The southernmost of the Inner Hebridean Scottish Isles, the island of Islay (pronounced EYE-lah) is only 240 square miles and home to just over 3,000 inhabitants. Still, the island is one of just five distilling regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law.
Ardbeg Distillery, which is situated on the southern coast of Islay, was founded in 1815 by the MacDougall family. By 1886, nearly one-third of the population of Islay worked at the distillery and today, it stands as a testament to Scottish heritage and tradition.
Each year, the distillery commemorates Ardbeg Day — a day celebrating the distillery's founding — with the release of a new whisky. Ardbeg Ardbog Single Malt Scotch Whisky was released on Ardbeg Day 2013 (June 1, 2013), and celebrates the plethora of peat bogs that are found on the island of Islay.
Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch Whisky is made from malted barley, which is peated to approximately 50 phenol parts per million (in contrast, Leviathan II Whiskey is peated to 110 phenol ppm, while Octomore 5.1 is peated to 169 phenol ppm). Once the peated barley arrives at the distillery, it is milled and mashed with water sourced from Loch Uigeadail, which is situated approximately 3 miles away from the distillery. Then, the mashed barley is fermented in washbacks made of Oregon pine. While wooden washbacks are more expensive and difficult to maintain as compared to stainless steel washbacks, they absorb a portion of the heat generated during the fermentation process and thus, create a lighter and more rich whisky. In addition, the wooden washbacks contribute estery, carbolic compounds to the whisky.
Following fermentation, which lasts for 55 hours, the wash is distilled twice, first through a copper-pot wash still and then again through a copper-pot spirit still. The spirit still is equipped with a purifier, which acts as small condenser and causes a portion of the evaporating vapors to be pumped back into the pot and then re-distilled. This purification process, which is rare in the industry, results in whisky that has a signature fresh and malty flavor.
Once the whisky has been distilled, a portion (60%) of Ardbeg Ardbog is matured in used, American oak bourbon casks for a minimum of ten years, while the remainder is matured (also for a minimum of ten years) in Spanish oak casks that were previously used to mature Manzanillia sherry. "The Manzanilla maturation weaves salty flavors through the whisky," says Mickey Heads, Ardbeg's Distillery Manager, "which is then balanced with the maple syrup creaminess of the first-fill ex-bourbon casks."
Ardbeg Ardbog Single Malt Scotch Whisky has classic notes of peat and smoke, which are balanced by touches of rich, dark fruits, crème brÃ»lée, vanilla and caramel. Only a select number of Ardbog bottles are available, and since Heads believes this it is the best special edition of Ardbeg he's ever tasted, they are sure to sell fast. Pick up yours today!