Ardnahoe is the youngest and ninth distillery on the island of Islay, which is known worldwide as an Eldorado for fans of smoky whiskies. The owner is the young independent bottler Hunter Laing & Co., who has recognized the signs of the times and decided to become a whisky producer in addition to bottling and blending the liquid of other distilleries. Whisky icon Jim McEwan, who had previously led the Bruichladdich Distillery to great success, was recruited as production manager and advisor. The distillery is named after the nearby hole that will ensure the water supply. The location of the distillery on the north east coast of Islam is well chosen. It overlooks the “Sound of Islay” and the “Paps of Jura” from a hill and is geographically located between its established neighbors Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain. Ardnahoe is equipped with a visitor center and café in order to adequately receive the many visitors.
The distillery produces a classic Islay whisky, i.e. mostly heavily peated single malt whisky around 40 ppm. Jim MacEwan also plans to produce a small amount of non-smoky whisky and only lightly peated whisky. He wants to give newcomers the opportunity to slowly approach the subject of peat smoke. Since Ardnahoe’s first whisky will exceed the three-year mark by 2022, we have to wait a little longer until we can get our own impression of the new arrival.
Ardnahoe is a traditional “hands-on” distillery that does not require a computer and requires a lot of technical effort. It is remarkable to use the traditional Wormtub Condenser, spiral copper pipes in a water bath, which are responsible for the condensation of the alcohol vapor. Only a few distilleries still work with this method, since it works much slower and therefore limits the effectiveness of the distillery. Jim McEwan hopes that this method will result in a higher copper contact and a milder fire, which will later be easy to drink. Ardnahoe will be the first distillery on Islay in a long time to use this old method. The total capacity of the distillery will be a maximum of 500,000 liters per year. According to his own statement, the distillery will be Jim McEwan’s last project.
Hunter Laing & Co was created in 2013 from a division of the company assets of the independent bottler Douglas Laing, founded in 1948, between the two brothers Stewart and Fred.
Douglas Laing is now known for his popular “Remarkable Regional Malts”, a series of malt blends that represent the different whisky regions of Scotland. For example, the smoky Islay representative “Big Peat”, the Sherry-heavy Speysider “Scallywag” and the island representative “Rock Oyster”. The Single Cask series under the name Old Particular has also made a name for itself. Fred remains in the original company and is supported by his daughter Cara.
The new company Hunter Laing was founded by Stewart Laing, together with his sons Andrew and Scott. The whole family has years of experience in the whisky industry. Their series include the “Old Malt Cask”, older whiskies filled with 50% alcohol volume, the “Old & Rare Selection”, also older whiskies filled in cask strength and the younger representatives of the “Hepburn’s Choice”.
Stewart already worked at Bruichladdich as a teenager, building his relationship with Islay Island. After the demand for their Islay bottlings increased steadily, Stewart decided to put his dream of his own Islay distillery into practice. In September 2016, he received permission to start building the new Ardnahoe distillery on the north-east coast of Islay. The history of Ardnahoe is slightly overshadowed by the failed Gartbreck Distillery project. No agreement could be reached on a necessary piece of land between Hunter Laing and the potential owner of the Gartbreck distillery, which is why the project ultimately had to be abandoned.
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