Ardbeg distillery

Ardbeg is located on the southeast coast of Islay. It was established in 1815 and currently owned by Louis Vuitton Mo√ęt Hennessy. The distillery produces 1,400,000 litres per year and takes its malted barley from Port Ellen. The full 2½ hour tour is excellent and is called the Deconstructing The Dram. It only runs on weekdays at 2pm.

The Ardbeg visitor centre and shop also contains The Old Kiln cafe where you can buy a quick snack or something more substantial.

Ardbeg was silent between 1981 and 1989 and ran at a low output until 1996. It was bought by Glenmorangie for £6m and this was £4m for the stock and £2m for the buildings and production restarted in 1997 and then at a higher capacity in 1998. Older stocks were still available for sale and the excellent 1977 edition now fetches around £600 a bottle. Ardbeg was originally providing all its output for blending but now keeps everything for its own single malts, either as the 10 year old, Uigeadail, special editions or with various finishes. There is an Ardbeg 1815 50.1% limited edition bottling of 400 bottles at £3000 each to commemorate the 200th anniversary. The whisky was distilled in 1974 and 1975 and aged for 33 years with a further 8 years spent marrying in glass containers for preservation. The 1974 spirit was matured in bourbon barrels while the 1975 spirit was kept in sherry casks.

Tour guide - Dionne. Excellent tour - 2.5 hours. Two stills. Small pier. Six wash backs.

The tastings at Ardbeg were:

Cask 2854, 2006, 57.8%, first fill in Bourbon

Cask 1213, 2004, 56.5%, refill in Bourbon

Cask 39, 1999 14-year, 56.3%, sherry butt

Cask 4586, 2005, 55.6%, French oak

This was followed by a choice of several standard editions, some of which were no longer available for sale. I tried Dark Cove which is available to buy and new spirit at 68.5%, which is not!