In September 2016 we invited contestants from around the globe to Islay – our remote Scottish island home, for the launch of the world’s most daring whisky challenge. Bringing to life Ardbeg’s untamed spirit, we took a group of contestants on an unforgettable odyssey into essential Islay.

Led by Distillery Manager Mickey Heads and survival expert Monty Halls, the ARDventurers spent three days from September 5 – 8, attempting to conquer the island’s rugged coastline, wild peat bogs, mist-capped hills and brooding lochs as they competed to be named the Ultimate ARDventurer.



All the episodes from The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer Challenge.

Day 3: The wilderness, the water and an unwavering Ardbeggian spirit. Inspired by the water that surrounds Ardbeg, the final day of the challenge saw the ARDventurers rowing casks of Ardbeg Ten Years Old from the Distillery to Port Ellen along the rocky coast of Islay!

Day 2: A peaty pilgrimage from Loch Carn a’Mhaoil to the Kildalton Cross. Watch how the ARDventurers navigated the challenges on the second day of The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer.

Day 1: From Ardbeg Distillery apprentices to Islay survival experts! Watch how the ARDventurers survived their first day of The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer.


Live updates from Islay and the contestants attending The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer Challenge.


The judges for The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer have been closely involved in the creation of this unusual challenge.

They are as follows:

The Hosts

Mickey Heads

Ardbeg Distillery Manager & Chairman of the Ardbeg Committee

Host of The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer

Mickey Heads is the award-winning Manager of Ardbeg Distillery and will be leading The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer.  He has been in the whisky business for over three decades and at Ardbeg for nine years.

Mickey is renowned internationally for his expertise in whisky creation, blending and tasting.  He started off digging peat in the peat bogs that makes Ardbeg so distinctive.

An Islay native, he is also an expert on the island, with a lifetime’s experience navigating its rugged, wild landscape.

In 2014 Mickey was named winner of the Icons of Whisky ‘Global Distillery Manager of the Year’ award.

Mickey has been involved in the creation of The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer from the start and has said: “ARDventurer’s challenges showcase the untamed spirit of Ardbeg’s island home – although the contestants may decide they prefer experiencing Islay’s soft rainfall and peat in their whisky rather than in person!  I’ll be interested to see the most innovative use of the ration packs given to each ARDventurer.  The packs are based on the smoky-sweet taste profile of Ardbeg and each pack contains ingredients such as bacon, limes, tarry rope, matches and iodine… some more obviously useful than others.”

Monty Halls

TV Broadcaster and Explorer

Monty Halls is an award-winning TV explorer, expedition leader, author and TV producer. He first visited Islay in 1999 and was so taken with the island’s wild, untamed beauty that he has returned countless times and even named his daughter after it!

He has worked closely with Ardbeg Distillery Manager Mickey Heads to devise the itinerary for The Ultimate ARDventurer Challenge and with his in-depth knowledge of the island and superb survival expertise, is the perfect host for the trip.

Halls originally served as a Royal Marines officer and after leaving the services in 1996, subsequently gained a First Class Honors degree in marine biology.

Since then he has circumnavigated the globe four times on various projects, leading multi-national teams in some of the most demanding environments on earth. Notable expeditions included the discovery of a sunken city off the coast of Tamil Nadu in India and a search for a rare crocodile species in the mountain pools of Central America.

In 2002 he was awarded the Bish Medal by the Scientific Exploration Society for his services to exploration.

He has presented series and documentaries for the BBC, Channel Five, The Discovery Channel, The National Geographic Channel and the History Channel, and is also the author of six books, mainly on diving and the marine environment.

Jackie Thomson

Ardbeg Distillery Visitor Centre Manager

Jackie was born in Glasgow, but raised in the Highlands of Scotland surrounded by local whisky traditions. After studying Communications at Edinburgh Napier University and Business at Birmingham University Jackie has had an exciting range of jobs including a brief stint as a sports presenter on a Highland radio station,

In 1997 she moved back to Islay to work at Ardbeg and was involved in the development of the new Ardbeg Visitors’ Centre. In her spare time Jackie enjoys a spot of over indulgence – walking, fishing and reading.

In 2013 Jackie was named Global Icon Visitor Centre Manager of the Year at the World Whisky Awards. 

Douglas (Dugga) Bowman

Head Warehouseman, Ardbeg Distillery.

Dugga was born in Glasgow, but grew up on Islay where his family are from. He spent ten years in the Royal Navy before joining Ardbeg. He has been at Ardbeg for nearly 20 years and says he loves everything about the people and the place and the whisky! In his spare time he enjoys walking his three dogs and fishing. 

Dougie MacTaggart

Tour Guide, Ardbeg Distillery.

Dougie was born in the village of Ardbeg and can trace his family history on Islay back to the 1750s. He served in the British Army for over 30 years and whilst stationed in Germany once saw Elvis Presley climbing a tree outside a bar. He returned to Islay in 2011 and when he is not leading a tour at the Distillery, he can be found fishing, walking on the island or playing his guitar. 

Helen Colthart

Club Secretary, The Islay Rowing Club

Helen’s family are Islay natives and she has lived on the island all her life. She is an accomplished rower and completed 8km over four races in one day at Ullapool and came second in the 6km race around Mull.

She rows at least five times a week and loves the fresh air, being part of a team and social aspect of rowing. Her fifteen year old daughter Aileas is also now a talented member of the Islay Rowing Club.

When it comes to the row in ARDventurer Helen will be looking for evidence of the Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurers’ timing, strength and concentration.

The Adventurers

David Bateman – Reporter, The Toronto Star (Canada)

David Bateman is a reporter for The Toronto Star newspaper.  Originally from Greenock in Scotland, he studied History and Politics at Edinburgh University and worked as a digital reporter for Scottish Television before moving to Canada.

He has a longstanding passion for whisky and is also a keen sports fan, supporting Glasgow Rangers Football Club and the Toronto Raptors basketball team.  As a teenager he played for the Glasgow and Scotland rugby squads alongside current internationals Rob Harley and Alex Dunbar. 

Follow David on Twitter: 

Jonah Flicker

Jonah Flicker is a freelance writer who covers spirits, travel, food, adventure, and lifestyle for a variety of publications and websites, including CNN, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Town & Country, FWx, Men's Journal, and more.

He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, two daughters, and cairn terrier.

To follow Jonah:


Alexandra Gauthier – Mixte Magazine (Canada)

Alexandra Gauthier is Fashion Director of Mixte Magazine, the stylish Canadian magazine focusing on fashion, gastronomy, culture and lifestyle, and also oversees their social media output.

She has a degree in Fashion Marketing and previously worked as a fashion stylist assistant to several major names in the fashion industry. She has travelled widely across Europe, North and South America and as a teenager competed in numerous skiing and tennis tournaments.

Alexandra has been involved with Mixte Magazine since its launch in 2011 and has been an integral part of its success.

In her spare time she enjoys skiing, playing tennis, visiting museums, shopping and travelling. She has been training for The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventure by playing tennis twice a week and walking to work every day. 

See Alexandra’s work at


Keishi Iwata – Senior Lifestyle Editor, GQ (Japan)

Keishi Iwata is the Senior Lifestyle Editor at GQ Japan and has over 20 years’ experience as a journalist.

Keishi, who is originally from Ogikubo, Tokyo, started his career as a freelance writer at the age of 19. He subsequently worked as a Contributing Editor for men’s fashion magazine Popeye, and as Fashion Editor for children’s fashion magazine Milk Japon.

He joined GQ Japan in 2014 and edits the travel, architecture and drinks sections. He became Senior Lifestyle Editor in 2016.

In his spare time he enjoys running, climbing, playing Kendo and paintball.

GQ Japan has over 27,000 followers on Instagram and 94,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

Follow Keishi and GQ Japan at:


Benedikt Luning – Whisky website CEO (Germany)

Benedikt Lüning is the CEO and Head of Marketing at the hugely successful Germany whisky website

He has a Degree in English and before joining, he worked in the automobile industry for several years as an engineer.

He loves everything to do with whisky and has a particular passion for Ardbeg Supernova.  When he is not sampling a dram, he enjoys free climbing (rock climbing without harnesses), running, swimming and cycling.

Benedikt plans to share his experiences in The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer on Youtube where the whisky website’s clips have nearly 30,000 followers in Germany and over 10,000 in the UK.


Michael Lutz – Whisky Blogger (Germany)

Michael Lutz is a whisky blogger from Hamburg, Germany with over 4000 followers on his personal blog He also has over 1000 followers on Facebook and over 600 on Instagram. He hosts whisky tastings in Hamburg at the 25hours Hotel and these are always hugely popular events.

When he is not savouring new whisky sensations, he works as a cargo surveyor at the port in Hamburg, but whisky is his passion!

He also loves working out and hiking. With his girlfriend Coco and their dog Bosse, he spends his free time exploring the woods of Northern Germany or trekking around Scandinavia, Europe and the Alps. To keep in shape, Michael trains several times a week in his local gym, doing bodyweight exercises, weight lifting and boxing.

Michael plans to share his experiences on The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer with photos on Instagram and news story feeds on Twitter and Facebook. He will also write a blog post with an overview of the entire trip.

To follow Michael, see:


Calum Murray – Editor, The Ileach (Islay, UK).

Calum Murray is the editor of The Ileach, the community newspaper for Ardbeg’s home – the Scottish island of Islay. The Ileach has a strong readership on the island as well as many international whisky aficionados around the world, who subscribe to the paper, eager to hear about island activities.

Originally from the Isle of Lewis, Calum was previously a teacher of English, Gaelic and creative writing. He moved to Islay in 1981, only intending to stay a couple of years but was so smitten with the island that he has been there ever since!

He loves walking amidst Islay’s wild and rugged landscape and often walks ten miles a day, rain or shine. He says: “Islay is not the best place for power walking though. Everyone is so friendly that you end up having lots of reasons to stop for a blether.”

He will be reporting on The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer for The Ileach.

Readers can expect an article describing his experiences and those of the other ARDventurers in the next issue.

Twitter username: @TheIleach

Ed Needham – Editor, Coach Magazine (UK).

British journalist Ed Needham is an award-winning magazine editor who has been successful both in the UK and the US. After studying American Literature at the University of Sussex and working as a freelance journalist, he became editor of the British men’s magazine FHM during its million-selling heyday in the late nineties before moving to New York in 1999 to launch and edit the US edition of that title. He then went on to edit renowned American music magazine Rolling Stone and subsequently the US edition of men’s magazine Maxim, which at the time was the highest circulation men’s title in the world.

He returned to the UK in 2006 to set up the digital creative agency Grand Parade, which produces content and technology for the betting industry.

He joined Dennis Publishing in early 2015 to develop editorial projects, and launched free weekly health and fitness title Coach in October 2015. Coach is the largest UK men’s health and fitness magazine with 300,000 copies per week distributed in major UK cities and at prime commuter locations.

Ed’s main source of fitness is walking - he recently completed the Three Peaks Challenge and also spent the night on a Portaledge (a hanging tent used by rock climbers), on a cliff in the French Alps.

To follow Ed on Twitter: @Needham014 or Coach: @coachmag.

Chris Sayer – Writer - Hypebeast (UK)

Chris Sayer is an award-winning freelance writer and editor for Hypebeast, the highly successful online magazine for men’s contemporary style, streetwear and culture. Based in London, he has written on a wide range of subjects from SUPRA skateboarding to Harvey Nichols.

He was previously Content Director at leading men’s magazine FHM and has had adventures all over the world on behalf of numerous publications including The Times, The Guardian, NME, Shortlist, (US), and Ski and Board.

During the course of his travels, he has also interviewed some of the biggest names in the entertainment world including rock star Marilyn Manson, actors Samuel L Jackson and Jack Black, and sports giants such as Rory McIlroy

Follow Chris on Twitter:



Titti Schultz  - Blogger (Sweden)

Titti Schultz is one of Sweden’s most well-known and popular radio personalities. She presented the hugely successful Vakna med NRJ on NRJ Sweden Radio and previously created and presented the RIXMorronZoo show on RIX FM. 

She originally studied journalism in London and since then has worked in broadcasting for the last twenty years. She is a familiar figure across Sweden, leading debates and hosting a wide range of events. She also writes a regular column in Gefle Dagblad - the morning newspaper for her childhood hometown of Gävle and has a regular book slot on the well-known morning show - Nyhetsmorgon on TV4.

When she’s not broadcasting or hosting events, Titti loves sporting adventures and finds it hard to say no to a challenge. She has skydived from the Swedish mountain of Åreskutan, climbed down one of Stockholm's tallest buildings - the 85 metre-high DN-skrapan, with only a rope harness.

She also loves winter sports and boats – the faster the better, and has competed in many boat races including The Round Britain Powerboat race and the Blue Ribbon (Ystad - Haparanda) where she and her crew broke the Swedish records.

That would be enough to keep most people busy but Titti has also found time to take part in car rallies and fitness challenges, including a Women’s Swedish Classics - a four-discipline race comprising cross-country skiing, cycling, open-water swimming and cross-country running.

Follow Titti at:
Her blog:
On Twitter: @tittischultz
On Instagram:


The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer challenge starts at the Distillery and includes an arduous trek to Ardbeg’s water source Loch Uigeadail, peat cutting which lends The Ultimate Islay Malt its smoky character, rowing a cask of Ardbeg along Islay’s perilous coast as did the earliest distillers who transported their cargo by sea, cooking on an open fire (with only a wee dram or two of Ardbeg for comfort) and camping at atmospheric locations such as the 8th Century Kildalton cross – a symbol of Islay’s Celtic heritage.


Within their 12kg packs, each ARDventurer will carry a ration pack inspired by the smoky-sweet tastes and aromas of Ardbeg.


The ration pack includes: a bottle of Ardbeg Ten Years Old, a bar of soap, a line of tarry rope, a tin of sardines, iodine, lime, peat, Vicks VapoRub (menthol), cheese, smoky bacon, black pepper, chocolate, aniseed, almonds and matches. 

Innovative use of the kit may earn contestants vital points in their bid to become the Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer.  


Smoky Bacon

Smoky Bacon: Ardbeg is renowned for its supremely smoky taste and aroma. As you savour a dram, smoke gradually wells up on the palate and lingers on the nose. Also everybody loves the smell of bacon around a campfire in the morning.


Sardines: Alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice, you’ll find notes of smoked fish in Ardbeg’s unique aroma.  An interesting addition to any ARDventurer dish.


Lime: Alongside coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands, notes of waxed lime are hard to miss in Ardbeg’s aroma whilst tangy lime flavours linger on the tongue. One can never have too many limes when it comes to cooking by the sea.


Cheese: A survival kit and whisky pairing favourite, cheese is the perfect accompaniment for a dram and an invaluable cooking ingredient. The ARDventurers will have to guard their supplies!

Coal tar soap

Coal tar soap: Simply add water to a dram of Ardbeg and experience the coal tar soap, beeswax and pine woodlands aromas. As an antiseptic soap this will be an essential survival item for the ARDventurers.


Almonds: Alongside traces of soft barley and fresh pear, toasted almonds are a key note in Ardbeg’s complex finish, plus an excellent source of protein for the Ardventurers.


Chocolate: Another survival kit classic, waxy dark chocolate is also a key note in Ardbeg’s distinctive aroma and a great after dinner treat.

Black Pepper

Black Pepper: Notes of black pepper accompany menthol to cut through Ardbeg’s sweet, but smoky aroma. Peppery notes also pop on the tongue lending Ardbeg its peppery complexity. A must have for seasoning the ARDventurer’s campfire meals.

Ardbeg 10 Years Old

Ardbeg Ten Years Old: The multi award-winning Ardbeg Ten Years Old has become a favourite amongst whisky connoisseur’s since its launch in 2000. It was named World Whisky of the Year in 2008 by Jim Murray.


Tarry rope

Tarry rope: Tarry, smoky notes are key to Ardbeg’s complexity, both as the taste lengthens and deepens and also in its distinctive finish. This might just come in handy throughout the three-day challenge.


Matches: Essential for survival, cooking and camping on our windswept island, and for igniting the fires that produce the distinguishing smoky peat flavour profile of the Ultimate Islay Single Malt.


Peat: Ardbeg is revered as the peatiest of all Islay malts. Peat oils play a significant part in Ardbeg’s distinctively long, deep taste and are inseparable from both the whisky and its island home. It provides a most valuable fire source on those rain-soaked and windy nights.