime. Perhaps they were used to increase the outturn and/or this offered a better return than sinking 22 year casks in other Ardbeg products. The oak doesn't kill the whisky but prevents it from reaching the heights of the Twenty One. Also, the nose was also oddly quiet compared to the other two Ardbegs. This was the last of the short-lived "Twenty Something" series, so perhaps this was it for the 1996 casks? (Though there's a 25 year old on the way, it's going to be from 1995 or earlier.) Though this is very good whisky, it could have been a stunner.

Availability - Getting scarce
Pricing - £440 w/VAT (original price), £500-£700 now
Rating - 87