Local yore has it that distilling has taken place at the site of the Ardbeg distillery since as long ago as 1794. The distillery in its current form was founded by the MacDougall family (with John MacDougall being the most prominent) in 1815.
Part of the mystique that is Ardbeg, is down to the majesty of the location. A location accessible only via the road from Port Ellen. As the road weaves through some rugged yet beautiful terrain, on cresting a hill the white washed buildings that make up the Ardbeg distillery appear almost magically in view.
The site of the distillery was both suitably remote, yet easily accessible by sea such that it was a favoured landing spot for smugglers throughout the 18th century.
The Ardbeg Distillery is one of the most atmospheric of all the Scottish distilleries. Part of this is the remoteness of its location and the sense of mystery and intrigue that emanates from the nearby Kildalton Cross.
The distillery has suffered somewhat in recent decades due to periods of closure by previous owners resulting in some decay. In February 1997, however, the Ardbeg distillery was acquired by Glenmorangie plc who have started restoring the distillery to its former glory.
This has led to extensive restoration work and the establishment of a new visitor centre.
Another aspect of the appeal of Ardbeg is the fact that it benefits from its own private water source. Loch Uigeadail provides a plentiful supply of soft and pure water which on its journey from loch to distillery, flows over rock and peat mosses creating a water that is beautifully suited to distilling.
Ardbeg Single Islay Malt is the most phenolic of all the Islay whiskies. Its secret however is that the peat is never flaunted - it just simply isn't allowed to dominate the taste or the nose of the whisky. This allows the complexity, balance and sweetness of Ardbeg to express itself in a surprisingly subtle way. Balance is at the heart of Ardbeg's uniqueness. And this balance manifests itself across the NOSE, TASTE and FINISH of the whisky :
Nose - The gentlest of peats, yet deep and confident with an enticing
sweetness - a healthy mixture of malts and vanillins. Vaguely salty and very complex with the oak present but very much in harness. Just a hint of bourbon and an even fainter hint of tangy orange to widen the spectrum.
Taste - There is a much greater presence of peat in the taste than the nose suggests. The smokiness quickly hits the palate and then tapers off. That said, the middle shows an excellent 'chewy' malt alongside a touch of cocoa.
Finish - The peat returns and guarantees an enormously long finale. The taste of the malt clings on and the hints of liquorice and dry toast are detected. This form of oakiness continues but never becomes sappy or too dry as the peat balances this out beautifully.
17 Year Old
This fine malt is big in character and yet remains the most graceful whisky you will ever find. The nose gives a hint of bourbon and a faint hint of tangy orange.
This unique Ardbeg Vintage features all the classic peaty and smoky hints with a lingering sweetness.
A limited edition, this rare 1974 Vintage commemorated the rebirth of the distillery and is an illustration of the truly memorable potential of Ardbeg .