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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ardbeg 23 year old (Twenty Something series)

Some overactive casks prevented the 22yo from ascending to greatness, thankfully the super 21yo avoided that issue and provided old-fashioned thrills. The 22 was distilled in 1996 and the 21 in 1994-1995. This 23 was from 1993-1994. Unlike the 21 and 22, the 23 has some sherry casks in the mix. And I haven't seen an outturn number for it. No matter what, it's a joy to have the opportunity to drink 23 year old Ardbeg. I think I've had Ardbeg older than this only a handful of times, and only twice in my own home. Engage.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owners at time of distilling: Allied
Region: Southern Islay
Maturation: bourbon casks and oloroso sherry casks
Age: minimum 23 years
Bottling year: 2017
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
(from a bottle split)

It has the fruitiest nose of the trio, with nectarines and plums. Wet old books, elephant manure, steel wool and dust float in the midground. Toasted oak spice, almond extract and pound cake linger in the background. The palate's smoke and fruit arrive together: kiln, cherries, dried apricots, and fresh peaches. My favorite part — dunnage, black walnuts and Hampden-style smoky olives — appears after 30 minutes. A small dose of tannin and newspaper (paper more than print) shows up after 45 minutes. There's a mix of oceanic and leafy peat in the finish. Bits of dunnage, newspaper, anise and fresh ginger. Just a little bit of peppery tannin.

The loudest of the three Allied Ardbegs, and also the oldest-feeling (despite the age proximity), the 23 was bottled just before the oak broke. I love the nose and palate, but I do think a glass of this stuff needs to be consumed within 45 minutes. (That may sound silly to some folks, but consider the whisky's rarity and price.) The oloroso casks are present but reserved, a good thing in this instance. And as with all the Allied Ardbegs I've ever had, the peat is much subtler and nuanced than that of LVMH's Ardbeg, leaving space for every other element to arrive.

This tasting has left me much less motivated to ever review another LVMH Ardbeg. I may do a fun little comparison someday, but otherwise I'll review my remaining Allied samples in the next year or two, then that will be that for Ardbeg.

Availability - Can still be found in the primary market
Pricing - £430 w/VAT (original price), £450-£700 now
Rating - 90