Ardbeg is a distiller of single maltIslay scotch whisky based on the southern tip of the island of Islay, near Scotland. Distilling at the site dates back to 1798, though it was illegal. The (legal) distillery was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall, who by 1835 was producing 500 gallons of spirit a week. Ardbeg has been sold many times over the years, first to Hiram Walker, which was bought by Allied Lyons.
After distilling stopped in 1981, the Glenmorangie company bought the assets, which in turn was bought by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH). After lying dormant for some time, production was restarted in 1999, and quickly reached 600,000 liters per year.
Ardbeg is considered to be one of the more peaty/phenolic Scotches, and strangely enough, has quite a bit in common in its flavor profile with fino sherry - it is lemony and freshly floral, with a strong salt tang. Ardbeg makes six bottlings: Ardbeg 10, Blasda, Corryvreckan, Supernova, Uigeadail, and Alligator.
Ardbeg 10 is the workhorse of the Ardbeg line. It is surprisingly pale and clear, with aromas of peach and banana, then a whallop of brine and peat. The palate is slightly oily, with medicinal (the Ardbeg site says 'coal tar soap', which is a good descriptor) flavors, and a phenolic, peaty bite on the finish. Ardbeg 10 is not chill filtered, and is bottled at 92 proof.
Blasda, which means "sweet and delicious" in Gaelic, is an 80 proof bottling that reduces the typical Ardbeg peat profile from 24 parts per million (ppm) to only 8. Blasda is a good introduction to the Ardbeg style, with delicate sweet aromas and flavors of baked apples and chestnuts.
Corryvreckan, named after a famous whirlpool off the coast of northern Islay, is bottled at 114 proof, and is not chill filtered. It is heavy, oily and rich, with lots of creosote, peatsmoke, and dark chocolate-berry fruit aromas and flavors.
Supernova is Ardbeg's entry into the Peat arms race - it has about 100 ppm of phenol, and definitely smells and tastes like it. Bottled at 120 proof and non-chill filtered, Supernova is an explosion of woodsmoke, camppfire, and peppery, tarry scents. While it has enough body to counteract all the peat, Supernova is not for the faint of heart.
Uigeadail, named after the loch that supplies water to the distillery, is bottled at 108 proof, and finished in used sherry casks. It is at the same time raisiny, Christmas spicy, and smoky-tarry. Ex-sherry casks can be put to very good use taking the smoke and peat of Islay scotches.
Finally, there is Alligator, another "finish cask" bottling. This time, instead of taming the peat and smoke with old sherry casks, Alligator enhances those aromas by finishing the whisky in new, heavily charred American oak barrels, which gives the scotch an almost rye whisky flavor profile.
Some popular cocktails containing Ardbeg 10
- Tainted Love — Campari, Crème Yvette, Islay Scotch, Bitters, Orange peel
- Smoke n' Bols — Genever, Scotch, Bitters, Lemon juice, Maple syrup, Lemon peel
- Tommy Appleseed — Old Tom Gin, Apple brandy, Cherry Liqueur, Orange bitters, Islay Scotch, Demerara syrup
- Islay Cynar Flip — Islay Scotch, Cynar, BroVo Amaro #14, Whole egg, Simple syrup, Nutmeg
- Scotch and Coconut — Islay Scotch, Triple sec, Coconut Water, Star anise, Lemon juice, Salt, Orange peel
- New Dog — Reposado Tequila, Sweet vermouth, Islay Scotch, Averna, Peychaud's Bitters, Bitters, Egg white, Lime juice, Cinnamon syrup
- Le Père-Bis — Islay Scotch, Elderflower liqueur, Tea, Clove, Honey syrup, Lemon