Serge Valentin :
Ardbeg 21 yo ‘Twenty One’ (46%, OB, bourbon casks, 2016) Five stars
Yep that’s the new one. The packaging is talking about the late 1990s as the period when this was distilled, but the numbers do not quite add-up, do they? Rather early-to-mid 1990s, I wager - unless it's not a 21 - but it’s true that copywriters are rarely good at math. So rather distilled by Allied than by Glenmorangie Plc that did buy the distillery in 1997 and restart it in 1998 (Glenmo was later to be bought by LVMH, so Ardbeg is now partly owned by Diageo, which few people actually realise). Colour: white wine. Nose: definitely different. Basically, it’s got more peat smoke, and it’s got less tar/oil. So it’s rather fresher, less fattish and phenolic, and rather brighter. It’s also a little more coastal, with some seaweed and whiffs of beach bonfire, and perhaps a tad less ‘singular’ than its older sibling. Now, the medicinal notes do come through after a little while, and I do still find it typically ‘Ardbeg’ (no wonder). Almost forgot to say, I’m finding this nose beautiful. Even the tarry almonds do make it to our nostrils after around ten minutes. Mouth: we’re closer to the 1975, I have to say. Same kind of power and complexity, seashells, salt(iness), light tar, bitterish oil (fish oil?), iodine, plasticine… Perhaps does it have a little less citrus, just a little. The peat is perfect. Finish: long, and rather peppery this time. While the 1975 was fatter and tarrier, this is a little more maritime and, well, smoky. Comments: a great half-surprise. We’ve had some superb 19921-1994 Ardbegs in the past, and we’ve had some lousy ones as well. This new one certainly belongs to the former category. Me ve-ry hap-py. SGP:458 - 91 points.