Ardbeg distillery

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Ardbeg
Ardbeg across bay - Canthusus.JPG
Region: Islay
Owner Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy
Founded 1815
Status Active
Water source Loch Uigeadail
Number of stills 1 wash
1 spirit
Capacity 1,000,000 litres
Ardbeg
Type Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age(s) 10 Year Old
Airigh Nam Beist
Blasda
Corryvreckan
Supernova
Uigeadail
Rollercoaster
Alligator
Ardbeg Day
Galileo
Ardbog
Cask type(s) Bourbon, Sherry

Ardbeg Distillery (Scottish Gaelic: Taigh-stail Àirde Beaga) is a Scotch whisky distillery on the south coast of the isle of Islay, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides group of islands. The distillery is owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, and produces a heavily peated Islay whisky.[1] The distillery uses malted barley sourced from the maltings in Port Ellen.

History of the Distillery[edit]

Ardbeg sign at distillery

The Ardbeg distillery has been producing whisky since 1798, and began commercial production in 1815.[2] Like most Scottish distilleries, for most of its history, its whisky was produced for use in blended whisky, rather than as a single malt. By 1886 the distillery produced 300,000 gallons of whisky per year, and employed 60 workers.[2] Production was halted in 1981, but resumed on a limited basis in 1989 and continued at a low level through late 1996, during the period when Ardbeg was owned by Hiram Walker.[citation needed] The distillery was bought and reopened by Glenmorangie plc (owned by the French company LVMH) with production resuming on June 25, 1997 and full production resuming in 1998. The distillery was reopened by Ed Dodson in 1997 and handed over to Stuart Thomson, who managed it from 1997 to 2006. Michael "Mickey" Heads, an Islay native and former manager at Jura who had worked at Ardbeg years earlier, took over on March 12, 2007.

The name is derived from the Scottish Gaelic: Àrd Beag, meaning Little Height.

Bottlings[edit]

Detail on a bottle of Ardbeg

Ardbeg whisky is considered to be among the peatiest in the world, with most expressions using malt with a phenol content of 55ppm.[3]

There are several official bottlings. Major ones include:

  • Ten Years Old, 46% ABV, the main whisky in the range. [4]
  • Airigh Nam Beist, 46% ABV, distilled in 1990, the name means "shelter of the beast".[5]
  • Blasda, 40% ABV, a "lightly peated" expression of Ardbeg that only has 8ppm phenol count.[6]
  • Corryvreckan, 57.1% ABV, previously a Committee-only bottling, it is intended as a replacement for Airigh Nam Beist in the core range.[7]
  • Supernova, 58.9% ABV, "heavily peated" to over 100 ppm phenol count.[8]
  • Supernova SN2010, 60.1% ABV, "heavily peated" to over 100 ppm phenol count and bottled at a stronger ABV than previous Supernova.[9]
  • Uigeadail, 54.2% ABV, matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Named after the loch that provides the distillery with water, pronounced oog-a-dal.
  • Rollercoaster, 57.3% ABV, a vatting of the first ten production years (1997–2006) of Ardbeg under Glenmorangie's ownership. The name comes from the shape of the bar chart plotting the amounts of whisky from each of those years, which resembles a rollercoaster. Rollercoaster commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee's formation.[10]
  • Alligator, 51.2% ABV, is aged in new, severely charred American white oak barrels.[11]
  • Galileo, 49%, Limited edition, Distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2012. Its release was to commemorate an experiment in which a sample of crafted molocules (Ardbeg spirit) was sent into space to test the effects of microgravity on whisky maturation.[12]
  • Ardbog, 52.1%, The 2013 Ardbeg Day special bottling, containing whisky matured in ex-manzanilla sherry casks for at least 10 years.[13]

Also there are Committee bottlings that are available to members of the Ardbeg Committee [14] that precede official bottlings. Independent bottlings are also available but are considerably rarer than similar bottlings from other distilleries.

Ardbeg seldom release whiskies with age statements.

Ardbeg often bottles its whisky at a higher alcohol by volume (abv) than the minimum 40%, and they no longer chill filter their whisky. Both of these measures are thought to yield a more full-flavoured whisky. The process of lowering the alcohol content at bottling can dilute the flavour, and while chill filtration gives the whisky a clearer appearance at lower temperatures by removing fatty acids, proteins and esters that can cluster together, the loss of these compounds can also result in a loss of flavour; in particular the esters can contribute a fruit-like fragrance.

Awards[edit]

Ardbeg's offerings have garnered an array of awards at international spirit ratings competitions. For example:

  • Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2009 and Whisky Bible 2010 awarded the Uigeadail expression the title of 2009 and 2010 World Whisky of the Year and Scotch Single Malt of the Year. The San Francisco World Spirits Competition awarded the Uigeadail two double gold, three gold, and two silver medals between 2006 and 2012.[17]

Promotional activities[edit]

The Ardbeg Committee is the distillery's promotional fan club. Its members are consulted on new products and receive special offers and invitations to special gatherings, tastings and events. Committee members are able purchase special, Committee-only bottlings of the whisky.

Every summer the distillery takes part in the island's Fèis Ìle (Islay's festival of music and malt whisky) which includes a distillery programme.[19] On 2 June 2012, the distillery promoted a global "Ardbeg Day". Celebrating with the theme of "Islay-limpics", the event included parties around the world, and released a special bottling.[20]

In 2011, 20 vials of Ardbeg microbes were sent to the International Space Station, due to return on 12 September 2014.[21]

Cultural references[edit]

Ardbeg inspired the Finnish composer of contemporary music, Osmo Tapio Räihälä, to write the symphonic poem Ardbeg—The Ultimate Piece For Orchestra (2003). The piece was awarded in the 1st International Uuno Klami composition competition in 2004. An audio recording of this piece was made on 28 April 2011, and was not offered for sale until January 2014, here.

In the 2005 film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, the title character John Constantine (Reeves) is seen drinking Ardbeg in his apartment while talking to Detective Dodson (Rachel Weisz).

In the BBC series Spooks, the character Harry Pearce is seen on a number of occasions to be drinking Ardbeg.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°38′32.61″N 6°06′36.73″W / 55.6423917°N 6.1102028°W / 55.6423917; -6.1102028