Friday 24 March 2017

Tasted #352: Ardbeg 21 (2016 release)

If there's a trend present in recent distillery-bottled Ardbegs over the past few years, it would be that they're all on the (relative) younger side. Not "young", not "immature", not even "simple"....but when the oldest age-statement whisky in a core range is 10 years old, I think it's a fair comment. Of course, there are older Ardbegs (the distillery has bottled quite a few old single casks over the years, there are plenty of 21 year old independently-bottled Ardbegs, and there was even an OB 21 year old from years ago), but in recent years, if you wanted an OB age-statement Ardbeg, the 10 year old was it. it was all the more exciting then, when late last year Ardbeg announced an official bottling of a 21 year old, from a parcel of casks Moët Hennessy (LVMH) acquired with the distillery in the late '90s. You may remember we originally brought word of the new release back in September.

The whisky for this 2016 release was distilled in 1993 and 1994 and comes from ex-Bourbon casks, bottled at 46% ABV with no chill-filtering. It was available in Australia for $565AUD...for about 90 seconds, as it literally took that long for the 90 allocated bottles to sell out. 

Luckily, we got our hands on one, quickly brought it to HK, and immediately cracked it open.

Ardbeg 21 year Old 2016 release (46% ABV, 21yo, Islay, Scotland, $565AUD RRP but now sold out)
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Tropical, like many older Islay bottlings, but perhaps not as full on as some Ardbegs from the '80s. Peach, peat and mango at first. Then blackberries, fresh laundry, sea air, and (with time) a slight earthiness.

Palate: Smooth and light initially. There's citrus tingle, and then comes the peat, wrapped in a chewy caramel layer, followed by some chocolate orange. There's some damp earth, and everything is in perfect harmony. A drop of water brings hints of mandarin and mint. A mixed bag, but one that brings everything together beautifully.

Finish: More like the modern-day Ardbegs we've come to know. Ashy BBQ peatsmoke, with a hint of citrus zest. A little oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. It would be easy for the distillery to produce an average release, and still sell out in a matter of minutes. But they haven't. They've produced a beautifully balanced, complex Ardbeg, with plenty of brand DNA, but enough differentiation to make it a unique whisky - and a beautiful one at that.


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