Ardbeg 21 or ‘Twenty One’ as written on the bottle, is the latest release from the Islay Distillery. Besides their 10-year-old which has been a best seller for the company for a long time, Ardbeg 21 is the first age statement expression since the 17-year-old which was discontinued back in mid 2000s. Ardbeg 21 has been arguably the most controversial  and sought after release of 2016.

Getting a bottle of Ardbeg 21 was not easy even with a £310 price tag. It was announced to be exclusive to Ardbeg Commitee Members and was limited to 9,000 bottles worldwide. Even Ardbeg was discouraging when they sent a comment via their representative to my previous post stating  “…this limited product is only available (to) committee members in a small number of markets…”. This didn’t stop us and thanks to a friend of mine, we managed to secure a bottle via their website. After almost 30 minutes, it was ‘Sold Out’. Here I am sampling that bottle and writing this review…

The rumored story behind this expression is; During the late 1990’s, Ardbeg Distillery was in a desperate state. The production was almost non-existing. They were only producing small amounts of whisky for a couple of weeks a year to be mostly used in blends by Chivas Brothers.

Recently, Ardbeg managed to purchase back 270 casks that were maturing in Chivas Brothers warehouses left over from this ‘perilous’ period. They have created the blend for the release of Ardbeg 21 from 135 of these casks and kept the rest. If this is to be true than we can expect another ‘rare’ expression to be released by Ardbeg in the future.

The story printed on the box is a bit different tough. It says;

“At the end of the 20th century, distilling at Ardbeg had dwindled to almost nothing. Yet thanks to a handful of whisky enthusiasts with the belief and the vision to keep Ardbeg alive, a small number of casks were set aside. A young Mickey Heads, born and bred on Islay, was among those whisky enthusiasts. Now he is our esteemed Distillery Manager, and he is delighted to reward loyal Committee Members with this momentous bottling, which contains whisky distilled during this perilous days…”

Ardbeg 21 is matured in 200 liter Ex-Bourbon Casks and bottled at 46% ABV without chilled filtration.

Ardbeg 21

Ardbeg 21 Whisky Tasting Notes

Color: Straw with Golden speckles…

Nose: Classic Ardbeg but richer…  The long maturating brings down the peat a little and let the other notes come out. Zesty lemon and tropical fruit aromas carried by the light sea breeze… Smoked meat, sweetness from vanilla and spice from oak thanks to ex-bourbon casks…

Palate: Soft, creamy and refined. Very well-balanced… Subtle tropical fruit flavors covered with smoke… honey and vanilla sweetness countered with peppery cinnamon spiciness. Some smoked meat  on the background but nothing dominant… Everything works very well overall.

Finish: Medium to long finish in the mouth… Peppery flavors along with smokiness leaves a somehow ash like taste on the mouth…

If you can leave aside the price tag, Ardbeg 21 is a nice, well-balanced, refined and subtle whisky that can satisfy most enthusiasts. Unfortunately higher price levels create higher expectations and in my opinion Ardbeg 21 will suffers from this. Marketing hype and the story behind may have made this a ‘Sold-Out’ product but the pricing will always be the center of discussion.

Ardbeg 21 Whisky Review
Overall Score92%
92%Overall Score