Ardbeg distillery

The Isle of Islay is the undisputed home of powerful, peat-smoked whiskies and Ardbeg is one of the most instantly recognisable distilleries on the Island.

The Ardbeg distillery

Like most distilleries, Ardbeg was began first as an illicit still. However, the illegal business was put closed after a customs investigation. The whisky distillery was legally founded by John McDougall in a small cove off the southern coast of Islay, licensed in 1815 in the municipality of Kildalton not far from Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Pronounced Ard-BEG (stress on the second syllable), the distillery takes its name from the Gaelic Àirde Beaga which translates to ‘little height’. Famous for it’s peated signature expressions the distillery typically produces whiskies with strong smoky yet sweetly peated flavour profile. Ardbeg was long a core part of the Buchanan’s blend.

Distillery production

Ardbeg distillery has achieved a maximum production capacity of 1,300,000 liters of raw alcohol from a single set of copper pot stills. The whisky is sold almost exclusively as its own single malt whisky with the majority of maturation happening at the onsite, and nearby warehouses. A small number of barrels still make it to Independent Bottlers however the rarity of these has resulted in a fairly high premium and a sizeable number of these ending up at auction.

Several fresh water sources above the neighboring distilleries Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg fill themselves with soft water from the sublime hinterland of the distilleries. Ardbeg instead uses the mineralic, peaty water from loch Uigeadail. This loch also feeds Loch Iarnan (pronunced ‘Arry nam Baysht’), a slightly lower and smaller loch known in English as the “Shelter of the Beast”.

The Distillery Maltings

The distilleries own floor maltings were abandoned in the spring of 1980 and the malt was purchased from a number of external companies. Before the end of the 1970s, most of the distilleries barley was malted on its own floor maltings, and kiln-dried on the distillery grounds. Along with the neighboring Lagavulin distillery, Ardbeg also purchases much of her malt from the nearby malting plant Port Ellen (owned by the Diageo Group). Ardbeg malt is generally peated to 50 ppm (parts per million) phenols. Ardbeg has long claimed to offer the most heavily peated whiskies on Islay as the other distilleries generally range between 20-40 ppm. However this is clearly no longer the case since the Octomore was introduced by Bruichladdich, Edition 08.3 going all the way up to 309ppm.

Grind & Mash

Ardbeg’s Bobby Mill, very old installed in 1921 Bobby Mill, the finished and fragrant malt is ground in his required shares to Grist (shot). This grist has three ingredients that must have a very precise percentage composition to allow the ensuing process of mashing it to proceed optimally. Grist consists of Husk with 18% shares (the shells or grain husks), Grit (Middles) with 70% one kind of coarse flour, and Flour with the remaining 12% (the fine flour).

The long, multi-storey stillhouse with the two built together kilns are among the most striking parts of the building. From the sea to the left of these are the two waterfront kilns, the famous warehouse with the round roof and the highly visible marking “Ardbeg”. Behind the various distillery buildings, grain silos, mash and Gärhäusern are relating to the still house, etc. behind the third kiln is with another long, three-story Mälzhaus. Since 1974, the Mälzhäuser are not their actual purpose accordingly. Ardbeg today concerns the major part of the required barley malt from malting drum in Port Ellen. There it is produced with the desired Ardbeg strong peat smoke or share.

Ardbeg There are a whole range of single malt original owner or fillings. Older Ardbegs are now much sought after. They have an even torfigeren and rauchigeren flavor than the new distillates. Standard bottlings have long been the 10-year and the 17 year old, the latter is virtually no longer available today. Ardbeg whiskey has a high proportion of smoke and peat, and recalls, by its very high phenolic content of medicine. With its citrus note of this whiskey is unmistakable. Popular varieties: Ardbeg 10 Years old - bottled without cold filtration, the Malt develops notes of wood preservatives, tar and smoked fish in the Nase.Ardbeg Blasda - unusually mild style, produced from malt, which was peated with only 8 mg / l. This represents a third of the at Ardbeg usual Wertes.Ardbeg Uigeadail - syrupy sweetness in the nose, spicy and smoky notes on the tongue.

Coveted special bottlings from ArdbegIn addition to the ten-year standard bottling, Ardbeg regularly brings out special bottlings such as Ardbeg Perpetuum (for the 200th anniversary) or Ardbeg Dark Cove. These are characterized by a special finish, which continue the peaty DNA of the distillery. At the annual Ardbeg Day, the new bottlings will be presented to the loyal fans of the Islay distillery.Ardbeg mainly produces strong smoky malt whiskey. Compared to other islets from Islay, Ardbeg’s emphasis is less on the sea and salt flavors, but more on spices, malt and sweet notes such as vanilla and chocolate.The core Ardbeg range consists of the Ardbeg TEN, the Uigeadail, the Corryvreckan and the An Oa. The TEN is named after its age, the Uigeadail after the Loch Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan bears the name of a famous sea vortex between the Isle of Jura and the Isle of Scarba. The Ardbeg An Oa is inspired by the loneliest parts of Islay with the ‘Mull of Oa’, the southwestern foothills of the Scottish Hebridean island.Ardbeg also released a number of special bottlings without age (Supernova, Ardbog, Alligator, etc.). These bottles have been heavily promoted, have a quite special taste and have been released in limited edition.The water of the distillery comes from the hole Arinambeast and Loch Uigeadail . Which used from the Port Ellen - Malthouse originating malt has a phenol content of 56.2 ppm . Ardbeg has a mash tun ( mash tun ) of 4.5 tons of stainless steel and six fermenting vats ( wash backs ), three larch - and three Douglas fir , each of 23,500 liters capacity. Distilling is done with steam-heated inner pans in an 18,279-liter wash still- which is filled with only 11,775 liters - and a 16,957-liter spirit still - which is filled with only 13,660 liters. The output is about 950,000 liters per year.Typical for the whiskey is the strong proportion of smoke and peat , but also a very clear note, reminiscent of medicine, due to the relatively high phenol content. There is also a characteristic citrus note for Ardbeg. Among lovers, the whiskey is a coveted collector’s item. Although new whiskey has been produced continuously since the reopening, the older vintages are particularly in demand.Between 1981 and 1989 the distillery was even closed and no whiskey was distilled. The old malts from these years are now missing. The result: older Ardbeg bottlings are rather scarce and correspondingly expensive.

Ardbeg factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Ardbeg ard*beg Islay Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1815 - Present Malt Ardbeg Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Bill Lumsden; David White LVMH

Ardbeg Timeline:

1794: Around 1794 illegal whisky distillation begins

1815: A license is granted to the McDougall family and legal production begins at Ardbeg

1838: The distillery changes hands

1842: Ardbeg advertises in the Manchester Times

1887: Output exceeds 1.1 million liters of alcohol

1902: Production output of more than 1.1 million liters of Alhohol

1911: The name Ardbeg is registered as a trademark

1922: Alexander McDougall & Co. buys Ardbeg for 19,000 pounds

1959: Ardbeg Distillery Ltd. is buying Alexander McDougall & Co. Ltd.

1977: The Kananische group Hiram Walker buys Ardbeg

1981: Production drops to almost zero

1987: Allied Lyons acquires Hiram Walker and with it Ardbeg distillery

1991: Ardbeg closes the gates a second time

1998: Ardbeg is selected as distillery of the year, Ardbeg 1975 comes on the market

1999: Production reaches 600,000 liters pa, Ardbeg begins bottling Single Casks

2000: Ardbeg 10 hits the market

2001: Ardbeg Lord of the Isles is released

2003: Ardbeg Uigeadail is released

2004: Glenmorangie is taken over by LVMH and thus also Ardbeg

2007: Michael Heads becomes 17th manager

2009: Ardbeg Supernova is launched

Can I tour Ardbeg?

Yes Ardbeg distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 665 of 931 tours to date. This gives Ardbeg an overall rating of 4.5

Latest reviews

Delicious and Intriguing Flavours, Lovely Staff! by Laura A

We purchased five of the classics and had a little tasting on the patio. The young fellow with blonde hair helped us out, and he was so kind and informative! This was our favourite distillery on the island - both for the remarkable taste of their whiskey and for the friendliness of the staff.

Supping Drama in the Sunshine by Katrina J

Visited just before after early reopening in June 2021. Distillery was not open for tours but shop was open, and courtyard and amazing street food wagon for outdoor food/ drink. Staff (I think we dealt with Craig and Emma) were amazing - friendly, helpful, couldn’t have been nicer. We’re able to enjoy some ardbeg flights in the sunshine at tables in the courtyard and has such an enjoyable time, we came back the next day to try a weirder and more wonderful flight. Just lovely.

Lovely Stop for Lunch on the Three Distilleries Walk by Diane J

We walked from Port Ellen and we were really warmly welcomed even though we were only stopping for a drink. They have an outside cafe serving lunch, cakes, coffees and drinks. We enjoyed the local Islay beer sitting in the sunshine. The staff in the shop were really friendly.We when back for coffee on the Sunday before catching the ferry and they were shut! Such a shame, I am glad they weren’t shut after we walked all that way so worth checking if you are walking

Rating Reviews
Excellent 665
Very good 196
Average 48
Poor 14
Terrible 8