Ardbeg Distillery (2012 visit)

One of the first whisky’ Thomas was mad about, so when we visited Islay in the spring of 2012 a visit to this distillery was something we just needed to do. We arrived at a beautiful location, with clean white buildings and green elements. The beautiful ‘A’ from the logo prominent to be seen on the stairs etc. Very clean and pretty.

This distillery was founded in 1815. Between 1981 to 1989 they were mothballed and again in 1991. In 1997 they were bought by Glenmorangie Plc. They had to rebuild a big piece, because a lot was broken down or fallen to heavy decay in the years before.

We walked around a bit to make some pictures of the surroundings and buildings, before taking a guided tour. There we got a good explanation on the working with peat, and how they do it now and years ago. They run production 24 hours per day, for 6,5 days per week here. This means approx. 40.000 bottles per week.

Part of their warehousing is here and and a part is on the mainland. As many distilleries from Islay they use Port Ellen maltings for the about 60 tons of very peated barley needed each week. They give a very nice tour at Ardbeg with a good explanation of the peat and the proces of whisky. The tour ends with a tasting of some expressions. After the tour we had a look around in the visitor centre where the Kiln Cafe is and the shop. Very friendly and good service overall. Ardbeg is one off the few to use a Boby Mill. These were originally used for beer brewery’s. Most distilleries use the Portues Mills. The Boby Mill at Ardbeg is from 1921, and they use the grist ratios as most distilleries at Husks 18%, Grits 70%, Flour 12%. The water for the distillery comes from Loch Uigeadail. Up to 1980 they had their own floor maltings here, but now they dont do that any more, and use only Port Ellen maltings for that. The wash backs at Ardbeg are made from Oregon Pine.

At some distilleries there are talks that they replace the wooden wash backs for stainless steel ones. The discussion is what the differences are in the taste by this change. They do not know it at the moment what the differences will be. You see some distilleries replacing them at the moment, but we like the wooden one more must say, more authentic. But the taste is the important thing of course. Lets see in the future what they will do. We can imagine that working with stainless steel is more efficient and easier with cleaning etc. They use first fill ex Bourbon casks from the United States, and second fill ex Bourbon casks from Speyside Cooperage and Craigellachie. Next to the ex Bourbon casks they also use ex Sherry butts and new French Oak casks. A lovely place to visit, and surely to come back for and to walk more around the surroundings. The location of this distillery on the coast of Islay is just beautiful! A place to visit when there! We need to do some more writing about this place some time…

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