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This Ardbeg is 46% ABV, non chill filtered and a natural color of golden straw. The story behind this bottling is a little interesting. Ardbeg sold 270 casks to Chivas Brothers to be used for blending. The casks sat in a warehouse for the better part of two decades and were never used. The current manager at Ardbeg, who was a distiller at Ardbeg at the time the whisky was made, bought the casks back. They only used half of the casks to make this 21 year old, so there is another 135 casks to use down the road for a 25, 30, or older bottling.
There is an initial blast of wonderful peat smoke on the nose, but I think that's because I didn't give it enough time to breathe. Earthy and vegetal with notes of old leather. It quickly evolves into vanilla custard and butter cream, very nice indeed. There are some fruits in the background but more exotic ones, possibly mango and coconut. Very refined for an Ardbeg.
The palate is soft, again, for an Ardbeg. Some wood spices, oak and vanilla. Earthy peat with a little pepper. Slight hint of lemon zest. There is a little bitterness but it's not unpleasant, and smoky of course.
The mouthfeel is lovely. Very oily and mouthwatering. Initially it's also very creamy. This diminishes the more you drink, but the oiliness stays.
The finish is long and oily, smoky and a little peppery.
Given that these casks were intended to be used in a blend, it's safe to say that they were not the best quality and probably not first fill. Most likely 2nd or maybe 3rd fill and not the best wood. The good stuff would have stayed at Ardbeg. I would think that if first fill casks were used there would have been a greater intensity to this scotch. I'm not saying that this is a bad offering in any way, because it's wonderful, just that it seems like it could have been something greater. Maybe it should have been bottled at cask strength. I'm ignoring the price point because it's hard to say any alcohol is worth $500 for one bottle. The price point is what it is because of the limited quantity available and the fact that it's Ardbeg.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2oz. I was able to try of this very rare whisky. I want to give this a full 4.5, but I think 4.25 is more accurate. Cheers
December 24, 2016 (edited January 2, 2020)
4.0 out of 5 stars
Nose is butterscotch, peat, and a hint of earthy mushrooms from the long maturation. Oranges, pears, and soft vanilla notes. The palate was much smokier than I expected from such an old Islay malt with a slightly acrid development. Past the smokiness is a sweet palate laced with white fruit: green apples, pears, citrus, a touch of earthiness in the background, and a darker floral note.
Finish is long, sustained with a soft smoke and a slight peppery medicinal bitterness. Water draws out the vanilla and citrus on the nose, bringing a creaminess to the palate. It also clarifies baking spices and reveals the earthiness shown initially on the nose
December 23, 2016 (edited December 21, 2017)
5.0 out of 5 stars
There are two samples I was really looking forward to this week, and this is one of them. ( other is the Cairdeas 2016). This is easily in the top three for me this year. As soon as the sample vial was opened, I was able to recognize the peat smoke. Not as wild and brute as the 10, but more refined. I also just received the Norlan glasses today, so wanted to give it a go using this sample as the inaugural launch. The liquid is light gold. And it has quite some legs, really viscous and oily. Just amazing. You have to let it sit a bit, like a good well mannered Pinot. Needs to breathe before you can really appreciate the aromas and taste. First taste is like nothing I've experienced...sort of like a cross between lime-mango-teriyaki, with a slight faint smoke. The smoke and peat gets stronger on the second sip. And really builds into this amazing tangy sweetness, but letting you know its DNA s still Ardbeg. The signature peat shows up. But it's not a brute. Rather you get layered texture: tangy-sweetness, followed by smoke and peat, followed by lime-lemon-mango, then finished with an almost a rye like spice, but not the same bite. Gentler, and smooth...my god it's smooth. This is a rare treat---thank you Lee for this experience!!!!!! Just amazing. In my mind, there are maybe 5-6 top whiskies I've had---in no particular order: a Brora 30, Rosebank 25, Macallan Fine Oak 15, Karuizawa, HW Midwinter, and now---this. Thanks to Lee for an amazing way to start the holiday season...
December 8, 2016 (edited December 6, 2022)
5.0 out of 5 stars
So, I was finally able to land a bottle of the newest, rare release from Ardbeg by using the online rare and limited program here in Virginia. I've been really excited to try this since reading about it a few months ago. This is the Ardbeg 21 Year. It's a slightly elevated 92 proof and is non-chill filtered with no color added. It's limited to less than 8,300 bottles worldwide and I keep telling myself I got it for a very reasonable $425. I've seen it selling online for between $500-600.
In the Glencairn it's a sparkling, straw yellow and it appears very oily. Upon giving it a swirl it produces a thick oil slick all the way around the glass before returning to the bottom sporting long, thin legs. I've let it rest about 20 minutes and it's still smelling rather one dimensional- vibrant oak. There isn't much peat showing up, but I think that's mainly because of the age. It has started to fade dramatically.
The first sip really coats the tongue and slides into all the corners of your mouth. The signature peat finally appears and actually is quite prominent. Mid-sip it explodes with rye pepper and oak spices. A bit of vanilla cools things until the bit of heat arrives on the finish.
Speaking of finish, it's a leathery rye bite that, despite being kind of short, still feels oily. It's incredibly smooth, no doubt. It's not overly complex, which is another thing I'm assuming gets lost with age and the lack of blending various finishing casks into it like their recent NAS bottlings. It's a peaty, rye bourbon-like single malt. And it's a damn good one.
The story behind this release also adds to the overall experience. These casks were stored away while the distillery was on its last legs and in between owners. Almost lost to antiquity. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on this one and revel in the success that Ardbeg has become while getting a taste from when that really wasn't so. Do yourself a favor and grab a taste or bottle when you see it. It's truly more than just a dram, it's an experience and a testament to perseverance. Cheers, my friends.