Ardbeg is first and foremost one of the classic, peat-laden single malts in the smoky, Islay style. But it is also one of the sweetest, so you get an interesting combination of smoke, fruit, peat, and honey vanilla.
And since the distillery sits right on the coast (seriously, any close and it would have to float), you definitely get hints of sea salt and lime. It's not a "peat monster" test of manhood kind of Whisky, but it has full-throated flavor to spare. The 10 YO single malt is the cornerstone of the Ardbeg range, while a good portion of their Spirit is still currently used in blends.
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Ardbeg's signature 10YO won "World Whisky of the Year" in 2008.
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ArdbegDistillery sits in a line of four distilleries on the southeastern shore of Islay - Port Ellen, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardberg.
Ardbeg was founded in 1815. Like so many distilleries in Scotland, most of the Spirit has been traditionally used to create Scotch blends. But there are so many fans of the Islay single malt style, that this has changed.
The distillery was sold to Hiram Walker for a time, but it seems that they did not have their heart in it, and production was slowed to a comparative trickle. In fact, production even halted for a few years in 1981.
Glenmorangie - part of the LVMH Group - scooped up the distillery in 1997 and resumed full production. The 10YO single malt is the foundation of their entire range, though there are other age-stated releases.
Each expression in their core line up has a different phenol (smoke) rating and is served at a different ABV. A good bit of their Spirit is still used in blends as well.
When they are running at full tilt, they can crank out 1,250,000 liters of their Spirits.
CountryUnited Kingdom, Scotland
No. of stills1 wash, 1 spirit
AddressArdbeg Distillery, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7EA United Kingdom
A transcript for non-audio situations
Mickey: Ardbeg was officially founded in 1815. It has a bit of a checkered history. Lots of highs and some lows through that time. It was always renowned for making a really high quality Whisky and it was exported across the world. Through the 20th century, it sort of muddled the scotch Whisky industry, probably the worst period for it being the 1980s when it was mothballed for eight and a half years.
Hamish: Well in 1997, we were very lucky, because the Glenmorangie company gave us loads of money, and we set about rebuilding this fantastic distillery.
Dr. Lumsden: That led to the development of what we call the Peaty Path to Maturity. And we started off with a six year old called Very Young, then we had Still Young, then we had Almost There, and then finally when our own distillate reached 10 years old, it was We've Arrived.
Hamish: So many people were interested in what we were doing that we'd form the ultimate club, if you like, the Ardbeg Committee, and we gave them the solemn mission to make sure the doors of Ardbeg never close again.
Mickey: We have over 100,000 committee members across the world.
Carolyn: At least once a week we get people asking us if they can work at the distillery for free. We even get people sending us in pictures of their Ardbeg tattoos. It's absolutely amazing.
Jackie: Taiwan, USA, Sweden, Germany, all over the world they're coming to the distillery and they share a wonderful connection with the place. It's a real pilgrimage for people. People arrive and they can be in awe of the beauty of the place. It's something I just adore doing every day.
Carolyn: I think the Ardbeg of today is defined by two things. On the one hand, you have our unbelievably peaty yet perfectly balanced Whisky, and then on the other hand you have our wild, untamed, bold personality. And the more confident and challenging our fans get, the more we get to push the boundaries of Whisky making.
Dr. Lumsden: We wanted to make a Whisky like no one else had ever made before. Something that would capture the essence of the raw, brutal beauty of the island itself, and it ended up becoming Supernova. Now we weren't sure how Ardbeg aficionados would take to this, but happily they absolutely loved the sensation of the explosive peat in the mouth.
Mickey: Alligator was probably one of my favorite limited editions. It has a bit of bite about it, and there have been lots of other really good limited editions.
Dr. Lumsden: The Ardbegs base experiment, for example, you know that was a heaven sent opportunity to try something that had never been done before, something totally crazy. The opportunity to look at the impact of micro-gravity and the way in which spirit reacts with wood during maturation. It's something that's likely to never be tried again.
Mickey: Ardbeg in the future?
Carolyn: There's definitely going to be robots, of course, right? Robots aside, look at Mickey and Bill; their skill, their passion, their knowledge, you can't replace that.
Man 1: How do I see Ardbeg in a couple of hundred years? Hopefully exactly the same. Hopefully nothing's changed.
Man 2: Give them some rocket boots so they can fly around. Rocket boots and Mickey.
Mickey: No way. Woman: Hoverboards, maybe?
Man 3: Hopefully it won't be too artificial.
Man 4: Ardbeg will be so peaty, it will transcend space and time.
Man 5: Well, first of all, let's hope that there's Ardbeg in 200 years. It would mean that the world in 200 years is still a wonderful place.
Man 6: Almost like a virtual reality experience so I can smell it and taste it and be there myself, I think that would be great.