Ardbeg 21 Year Old – The Story of an Epic Marketing Faliure

The inevitable has happened and it seems finally that an aged Ardbeg release, at least according to the new label that popped up on the TTB site, will be on shelves later this year.

ardbeg 21 front

It’s been like forever since we saw a new age statement Ardbeg (especially if you exclude ardbog, aged 10yo but not it wasn’t mentioned on the label) and it makes me giddy with excitement and also fills me with dread from the expected price tag (which I bet will be around the £250-£300 mark).

If you put aside the excitement and the fact that most of us will not be able to afford a bottle and look deeper into this forthcoming release, a few interesting facts come up and one brow raising question should be ask.

  • It’s interesting to see that Ardbeg has totally skipped the 17-18 year bracket we all were expecting to see following the older 17 yo release and instead went for the higher end level with 21 year old. While there’s no evidence to the contrary, we should assume this is a single shot limited edition with further batches way far in the future.
  • Also important to notice is the fact that 21 year old whisky means they are using stock from 1995 (and older). That means they are using old stock from the low production period where Ardbeg was under Allied distillers ownership before the Glenmorangie era (which was the common expectation for 17-18 yo whisky). Both facts strongly corroborate what Oliver said in his blogpost about Ardbeg being perhaps too successful to maintain significant stock to allow constant production of 17-18 yo whisky and keep stock for even older releases.


But the big and troublesome question that buggers me since the news broke out yesterday is: What the hell were LVMH Marketing people thinking??? And in other words: Why didn’t they released that stock last year as part of their 200th anniversary?

I think it’s quite a self explanatory question but just in case it doesn’t feel like a significant question, let’s face the following facts:

Laphroaig celebrated their 200th anniversary last year, the same as Ardbeg. What did they do? They celebrated lavishly with shiny and flashing 15, 16, 21 and 32 yo releases. This year, Lagavulin celebrates their own 200th anniversary and we already have a new 8 yo release, a special single cask will be available at Feis Ile besides the annual Feis bottling, and who knows what else they got in store for us.

But Ardbeg? Zero, none, nill, zilch, nada. And don’t get me started on the disappointing Perpetuum release, and suddenly: a new special bottling to celebrate the distillery’s 201st anniversary? It makes so much more sense to release it in 2015 where it could easily reach super-star status with cult-like reverence and prices souring  toward 4 digits territory, thus strengthening their brand and community, but instead they release a year later to “celebrate” the 201 anniversary. I know, you could justify it by saying it wasn’t good enough for release last year, but I doubt a few months would make such a difference and sure it would be a good distraction from Perpetuum.

Were the marketing folks sleeping on their jobs? Or maybe it’s a simple yet bad case of Lagavulin envy? Either way, one thing is sure: they absolutely dropped the ball and this late release is a terrible marketing gaffe.


1 thought on “Ardbeg 21 Year Old – The Story of an Epic Marketing Faliure

  1. Pingback: Ardbeg 21's Polar Opposite - An 8 Year Old Fiery Sherry Bomb | Malt And Oak: Whisky Tasting Notes | Whisky Guide | Whisky Blog

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