Ardbeg is highly acclaimed worldwide for producing the peatiest, smokiest, and most complex single malt whisky of its kind, often described as the ‘ultimate Islay single malt’. The range is full of confident character and expression, gaining somewhat of a cult following over the years.
Frequently cited as the greatest single malt distillery in the world, Ardbeg was founded in 1815 by John McDougall on the south-eastern edge of the Scottish island of Islay. Of course, this date refers only to the legal launch of the distillery – in reality, as with many other sites, Ardbeg had long been used for illegal distillation, with smugglers capitalising on its remote location. It’s reputed that this location also contributes to the flavour of the whisky itself, with the maturing casks permitted to absorb distinct maritime character from the sea air.
Despite its prime location and solid history, Ardbeg sadly ran into trouble in the late 1970s and fell silent in 1981. Despite production resuming briefly in 1989, it then fell silent once again in 1996.
Ardbeg’s knight in shining armour came in the form of Glenmorangie, who took over the distillery in 1997. Since then, Ardbeg has undergone an incredible turnaround, fully recovering its former glory. This enhanced further when Glenmorangie joined global luxury group Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton in 2007.
Since the early days of illicit distilling, to the present globral success of Ardbeg, distilleries on the site have drawn their waters from Loch Uigeadail, which means ‘dark and mysterious place’ in Gaelic. This name became the inspiration for an expression of the same name, which was launched in 2003 and has since won numerous global whisky awards. It is one in a long line of award-winning expressions from Ardbeg, with others from the range being named World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year, and World’s Best Single Malt.
Part of the brand’s success is no doubt due to its use of the most phenolic malt is the industry (the smokiest), which is peated to 50ppm.