Ardbeg. The tour guide spoke very, very slowly during my visit to Ardbeg. So slow, that it was almost difficult for me to follow her because she wasn’t giving enough new information in a timely manner. Either way, she was clear to enunciate that over the past 200 years Ardbeg has been on a roller coaster of ownership and production. The distillery shut down in the whisky lull of the 1980’s and was silent for almost 9 years. Not only was production stopped, but no maintenance was done to any of the equipment and buildings leaving it in almost complete ruins. After going through more buyouts, production runs and shutdowns, it was finally purchased by The Glenmorangie Group in 1998. The final sale price for the land, equipment and barrel/spirit stock was 7 million GBP. Then as we know, in 2004 LVMH bought The Glenmorangie Group. Ardbeg is currently unable to keep up with growing demand and part of the problem is due to these multiple, yearlong closures. They have missing stock years and this affects how they can blend barrels together to achieve their malts.
The distillery is now on track to hit 1.4 million liters of new make spirit this year. Nothing goes to blends at the moment and it is all allocated to single malts. All malt is bought from Port Ellen maltings and they are bringing in about 80 tons of malt per week. The standard malt comes in at a peat of about 55PPM. There are 15 people employed by the distillery. They also have a Robert Boby mill! Their stainless steel was painted in an interesting way and is stainless steel. It will take 5 tonnes of grist and run an 8 hour mash cycle with three waters. All six of the washbacks are made of Oregon pine and hold about 23,000 liters of wort. The fermentation period lasts about 55 hours before the wash is moved to the one wash still. The stills are quite tall and the lyne arm is actually outside of the building, which maybe has something to do with condensing congeners and other heavy vapors? Maybe this is why I find their smoke/peat so offensive and meaty? I’m not sure.
Here is the only dram I tried that I would drink again. Apparently Galileo is supposed to be very good. I guess I will give that a shot next time I see it. It is supposed to be full of tropical flavors and it was a limited bottling. Info on it is here at the Whisky Exchange: https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/17923/ardbeg-1999-galileo-12-year-old
Uigeadail - Non-Age Statement
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Earthy tar, peat, some light dry fruits and slightly tart.
Palate: Dry fruits, dry biscuit, phenol's, medicinal, cough medicine and slightly salty.
This apparently was named Whisky of the Year in 2009 by Jim Murray’s and the Whisky Bible.
Next up are tasting notes from Lagavulin!