Islay 2014: Ardbeg | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Islay 2014: Ardbeg

It's no secret that we absolutely bloody love Ardbeg's whiskies. After a great morning at Lagavulin, we meandered the 1.1 miles along the coast to this site of whisky pilgrimage.
Conveniently arriving just as it approached lunch time, we ate at Ardbeg's acclaimed Old Kiln Cafe, a dining area situated on what was once the malting floor of the distillery. There's oodles of local produce on the menu, and Mrs M's haggis and red onion marmalade jacket potato was definitely a highlight. A delicious Ardbeg Uigedail accompanied the meal (unsurprisingly) very well.

Before our tour, we had a couple of hours to spare in the glorious sunshine with a few drams. The scenery on Islay as a whole is stunning and nowhere more so than along the south coast. I think a few photos might speak for themselves here...


It was then time to head back inside for the tour to begin. Our guide, Gillian, firstly ran us through a brief history of the distillery. Plenty of photos of historical owners the MacDougall family adorn the walls of the old malt house, and we were able to explore areas of the distillery which are now no longer in use including the old wooden malt bins. This introductory element to the tour was really interesting and something a bit different to the other distilleries we've visited.

We were somewhat surprised to find out that Ardbeg is the second smallest distillery on Islay after Kilchoman (having been the largest in the late 1800s), given the prominence and reputation of the distillery. This definitely shows how having a big company behind them (Ardbeg has been owned by LVMH since 2004), with excellent marketing strategies, has worked to their advantage, but by visiting Ardbeg you definitely get behind the corporate sheen and it's clear that the traditional heart of the distillery is still beating strong.

Ardbeg takes advantage of the service provided by the maltings at Port Ellen, so our tour entered the production stage at the mill. 4.5 tons of the peatiest malt on the island (55ppm) is run through the Boby mill before reaching the mashtun. After the nine-hour mashing process is complete, the wort is piped through to the washbacks. The Tun Room is one of my favourite rooms of any distillery, with a rich, warm, beery scent, and they always seem to have an amazing view!

A leisurely wander through the magical stillhouse later, we visited the filling store to witness a few casks being brought back to life by the Ardbeg new make. A huge 80% of their total output goes into single malts, and Ardbeg uses the "marriage" system (not something we were previously familiar with) to create their core range, whereby the whisky contained within 2 casks is mixed together rather than being moved into another cask for finishing.  Of course, no tour would be complete without a dram, and Corryvreckan was today's whisky of choice... definitely in Mrs M's top 5 of all time!

Slainte,

J&L

No comments:

Post a comment

Let us know what you think! You can also contact us with any enquiries at jimrangeley@gmail.com - we'd love to hear from you.