Ardbeg Distillery is situated on the South coast of Islay, neighbouring Lagavulin. Officially founded in 1815, though like most distilleries, there was whisky production happening on the site much earlier than that. The distillery was founded by John MacDougall, son of Duncan MacDougall (an early pioneer of distillation at that site). The distillery passes down to John’s son and then to his daughters before the Distillery Manager, Colin Hay, acquires sole ownership after the death of John Duncan’s children.
The distillery is bought in 1973 jointly by Hiram Walker and Distillers Company Ltd. In 1977 Hiram Walker takes sole control and closes the floor maltings. The distillery is closed in March 1981 and Hiram Walker is taken over by Allied Lyons in 1987. 2 years later they reopen Ardbeg and runs for 7 years until Allied Lyons closes it down and puts it up for sale.
In 1997 the distillery is purchased for £7 million pounds by Glenmorangie plc, the distillery reopens and spirit begins to run again. In 2004 Glenmorangie plc is bought by LVMH and they are the current owners of the distillery.
Over the years there have been many single casks of great vintage released, mostly from old stock that Glenmorangie had bought in the 1997 purchase. These stocks have since began to dry up, and presently there is only 1 release from Ardbeg with an age statement in the core range, the wonderful 10 year old. The range is supplemented by cask strength whiskies called Uigeadail and Corryvreckan.
Ardbeg are famous for releasing Non Age Statement (NAS) whiskies, usually as limited editions for its committee members, these are then usually put on general sale and can last for about a year. Recently the have named their Feis Ile day “Ardbeg Day” and have released a special bottle on this day to commemorate the occasion. The first bottle was called Ardbeg Day and released in 2012. The following year Ardbog was released and this year the name of their special release is Auriverdes, you can read offical tasting notes here and read our views here.
In 2009 Ardbeg got into a peatiest whisky competition with Bruichladdich, both distilleries wanted to release the peatiest whisky ever. Ardbeg’s offering was called Supernova and was released as a Committee only bottling before being made more widely available to the general public. They followed this up in 2010 with another release. Since then they have not released any more Supernova and in doing so have maybe conceded the title of “Peatiest Whisky Ever” to Bruichladdich.
What does the future hold for Ardbeg? Well it has been over 16 years since the reopening and maybe it is time for a older age statement whisky to come out to play. For now though we are still delighted to have the 10 year old, Corryvreckan and Uigeadail, plus the release of this years Ardbeg Day whisky, Auriverdes.