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First vapor: Inky rubber and old peanuts; then hazelnut butter.
Nose: Lemons and sea salt, on underlying vanilla banana. Some surprising floral tone that lifts honey and malt-- differentiating it from the 17yo. The 21yo is more present and sharper.
Palate: Buttery arrival with vanilla, right along side flavors of sea-salt/black-pepper/ginger. Then a sweetness grows with honey (still with those entrance spices though). Towards the end, lemon curd with sea-salt at the back of the mouth. (This latter effect is originally faint, but it grows with oxygenation).
Finish: Malty on the tongue while becoming oakier (woody + some vanilla). Still the lemon/sea-salt lingering happily in back. Less vanilla on the exhale than found in the younger versions.
This 21yo is scrumptious. The 17yo's complexity draws me more, but I have to admit the 21's quality is at least on par. The reason is that those vanilla/honey sensations are heightened by the sea salt and spices, making the 21 more lip-smackingly tasty. The 17 had more complex spice overtones (cardamom/nutmeg), but the 21 is more overt with its own spices (salt & pepper, ginger). The 21's other flavors also seem more obvious: more vanilla and lemon, versus lighter cashew and banana in the 17's palate. I would have expected the opposite trend.
It's a challenge to propose similar malts other than the 2 younger Old Pulteneys (12 and 17). I think the difficulty is that such salty big flavors are more common in younger Islays, which usually exhibit smoke-- unlike Old Pulteney. Low-smoke Bunnahabhain 18 and Ardbeg Galileo could attract a similar fanbase, as could 2 of my OP12 comparisons: the 10-year-olds of Glenfarclas and Arran. And I am reminded of my Glendronach Octarine tasting (but it's been too long to recall in detail). However, although these suggestions are all very good malts, the OP21 is in a noticeably higher quality bracket and worth any whisky lover's consideration.