Of course, since this is an Ardbeg, I should start by stating the obvious: It has already sold out. I’m surprised it lasted a couple of minutes with the remarkable popularity that Ardbeg has.
Unfortunately, I expect a lot of these wee bottles won’t be opened since they go up in value ridiculously fast. But, let’s just keep an eye on the auction sites next month and see what happens.
Anyway, a 21 year old Ardbeg popping up is a pretty rare event nowadays. One that is semi affordable is more rare still. And a bottler having the guts to dump 50 liters of it into a Pedro Ximénez cask is something for the books indeed. Regularly Ardbeg is seen as something you shouldn’t screw around with since it’s way too risky to not do anything good to it.
But Master of Malt decided to put a bit of it in PX casks. (I wonder what happened to the rest of it!) Strangely, even though it’s released under the Darkness! label, it’s a rather pale whisky. Especially for a PX finish this is unexpected.
On the nose there is a lot of peat. Far more than I would expect of a 21 year old whisky. Some lemon and dried meadow flowers. Hay, slightly salty and some rosemary too. It does have something crisp going on too, with an ashy background. More complex than I would have thought after the initial blast of peat. Icing sugar too.
The palate is gentle but does have some heat, the white pepper kind. Slight thin and sugary, peat, lemon. Fresh herbs, with heather, salt and marram grass.
The finish is crisp still, with the peat even having a more herb like quality than just pure smoke. Lemon, shammy leather, Napoleon candy and sugar.
With all the lemon and shammy leather on the finish this reminds me heavily of Port Ellen. Which is a very good thing in this case. The strange thing, however, is that I have not noticed the sherry cask at all. I would expect more sweetness and more tropical fruit, especially from a PX sherry cask. This could just as well have been a bourbon barrel all the way till bottling.
The beach-like flavours with marram grass and salt is very nice and very Islay like. A lovely whisky, albeit one that doesn’t deliver what you’d expect it to.
Also, a 21 year old whisky being 40.1% at cask strength makes me think there’s something strange going on with either the bourbon barrel it came from or the PX cask it was finished in. At this age you’d expect at least 10% more alcohol so it’s a bit of a strange dram, this.
Still, rather lovey although I’m not as over the moon about it as some other bloggers were. Wait until the Macallan review for that to happen!
Ardbeg 21 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish, 40.1%, Darkness! No longer available but it used to cost £ 119.95
Kudos to the chaps at MoM for making this, and sending me some of it!