Ardbeg has been producing whisky on the Scottish Isle of Islay (pronounced “eye-la”) since 1815. The water used to make Ardbeg comes from Loch Uigeadail – on land owned by Ardbeg – whose waters are naturally filtered through peat bogs and contribute to the whisky’s complex aromas.
Ardbeg has the highest peat content of any Scotch whisky due to special malting and distilling procedures. The still used to produce the whisky has a unique purifier that removes the heaviest distillates before they pass through the swan’s neck. They are returned to the boiler for re-distillation. This gives the spirit a fruity, floral sweetness. Ardbeg is non chill-filtered so that all of the natural texture and flavors remain intact.
Islay is an island just off the western coast of Scotland that has been making whisky since around 1600. It was the first whisky-producing region in Scotland and is widely respected for its highly peaty Scotch whiskies. The Irish made whiskey long before the Scots and thanks to its close proximity to Ireland, Islay was first to benefit from the already-developed Irish technology.
Despite the English Malt Tax placed on every gallon of liquor produced from 1643-1707, distillation flourished on Islay. On the mainland, the local lord was responsible for collecting these taxes. But on Islay, it was the sheriff (who perhaps due to an affinity for whisky was less exacting) that served as the collector. In 1823, distilleries were legalized throughout the country with the provision that they distill a minimum of 180 liters/week in order to ensure consistency. By most accounts, Ardbeg was founded in 1794 (it is suspected that pirates ran Ardbeg in those early days), but it operated without a license until 1815, the year of its official incorporation. Ardberg’s neighbors on Islay include Laphroaig, which was incorporated the same year as Ardbeg, and Lagavulin, which came along the next. The story goes that pirates ran Ardbeg during those first two decades.
The Ardbeg distillery was purchased by Hiram Walker (an American spirits corporation) in 1976, and then acquired by Allied. Allied closed the Ardbeg distillery in 1981 and did not reopen it until 1989 when it resumed very small-scale distilling. Some stock from that time, and the following years, is blended in to the 10 Year-Old Ardbeg bottlings today. Finally, Allied closed Ardbeg in 1996 and put the distillery up for sale. Glenmorangie purchased Ardbeg in 1997, investing significant sums to restore it to its past glory.
The water used in the production of Ardbeg comes from their special source called Loch Uigeadail. The water in the Loch naturally filters through peat bogs, which impart a distinct color and flavor. The inherent peatiness of this water accounts for much of the complexity and viscosity of Ardbeg.
Peat is such an abundant resource on Islay that many of its residents actually use peat rather than wood to heat their homes. Thanks to this abundance, combined with the peatiness found in Loch Uigeadail, Ardbeg has the highest peat content of any whiskey. This is verified by measuring the phenolic compounds in Ardbeg. These compounds are known as cresols and are the result of drying malted barley over peat. The level of phenols in Ardbeg is 54–56 parts per million (ppm). In comparison, Bowmore, another Islay malt, has phenol levels that average 20 ppm; Glenmorangie has about 1 ppm; Isle of Jura has no measurable phenols at all.
Malt for Ardbeg is custom-prepared for the distillery utilizing a process which dries the barley over peat for 24 hours, followed by 3 hours in fresh air. When the malt is received, it is loaded into metal bins. 4.5 tons of malt is needed to fill the mash tun. The malt is crushed by powerful rollers and then milled in a Boby mill created in 1881, the oldest working mill in the world. Two-thirds of the phenol content is lost in the processes that take place between malting and bottling, so the husks are added back to the wash to capture as many of these phenols as possible.
After mashing and fermentation, the wash is distilled. The stills at Ardbeg are equipped with a purifier, which is essentially a return valve that removes the heavier distillates on the way to the swan's neck and returns them to the boiler for re-distillation.
Today, the casks used at Ardbeg are almost exclusively first and second fill ex-Bourbon casks from the producers of Jack Daniels whiskey. In the past, some Sherry butts were used, but now ex-Bourbon casks account for 99% of the barrels.
The heart of the Ardbeg range is the 10 Year-Old. The Uigeadail spring gives its name to another bottling, which includes some whiskies that are more than ten years old, some over twelve years, and a small amount from the 1970s that was matured in Sherry casks.
All of the whisky at Ardbeg is bottled at 46% abv. Ardbeg is never chill-filtered, but this higher level of alcohol helps to inhibit the formation of ethyl laurate haze.
Ardbeg Ten Years Old The core expression of the Ardbeg portfolio. Launched in 2000, it was an instant hit with connoisseurs and peat-aficionados the world over and has retained its place at the top ever since. In 2008, Jim Murray's Whisky Bible named it "World Whisky of the Year".
Ardbeg Ten Years Old is revered around the world as the peatiest, smokiest, most complex single malt of them all. Yet it does not flaunt the peat; rather it gives way to the natural sweetness of the malt to produce a whisky of perfect balance.
Typically most whiskies are chill-filtered and reduced to a strength of 40% ABV. Ardbeg Ten Years Old, however, is non-chill-filtered and has a strength of 46% ABV, thus retaining maximum flavor, at the same time giving more body and added depth. It's whisky with none of the goodness taken out! Open a bottle of 10 Years Old and a burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere - peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate. An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavor explosions on the tongue: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. The finish goes on and on - long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.
- Perfectly balanced fruity floral sweetness and complexity - Non-chill filtered for maximum flavor - No added coloring - all natural
Ardbeg Uigeadail Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced 'Oog-a-dal') is a special vatting that marries Ardbeg's traditional deep, smoky notes with luscious, raisiny tones of old ex-Sherry casks. It's non chill-filtered at high strength, which retains maximum flavor and gives more body and added depth. Uigeadail is Celtic for 'dark and mysterious'.
Uigeadail's flavor profile is 'Christmas in a Glass,' as described by Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible. A description which perfectly matches the sweet, smoky caramel aroma and flavors of winter spice, dried fruits and smoked meats. The color is deep gold with a chewy and oily mouthfeel.
- A marriage of Ardbeg from 60% bourbon and 40% sherry casks - Ardbeg's peat-laden water supply is drawn from Loch Uigeadail just north of the distillery - The combined ages of the whiskies range from 10 to 12 Years Old - Ardbeg Uigeadail is bottled at 54.2% ABV, 'cask strength,' which represents the whisky in its most natural form - Launched in 2003 and Voted Best Whisky in the World in 2008 by Jim Murray, celebrated whisky critic and author of The Whisky Bible (over 3,800 whiskies reviewed)
Ardbeg Corryvreckan Named for Europe's largest, and the world's second largest whirlpool which lies beside the Hebridean Isles of Islay and Jura, off the West Coast of Scotland. Celebrated in Celtic mystery and legend, it's raw, magnetic power exactly mirrors the big and untamed spirit of Ardbeg - the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay whiskies.
- A vatting of two styles of Ardbeg - The hallmark Ardbeg matured in Ex-Bourbon casks (about 70%) - Infused with Ardbeg matured in New French Oak casks (about 30%) - The combined ages of the whiskies range from 10 to 12 Years Old - Not designated with an "absolute" age statement because vatting these two styles of Ardbeg depends on achieving the right balance of flavors - Non chill-filtered for extra texture and mouthfeel - No added coloring - all natural
Visit the Ardbeg website for information on their many special releases they release throughout the year! www.ardbeg.com