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Distillery in Focus:          Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Name: Ardbeg. " Small hillock" or "The little headland"
Status: active
Website: http://www.ardbeg.com/
Telephone: 01496 302244
E-Mail: distillery@ardbeg.com
Address: Ardbeg, Port Ellen. Isle of Islay, PA42 7EA Latitude 55.6404 N, Longitude 6.1087W
Visitor centre: Yes
Owner: Louis-Vuitton Moët Hennessey (LVMH)
Established in 1815
Stills: 1 wash and 1 spirit still
Casks used for maturation: Bourbon and sherry
Percentage of single malts: 75-85%
Contribute(d) to the following blends: Ballantine's, Teacher's, Black bottle, Johnnie Walker

Ardbeg distillery circa 1910. Courtesy of M. van Gils.

 

and in 2006.

Regular Bottlings:

Ardbeg 10, 46%
Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%
Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1% (2009-)

Since Ardbeg distillery reopened in 1997, several limited editions have been released:
Ardbeg Supernova (2009-)
Ardbeg Very Young 58.3% (2004)
Ardeg Still Young 56.2% (2006)
Ardbeg Almost There 54.1% (2007)
Ardbeg Renaissance 55.9% (2008)
Ardbeg Airigh nam beist 46% (2007-9)
Ardbeg Lords of the Isle 46% (2001-7)
And a large serie of Single Cask bottled at cask strength (mainly from the 1970s), as well as some Committee releases.

For tasted whiskies, click here


From left to right: The 1976 Single Cask bottled for the inauguration of the distillery, Ardbeg Supernova Stellar Relase, Ardbeg Renaissance, Ardbeg Rollercoaster Committee, and Ardbeg Ten

History of Ardbeg distillery

 

1815 John MacDougall, backed with Thomas Buchanan Jr, became a legitimate distiller. In 1835, Ardbeg was the largest distillery on Islay with a production of 500 gallons a week (65,000 LPA/year). The distillery was taken over by John's son Alexander and the distillery was renamed to "Alexander MacDougall & Co" by 1838. In 1857, the distillery was making heavy losses, after Alexander's sisters (Margaret & Flora) took over in 1851, and the sisters were force to sell the distillery to Thomas Gray Buchanan. Colin Hay was made a partner with Thomas Gray's son, Alexander Wilson Buchanan in 1872. In 1884, the distillery was producing 250,000 proof gallons. In 1896, Colin's sons Walter and Collin Hay, and David Lawson took over. The distillery and the lands were purchased from John Ramsay for £19,000 in 1922. The Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) acquired then some shares from the distillery. In 1928, Colin Elliot Hay died virtually bankrupt and his shares were sold. Colonel George McNish bought the shares, in order to honour his debts. The Gray Buchanans remained the major shareholders. The distillery was closed from 1943 to 1944, with minimal production in 1941-2. Alexander McDougall & Co went into liquidation in 1958 and the Ardbeg Distillery Ltd was formed on 5h January 1959. The DCL and Hiram Walker Ltd increased there shared but the distillery remained in private hands. The production was 400,000 proof litres in 1964. In that year, the company was filling one 50-gallon (old) cask for single malt. In 1967, almost 700,000 proof litres were produced. In 1972, it was decided to purchase up to 12.5% of commercial peated malt, ratio to be increased to 15% by the end of 1973. In 1974, the production was 1.1 mio LPA and the distillery agreed with JA Mitchell & Co ltd to fill and sell Ardbeg Single Malt. It was noted that the whisky was not matured in the best wood. In 1975, DCL reduced their orders, followed by Hiram Walker in 1976. As a consequence of the downturn, the major Fletcher (Hay family) proposed their share to Hiram Walker and Hiram Walker acquired the shares of the DCL. On December 22, 1976, Hiram Walker had total control over Ardbeg distillery. The distillery was in poor condition and a few buildings had been destroyed. The new owner invested over £1 mio. Between 1978 and 1981, some unpeated malt produced by Kilgour's maltings were used to produce the "kildalton" spirit. Starting 2003, small batches of Kildalton are occasionally produced.

On the 25th March 1981, Hiram Walker decided to close the maltings and the distillery.

The distillery remained closed until October 1989, two years after Hiram Walker had been acquired by Allied Distillers Ltd.

Until its closure in 1981, Ardbeg was peated to 80-90 ppm. The aim was to produce malt to 45 ppm, but the Port Ellen maltings delivered initially malt peated to 30-35 ppm. By then, the spirit was very inconsistent and the purifier not working. Between 1991 and 1995, the distillery was running at a third of its capacity and Allied Distillers closed the distillery in July 1996. The distillery was sold in February 1997 to Glenmorangie plc for a price of £7mio. Huge financial investments were made by Glenmorangie to restore the rundown distillery. The first mash occurred on 16 June 1997 and the first spirit ran down on 20 June. In 2004, the Macdonald family, owner of Glenmorangie plc sold the company (and Ardbeg) to LVMH.

 

The old malting floor at Ardbeg distillery
The old malt bins The washbacks
The Boby mill The still house
Inside one of the warehouse and inside the filling store.

 

Source: Distillery visit,The Making of Scotch whisky by John R. Hume & Michael S. Moss, The Whisky distilleries of Scotland and Irelandby P. Morrice, The Scotch whisky industry record by H. Charles Craig, The Scotch Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo, and Ardbeg: A peaty Provenance, Gavin D. Smith & Graeme Wallace.
Patrick Brossard © 01 Aug 2010

Tasted whiskies (135):

Official/original bottlings (OB)  
Age  
Ardbeg Ten, OB, 46%. B:2005 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 10 YO, OB (Allied Distillers), 40%, B: circa 1985. Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg 10 YO White Label, OB, 80 Proof, B:1960s Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 10 YO “Clear Bottle” (Spirit SPA import), OB, 40%, B: 1980s (75 cl) Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg Ten Mor, 10 YO, OB, 57.3%, B: 2007, 1000 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 12 YO for France, OB, 80 Proof, B: 1966 Rating: 20/20
Ardbeg 17 YO, OB, 40% Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 30 YO, OB, 40%, B: 1990s. Rating: 13/20
   
Vintages  
Ardbeg 1965, 39 YO, OB, 42.1%, B:2004. Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg 1972 for Belgium, 32 YO, OB, 44.2%, B: 2004, c.3038, 148 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1974 Provenance for Asia, OB, 55%, B:2000 Rating: 20/20
Ardbeg 1974, OB, 50.7%, B:2006, cask 4989 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1975, OB, 43%, B:2000 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1975 ex-oloroso (Feis Ile 2005), OB, 47.2%, c. 4704 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1975 ex-Fino, Feis Ile 2006, OB, 46.3%, c. 4717 Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1975 Sherry, 31 YO, OB, 53.7%, B:2006, c. 1378, 453 b. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1975 Sherry, 31 YO, OB, 54.2%, B: 2006, c. 1375, 522 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1976 Feis Ile 2002, OB, 53.1%, B: 2002, c. 2390, 494 b. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1976 for Velier, OB, 53.5%, B: 2002, c. 2396, 492 b. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1976, 31 YO, OB, 52.4%, cask 2397 Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1977, OB, 46% Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1978, OB, 43%, B: 1998. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg Kildalton 1980, OB, 57.6%, B:2004, 1300 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1995 For Feis Ile 2010, 14 YO, OB, 53.3%, c. 2761, 228 b. Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Renaissance 1998, 10 YO, OB, 55.9%, B: 2008 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1998 Feis Ile 2011, OB, 55.1%, B: 2011. 1200 b. Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Galileo 1999, OB, 49%, B:2012 Rating: 16/20
   
No Age Specified (NAS)  
Ardbeg Alligator Committee reserve, OB, 51.2%, B: 2011. Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Almost There, 9 YO, OB, 54.1%, D: 1998, B: 2007 Rating: 13/20
Ardbeg Ardbog, OB, 52.3%, B: 2013 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Auriverdes, OB, 49.9%, B: 2014 Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Blasda, OB, 40%, B: 2008 Rating: 11/20
Ardbeg Committee Reserve, OB, 55.3%, B: 2002, 3000 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg Corryvreckan, OB, 57.1%, B: 2009 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg Corryvrekan Committee, OB, 57.1%, B: 2008 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release, OB, 55.0%, B:2016 Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee, OB, 51.7%, B:2017 Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Kildalton, OB, 46%, B:2014. Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release, OB, 49.2%, B:2015 Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Rollercoaster Committee, OB, 57.3%, B: 2010 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Special White Label, OB, 80 Proof, B:1970s Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg Still young, 8 YO, OB, 58.3%, B:2006 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Supernova, OB, 58.9%, B: 2009 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg Supernova SN10, OB, 60.1%, B: 2010 Rating: 12/20
Ardbeg  Supernova SN2014, OB, 55%, B: 2014 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg Supernova SN2015 Committee, OB, 54.3%, B: 2016 Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg Uigedail L7 325, OB, 54.2%, B: 2008 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg Uigedail, OB, 54.2%, B:2013. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg Young Uigedail “The Oogling”, OB, 59.9%, B:2006 Rating: 16/20
Ardbog, OB, 52.1%, B: 2013 Rating: 15/20

 

Independent bottlings (IB)  
Adelphi  
Ardbeg 1999, 9 YO, Adelphi, 58.5%, B: 2008, c. 626, 274 b. Rating: 16/20
   
Alambic Classic  
Special Islay Malt (Ardbeg) 2000, 10 YO, Alambic Classique, 59.4%, B: 2010, Sherry cask 10424 Rating: 16/20
   
Bloomsbury Spirit  
Ardbeg 1975,25 YO, Bloomsbury Spirit, 58%, B: 2001 Rating: 18/20
   
Cadenhead's  
Ardbeg 1965 sestante import, 24 YO, Cadenhead’s, 54.4%. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1965 Black label, 24 YO, Cadenhead’s, 54.4% Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1965 for Sestante White Label, 24 YO, Cadenhead’s, 54.4%. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1965, 28 YO, Cadenhead’s, 54.6%, B:1993 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1974 150th Anniversary, 18 YO, Cadenhead's,  57.7%, B. 1992 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1975, 19 YO, Cadenhead's, 47.3%, B: 1995 Rating: 20/20
Ardbeg 1991, 17 YO, Cadenhead's, 54.5%. B: 2008, 250 b. Rating: 13/20
Ardbeg 1991, 21 YO, Cadenhead’s, 44.7%, B: 2012, 132 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1993 Authentic Collection, 23 YO, Cadenhead’s, 47.7%, B:2016 Rating: 13/20
Ardbeg 1994, 15 YO, Cadenhead's, 56%, B: 2010, 268 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1994, 15 YO, Cadenhead's, 55.7%, B: 2010, 273 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1994, 16 YO, Cadenhead’s, 55.6%. B: 2010 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg 1994, 16 YO, Cadenhead’s, 57%. B: 2010 Rating: 15/20
   
Corman Collins  
Ardbeg 1991 For Whiskylive 2010 Spa, Corman Collins, 55.6%, B: 2010, 40 decanters. Rating: 16/20
   
Douglas Laing (Old Malt Cask, Platinum & Provenance)  
Ardbeg 1967 Old Malt Cask, 32 YO, D. Laing, 49%, B:2000, 276 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1972 OMC, 28 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2000, 222 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1972 OMC, 29 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2001, 234 b. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeggedon 1972 OMC , 29 YO, 48.4%, D. Laing, B: 2001 Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1972 OMC for Alambic Classique, 28 YO, D. Laing, 48.8%, B: 2001 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1972 OMC sherry finish, 29 YO, D. Laing, 50%. B: 2001, 432 bottles Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1973 OMC, 27 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2000, 240 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1974 OMC, 26 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2001,  252 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1974 OMC, 28 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2003 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1975 OMC, 25 YO, D.Laing, 50%, B: 2001, 363 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1975 OMC, 24 YO, D. Laing, 50%, 713 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1975 OMC, 25 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2000, 702 b. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1975 OMC, 27 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2002, 198 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1975 OMC, 27 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2002, 342 b. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1975 Platinum, 29 YO, D. Laing, 47.3%, B: 2004, 255 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1975 Platinum, 30 YO, D. Laing, 46.1%, B: 2006, 180 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1976 Sherry OMC, 24 YO, D. Laing 50%, B: 2000 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1990, 10 YO, Provenance McGibbons, 43% Rating: 06/20
   
Ardbeg 1991 OMC Rum finish, 15 YO, D. Laing, 50%, 378 b Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg 1991 OMC for LMDW, 18 YO, D. Laing, 56.1% 90 b Rating: 12/20
Ardbeg 1991 Old Malt Cask, 18 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B:2009, ref 5449 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1991 Platinum, 20 YO, D. Laing, 48.3%, B: 2011. 81 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1992 Old Particular, 21 YO, D. Laing, 48.6%, B: 2013, DL10065, 232 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1994 OMC , 10 YO, D. Laing, 50%, 363 bottles Rating: 13/20
Ardbeg 1990 Old Malt Cask, 10 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B:2000, 348 b. Rating: 15/20
Dun Eideann  
Ardbeg 1973, 17 YO, Dun Eideann, 55.4%, B: 2001, c. 3933. Rating: 19/20
   
Duncan Taylor  
Ardbeg 1993, 15 YO, D. Taylor, 58.9%, B: 2009, c. 1724 Rating: 16/20
   
Duthie's  
Ardbeg 1975, Duthie's, 46%, B: 1993 Rating: 16/20
   
First Editions  
Ardbeg 1993, The First Editions, 59.3%, B: 2015, 120 b. Rating: 17/20
   
Gordon & MacPhail  
Ardbeg 1958, 18 YO, Gordon & MacPhail, 70 Proof Rating: 13/20
Ardbeg 1965, 14 YO, Gordon & MacPhail, 70 Proof, B: 1980. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1974 , 29 YO, G&M, 43%, B: 2003 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1993, 12 YO, G&M, 43%. B. 2005 Rating: 15/20
   
Jack Wiebers World Whisky  
Ardbeg 2000, 7 YO, JWWW, 53.3%, B: 2007, c. 40158 Rating: 16/20
   
Kingsbury  
Ardbeg 1967, 29 YO, Kingsbury, 52%, B:1996, c. 923 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1972, 28 YO, Kingsbury, 49.2%. Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1974, 26 YO, Kingsbury, 50.0%. Rating: 20/20
   
Moon Import  
Ardbeg 1966. Moon, 46%, B: 1987, c. 2443, 264 bottles. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1966, Moon, 46%, B: 1987, c 2445, 264 bottles Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1966, Moon, 46%, B: 1987, c. 348, 360 bottles Rating: 17/20
   
Murray McDavid (MMD)  
Ardbeg 1993, 18 YO, MMD, 56.9%, B: 2011, 245 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1993, 18 YO, MMD, 56.5%, B: 2011, 306 b. Rating: 15/20
   
Private Bottling  
Ardbeg 1989 For Societa Dei Mandibolari, 15 YO, Giuseppe Gambi, 40%, B:2004, 120 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1991 for Giorgio d’Ambrosio, 18 YO, 50%, B: 2009, 120 b. Rating: 18/20
   
Samaroli  
Fragment of Scotland Islay (Ardbeg) 1973, Samaroli, 57%, B: 1998 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1973 20th Anniversary, Samaroli, 57.0%, B: 1998 Rating: 19/20
Ardbeg 1974, Samaroli, 59%, B:1983 Rating: 17/20
   
Scotch Malt Whisky Society  
Ardbeg 1974 33.12, SMWS, 56.2%, B:1991 Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1998 33.73, 10 YO, SMWS, 57.8%, B: 2008, 782 b. Rating: 04/20
Ardbeg 1998 33.72 , 10 YO, SMWS, 57.2%, B: 2008, 255 b. Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg 1998 33.76 A civilised scout camp, 10 YO, SMWS, 56.3%, B: 2009, 242 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1998 33.78 Leaves little flickering fires, 11 YO, SMWS, 55.4%, B: 2009, 198 b. Rating: 15/20
Ardbeg 2005 33.117, 7 YO, SMWS 64.3%, B: 2012, 151 b. Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg 2005 33.125, 7 YO, SMWS, 59.7%, B: 2013 Rating: 14/20
Ardbeg 2005 33.12, 7 YO, SMWS, 64.6%, B: 2013 Rating: 15/20
   
Scott's selection  
Ardbeg 1992, 15 YO, Scott’s selection, 51.6%, B: 2007 Rating: 14/20
   
Sestante  
Ardbeg 1972, 13 YO, Sestante, 43%, B: 1996 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1973, 15 YO, Sestante, 53.4%, B: 1988 Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1974, 22 YO, Sestante, 40%, B:1997 Rating: 16/20
   
Signatory  
Ardbeg 1967 Dark Oloroso, 30 YO, Signatory, 52%, B: 1997, c. 578. Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1967 Pale Oloroso, Signatory, 53.7%, B: 1995, c.575 Rating: 18/20
Ardbeg 1974, Signatory, 51.3%, B: 1998, c. 654, 260 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1991 For Kirsch Whisky, 25 YO, Signatory, 51.0%, B:2016, c. 2045302, 279 b. Rating: 17/20
Ardbeg 1998 SFTC for LMDW, 18 YO, Signatory, 56.6%, B: 2016, c. 1776 Rating: 12/20
   
Silver Seal (Sestante)  
Ardbeg 1972, 28 YO, Silver Seal, 43%, B: 2001, 288 b. Rating: 16/20
Ardbeg 1976, 25 YO, Silver Seal, 50%, B: 2002, 146 b. Rating: 15/20
Dunyvaig (Ardbeg) 1993 for Bar Metro, 16 YO, Silver Seal (sestante), 50%, B: 2009 Rating: 17/20
   
Single Malt Circle  
Ardbeg 1974, Single Malt Circle, 55.1%, B: 1993, c. 4377 Rating: 17/20
   
Single Malts of Scotland  
Ardbeg Still Young 2000, 7 YO, SMOS, 62.2%, B: 2007 Rating: 14/20
   
Speciality Drinks/ Elements of Islay  
Ar3 Elements of Islay,Speciality Drinks, 52.3%, B:2013. Rating: 13/20
Ar5 Elements of Islay, Speciality Drinks, 57.8%, B: 2014 Rating: 15/20
Ar 7 Elements of Islay, OB, 56.3%, B:2016 Rating: 17/20
   
Whisky broker  
Ardbeg 1992, 21 YO, Whiskybroker, 42.5%, B: 2013. Rating: 16/20
   
The Whisky Fair  
Still very young Islay single malt (Ardbeg) 2000 refill sherry, Whiskyfair, 62.6%, B: 2007 Rating: 12/20
   
Wilson & Morgan  
Ardbeg 1976, 20 YO, Wilson & Morgan, 43%, B: 1996, c.f 409/95. Rating: 17/20