The Ardbeg Project

First off, you might be asking yourself, "What is a bottle code?", and "What do the numbers in the code stand for?" What we refer to as a 'bottle code' is really a 'lot code'. It is a set of alphanumeric characters attached to each bottle, identifying the time and date each respective bottle is filled. This time and date belongs to the lot or 'bottling run' for that particular expression. With the exception of a few hand bottled expressions, a bottle code should be present on all Ardbeg releases since 1997.

From 1997-2008, Ardbeg was bottled at the Broxburn Facility along with several other Single Malt Whiskies. A few of these are Glenmorangie 15 (L6 278 06:29 3ML), Glen Moray 16 (L7 261 11:27 4ML) and Laphroaig 10 (L7 261 08:07 3ML).

In 2008, A new bottling plant was opened in Livingston, subsequently moving all bottling to the new facility.

The bottle code itself is separated into 4 sections: Year, Day, Time and Manufacturing (Bottling) Line. We'll use the code L7 058 15:11 4ML from Ardbeg "Almost There" further down the page as the example.

  • Year - 2 or 3 digits starting with "L" followed by a number designating the year. L7 = 2007 (L11 = 2011)
  • Day - 3 digits for the day of the year, starting with January 1st as 001. 078 = March 19
  • Time - 4 digits for the time of day on a 24-hour clock GMT time. 15:11 = 3:11 PM GMT. (colon may not be present)
  • Line - 3 digits for the manufacturing (bottling) line.
    • 3ML = "Almond" line for Glenmorangie, Glen Moray and Laphroaig. Dismantled and Sold
    • 4ML = "Cramond" line for Ardbeg. (1997-2008, 2009 for US bottles) - Dismantled and Sold
    • 5ML = "Forth" line for miniatures. Active
    • 6ML = "Caledonian" line for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. Active
    • 7ML = Special line for odd sizes, Single Casks or special small releases. Active
    • 8ML = "Flexi" line for odd sizes and special small releases and SMWS bottles. Active

Now, if this isn't too confusing, let me throw another wrench into the mess. The code structure has changed several times since 1997. If you look at the first picture below, there is a large "L" followed by a 7 on the top row. This signifies 1997 because any bottle with a large "L" in the code was bottled between 1997-2002. Now that you have that tidbit of info and keeping in mind the six Code Styles and the four sections to each code, you should be able to easily undertand the pictures below. You can also go to the master list to see how the codes correspond to dates.

In 2011, a secondary code, known as a traceability (or control) code was added to the bottle. This code identifies the specific bottle order so as to track where the order or pallet ships. It is not specific to a country or market, but rather to a specific order that can be tracked. The secondary code on the bottle is 8-digits with the first two digits referencing the year and the last six digits referencing the order number. 12001262 is a code on Ardbeg Day bottled for the US market. 12 signifies the year, and 001262 signifies the order number.

To help with the different code styles, I've added the following brief description of how the codes have changed (or evolved) since '97'. I decided to label them as G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6 and G7 with the "G" standing for Glenmorangie and the number signifying each progression.

  • G1 (1997-2001) - Dot Matrix with two rows and the "L" is 2x the size of the rest of the characters.
  • G2 (2002) - Dot Matrix with two rows, but the "L" is now in the top row and equal size to the rest of the characters.
  • G3 (2002) - Dot Matrix with one row, but the "L" is back to 2x the size of the rest of the characters.
  • G4 (2002-2003) - Dot Matrix and all characters are in one line. Spaces are later added and the 4ML moves to the end.
  • G5 (2003-2009) - Etched Code with spaces between year (L3), day (282), time (22:26), and bottle line (4ML).
  • G6 (2008-2010) - Etched Code in same format as G5, but with new bottle line (6ML) and different etched font.
  • G7 (2010- ) - Etched Code in same format as G6, but the etched font is like G5. Traceability code (control number) introduced in 2011.

1997-2001: Code Style - G1
Glen Moray 16 (Black Watch) that was bottled in 1997. This is the cleanest picture of a bottle code from the beginning of Ardbeg codes that I could use, and all of the G1 code style's are a variation of size, spacing and location similar to this code.

"17" bottled in 1998 for the US (Brown-Forman). This is the earliest picture of a G1 code style on an Ardbeg bottle that I have so far, but pictures are welcome from any collectors out there. You can see the code worn off in some parts which might explain the absence of codes reported for some bottles during this time.

Another "17" bottled in 1998 for the US (Brown-Forman). Notice the G1 code is much cleaner than the previous example.

"1975" bottled in 2000. This is the type of code seen on almost all Ardbeg bottles from 1997-2001. There are minor variations to this code with spacing, location and density.

"TEN" bottled in 2000. Here's an example of how the code can be obscured by the bump (dimple) on the back, but you can see the difference between the "Dot Matrix" print here compared to the "1975" above.

"1975" bottled in 2001. It's very hard to read, but the "4ML" bottling line designation is on the bottom row here as opposed to the top row in the previous two examples above.

"1977" bottled in 2001. Once again, it's very hard to read, but another example of the changing size of the bottle code print around 2000-2001.

"TEN" bottled in 2001. This is another example of the different spacing and print on the bottle code for 2000-2001.

2002: Code Style - G2
"1977" bottled in 2002 for the US (Brown-Forman). The same as G1, except the "L" is now equal size to the rest of the characters and in the top row.

"17" bottled in 2002 (L20864ML 1611) for the UK market. This variation with no spaces between the characters in the top row seems to show the progression towards the 'G3' bottle code format.

2002: Code Style - G3
"1977" bottled in 2002 (L22264ML07 57). The same as G1, but after the "Double Size 'L' ", all characters are in the bottom row. The time is listed with a space between the hours and minutes.

2002-2003: Code Style - G4
"Committee Reserve" bottled in 2002 for the Ardbeg Committee. This is the first code type for G4, having no spaces between all characters.

"17" US (Brown-Forman) bottled in 2002. This code "L23234ML0629" is a bit blurred and closer together than the "Committee Reserve" above. Notice the bottling line "4ML", like the "Committee Reserve", is not at the end of the code yet.

"17" bottled in 2003 with "The Ultimate Whisky Experience" back label. This code "L304207164ML" is also the first code type for G4. It is hard to read, but the bottling line "4ML" is now at the end of the code.

"17" bottled in 2003. It happens to be an example of an error in the bottle code printing as the single digit to designate the year was left out. There should be a "3" between the "L" and "0", and I've seen this same error on a "TEN" with bottle code "L09410164ML". The missing year can be traced to 2003 since the "4ML" moved to the end of the G4 code sometime between Day 344 in 2002 and Day 41 in 2003.

"CS TEN" bottled in 2003 for Japan. This code,"L3125 181x4ML", is hard to see in the pic, but it is another variety of the G4 code format. There is now a space between the day and time.

"Lord of the Isles" bottled in 2003. This is the third and last example of the G4 bottle code format with spaces between "day and time" and "time and bottling line".

2003-2009: Code Style - G5
"Uigeadail" bottled in 2003. The placement of the "etched" code was at the dimple height in the beginning, and this location varied between the dimple and the bottom edge from 2003-2007. In mid-2003, there were dot-matrix (printed) code in this same format that preceded the "etched" code.

"1990" bottled in 2004.

This is the code on the front of a "17" bottled in 2004. The placement of the "etched" code, though usually on the back, was often seen on the front or sides in 2004.

"Very Young" bottled in 2004.

"TEN" bottled in 2006.

"Almost There" bottled in 2007.

"Airigh Nam Beist" bottled in 2008.

2008-2010: Code Style - G6
"New TEN" bottled in 2008.

"US Committee Supernova" bottled in 2008.

"Supernova" bottled in 2009.

2010-present: Code Style - G7
1 Litre TEN bottled in 2011. Traceability (or control) code.

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