The last distillery on the road along the south coast from Port Ellen on the magical island of Islay, past Laphroaig and Lagavulin. The distillery itself dates back to the final years of the eighteenth century. The site’s water source, Loch Uigeadail, is superb and has had the honour of having a whisky named after it. Until 1976/’77 Ardbeg still had its own malting floor, but take their heavily peated malt from the Port Ellen maltings. Jim Murray, in his Complete Guide to Whisky, described Ardbeg as the greatest distillery to be found on Earth. This was high praise indeed, given that the distillery was mothballed for most of the 1980’s until Glenmorangie took control in 1997 and secured its future. The transformation from neglect to a homely and handsome distillery with a fine restaurant has been heartening to watch. Their first new release, an unchillfiltered 10 year old, has proved to be a huge success.
Exceptional balance and depth. At full strength, the aroma is a beguiling mix of toffee and chocolate sweetness, cinnamon spice and medicinal phenols. Fresh citrus and floral notes of white wine are evident, as are melon, pear drops and a gentle creaminess. There is also the fresh phenolic aroma of sea spray and smoked fish. Hickory and coffee emerge later as the most volatile top notes fade. The mouthfeel is firstly lightly spiced, then chewing, and mouthwatering and full, finally drying. Long and smoky. A smoky sweetness is left on the palate, with a crushed peat and sweet-malted cereal on the finish.