Following the road from Port Ellen along the south coast of Islay, home to the boldest and most intense of all peat monsters, the adventurous whisky explorer will pass two world-famous distilleries, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, before coming to rest at Ardbeg distillery, where the road comes to an end. Literally…but also metaphorically. For many peat fans, Ardbeg represents the pinnacle of the style.
Though the distillery dates back to at least 1815, contemporary with its neighbours, it was closed for much of the 1980s, meaning that its modern-day quasi-legendary status is relatively recent. In this, it was helped along in no small part by some rave reviews from where it matters most: Jim Murray awarded his coveted ‘World Whisky of the Year’title to an Ardbeg expression two years in a row, once for the standard ten-year-old expression - “hard to find a ten-year-old offering more than this”.
This prestigious reputation has been deftly encouraged by the distillery’s owners, Glenmorangie Plc (now a subsidiary of Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessy); not least by a string of limited release special bottlings, released at the rate of one per year on “Ardbeg Day”. Many of these collectibles are already fetching large sums of money at auction, with the Ardbeg name skyrocketing to the very top of whisky royalty alongside the likes of Macallan, Dalmore, and Bowmore…yet it is those stratospheric standard expressions, not least their classic ten-year-old, that has formed the true core of their immense fan-base.