Ardbeg Distillery

Ardbeg Distillery

  • Scotland
  • World’s Best Single Malt Whisky, Scotch Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2010, Distillery of the Year at the International Whisky Competition
Phone Number
  • +441496302244
  • Port Ellen, Islay PA42 7EA, United Kingdom

Ardbeg Distillery

History of Ardbeg Distillery

Origins and Founding

Ardbeg Distillery, located on the Isle of Islay, was founded in 1815 by the McDougall family. Its establishment marked the beginning of a long history that intertwined with the cultural and economic fabric of the region.

Development and Expansion

By the late 19th century, Ardbeg had evolved into more than just a distillery. It had grown into a small community complete with housing, a hall, greenhouses, a bowling green, and even a school catering to 100 pupils. This growth was largely driven by the increasing popularity of blended whiskies, which often incorporated smoky malts like those produced at Ardbeg.

Challenges and Changes in Ownership

The distillery faced numerous challenges over the years, including the impact of war and economic depression in the 1920s. Various families and companies managed Ardbeg through these tough times, including the Hay and Lawson families, and later significant stakeholders like Distillers Company Limited (DCL) and Hiram Walker.

In 1979, Hiram Walker took full control of the distillery, and by the 1980s, Ardbeg was facing a decline in demand for smoky malts. This led to the production of an unpeated whisky known as Kildalton. However, the distillery was eventually mothballed in 1981.

Revival and Modern Era

A significant turnaround occurred in 1997 when Glenmorangie plc purchased Ardbeg, rescuing it from potential demolition. This new ownership marked the beginning of a revival for the distillery. Ardbeg’s rebirth included the release of a 17-Year-Old bottling and the opening of a visitors’ centre in 1998, enhancing its appeal to whisky enthusiasts.

Expansion and Innovation

In recent years, Ardbeg has faced the challenge of meeting rising product demand. To address this, plans were unveiled in 2018 to double production capacity. This included the addition of new stills and refurbishment to increase storage and processing capabilities.

Current Status

Today, Ardbeg stands as a testament to resilience and innovation in the whisky industry. Its products, known for their heavily peated character and distinct flavours, continue to be celebrated by whisky lovers around the world.

Ardbeg Distillery’s history is a story of transformation and perseverance. From its humble beginnings to becoming a beloved brand globally, Ardbeg exemplifies the spirit of Scottish whisky-making tradition.

Awards Won by Ardbeg Distillery

World’s Best Single Malt Whisky: Ardbeg has twice won this prestigious award at the World Whiskies Awards.

Distillery of the Year: Ardbeg Distillery was named Distillery of the Year in three consecutive years at the International Whisky Competition.

Ardbeg 10 Year Old: This expression, matured in ex-Bourbon barrels, is highly regarded for its quality and has been acclaimed as one of the best entry-level single malts on the market.

Ardbeg Supernova: Recognised as an extremely peaty whisky, the 2010 edition of Ardbeg Supernova was awarded Scotch Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2010. The Supernova has seen several releases, with the most recent in 2019 being a Committee Release.

Ardbeg Cask Strength No. 3: In July 2022, a cask of Ardbeg Cask Strength No. 3 set a record for the most expensive cask of Scotch ever sold, valued at £16 million. This cask combined Bourbon and Oloroso casks from 1975, later aged in Sherry casks from 2014.

Ardbeg Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Discover the heart of Ardbeg’s whisky maturation in the famous Warehouse 3. This unique experience invites visitors to taste exceptional whiskies directly from the cask, offering an intimate insight into how different casks influence aging. This atmospheric session lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes and is an exclusive chance to sample rare drams in an authentic setting.

Whisky Wisdom in the West Maltings

The West Maltings part of the distillery is the stage for a special whisky wisdom session. Guests are invited to savour older Ardbeg drams, engage in intriguing film presentations, and enjoy enjoyable activities. This 1 hour and 30 minutes session doesn’t include a typical distillery tour but offers a unique perspective on Ardbeg’s whisky heritage.

Sneak Peek at the New Still House

Ardbeg’s new still house, a recent addition to the distillery, offers guests a chance to marvel at modern distillation processes. This brief encounter, lasting about 30 minutes, allows visitors to appreciate the panoramic views and enjoy a spectacular dram of Ardbeg, symbolizing the blend of tradition and innovation at the heart of the distillery.

Do-It-Yourself Tasting Sessions

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, DIY tastings offer the flexibility to choose from a variety of tasting flights. This self-guided experience is perfect for those on the go or new to Ardbeg’s whiskies. It’s an opportunity to explore everything from core range expressions to rare, limited-edition releases at your own pace.

Rocktails – A Cocktail Experience

At the cocktail corner in the Visitor Centre, Ardbeg showcases its versatility in mixology. Visitors can enjoy classic cocktails or those with a unique Ardbeg twist, highlighting the distillery’s innovative spirit. This casual, drop-in experience does not require prior booking.

The Big Ardbeg Whisky Dinner

A highlight of the Ardbeg tour experience is the exclusive whisky dinner event. This special evening begins with an after-hours tour of the distillery, accompanied by canapes and cocktails, followed by a sumptuous dinner at the Islay Hotel. The dinner features a selection of fine wines or Ardbeg whiskies, providing a gastronomic journey that complements the distillery’s rich flavours.

Visitor Amenities

The tour experience is enhanced by the Old Kiln Café and Ardstream trailer, offering a range of delicious meals, snacks, drinks, and home baking. The Visitor Centre is accessible and dog-friendly, ensuring a comfortable and inclusive experience for all visitors.

Flask & Barrel Review of Ardbeg Distillery

As an avid whisky collector and a veteran of numerous distillery tours, my visit to Ardbeg Distillery was a remarkable experience, worthy of a 4.7 out of 5 rating.

From the moment I set foot on the grounds, the rich history of Ardbeg, which dates back to 1815, was palpable. The distillery has a unique charm, nestled on the rugged Isle of Islay, and it stands out with its traditional yet innovative approach to whisky-making.

The tour itself was both educational and entertaining. Our guide was knowledgeable, weaving tales of the distillery’s past with insights into their modern production techniques. It was fascinating to see the balance between tradition and innovation, a hallmark of Ardbeg’s approach.

What really sets Ardbeg apart is the quality of its whisky. The tasting session was the highlight of the tour. The Ardbeg 10 Year Old was a revelation with its complex balance of peat and sweetness, truly showcasing the distillery’s craftsmanship. The Ardbeg Supernova, known for its intense peatiness, was another standout. Its depth and character were unlike anything I’ve experienced in other whiskies.

However, the reason for my 4.7 rating, as opposed to a perfect score, lies in some minor areas for improvement. While the distillery’s rustic charm is part of its appeal, some parts of the tour felt a bit too unpolished compared to other distilleries I’ve visited. Additionally, I would have loved more interactive elements during the tour, perhaps more hands-on opportunities or detailed explanations of their unique distillation process.

What To Do Nearby Ardbeg Distillery

Islay American Monument: Located just north of Port Ellen, this 10-metre tall monument is a tribute to American lives lost in WWI. It’s set in a beautiful natural reserve, making it a serene spot to visit.

Laphroaig Distillery: Famous for its unique flavour, Laphroaig offers a compelling distillery tour. It’s an excellent opportunity to understand the crafting of their distinguished whisky.

Lagavulin Distillery: This historic distillery, dating back to 1816, offers a unique experience. A tour here adds depth to your understanding of Islay’s whisky heritage.

Bowmore Village: The capital of Islay, Bowmore features charming whitewashed buildings, a range of shops, cafes, and its own distillery. The Round Church is a notable attraction here.

Finlaggan: An ancient settlement on Loch Finlaggan, once the centre of the Lordship of the Isles. This historically significant site includes ruins and a visitor centre that delves into Islay’s past.

Portnahaven: A picturesque fishing village known for its population of grey seals. It’s an ideal spot for wildlife watching and enjoying the local scenery.

Mull of Oa: This rugged peninsula offers dramatic sea cliffs and rich moorland. It’s home to the American Monument and The Oa Nature Reserve, perfect for hiking and bird watching.

Kildalton Cross: An ancient Celtic cross, well-preserved and located near the ruins of the Old Parish Church. It’s a peaceful and historic site, showcasing intricate carvings.

Kayak Wild Islay: Offers guided sea kayaking trips along Islay’s scenic coast. It’s a great way to explore the island’s marine life and enjoy outdoor activities.

Jura Island: A short ferry ride from Islay, Jura is known for its rugged landscape, red deer population, and the Paps of Jura mountains. It’s ideal for those seeking a wilder experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Ardbeg Distillery?

The Old Kiln Cafe: It has a rating of 4.0 stars on Google Maps. The cafe is located at Ardbeg, Isle of Islay PA42 7EA, United Kingdom.

Ardbeg Food Trailer: It has a rating of 4.2 stars on Google Maps. The trailer is located at Pier Rd, Isle of Islay PA42 7EB, United Kingdom.

SeaSalt Bistro & Takeaway: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can contact them on their phone at +44 1496 300300. Their address is 57 Frederick Cres, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7BD, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Ardbeg Distillery?

No. 1 Charlotte Street: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1496 300120. Their address is 1 Charlotte St, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7DF, United Kingdom.

The Islay Hotel: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1496 300109. Their address is 19 Charlotte St, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay PA42 7DF, United Kingdom.

Bowmore Hotel: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1496 810416. Their address is Jamieson St, Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7HL, United Kingdom.