THE RISE AND FALL AND THE RISE OF ARDBEG

There have been many ups and downs on the long road to Ardbeg throughout the years. Ardbeg’s story is one of irrepressible spirit surviving against the odds, finally emerging as “unquestionably, the greatest distillery on Earth.” 

Take a step back in time… 

1815 – Ardbeg Distillery is founded.
1815

1815 – Ardbeg Distillery is founded.


John Macdougall takes out a licence, establishing Ardbeg Distillery as a 

legitimate commercial concern. 

1838 – A new owner.
1838

1838 – A new owner.


Thomas Buchanan, a Glasgow spirit merchant, buys the Distillery for £1,800.

John Macdougall’s son Alexander continues to manage operations. 

1853 – Alexander Macdougall dies.
1853

1853 – Alexander Macdougall dies.


After his death, Ardbeg is co-run by Colin Hay and Macdougall’s sisters, 

Margaret and Flora, who may rightfully be Scotland’s first female distillers. 

1887 – Output tops 1.1 million litres a year.
1887

1887 – Output tops 1.1 million litres a year.


In his book ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’, Alfred Barnard records that Ardbeg is producing 250,000 gallons (1.1 million litres) of whisky a year, making it the most productive distillery on Islay. 

1911 – The name ‘Ardbeg’ is registered as a trademark.
1911

1911 – The name ‘Ardbeg’ is registered as a trademark.


The distinctive letter ‘A’ is also registered to protect Ardbeg’s brand and reputation. 

1922 – Alexander MacDougall & Co Ltd buys Ardbeg for £19,000.
1922

1922 – Alexander MacDougall & Co Ltd buys Ardbeg for £19,000.


1977 – Hiram Walker acquires Ardbeg.
1977

1977 – Hiram Walker acquires Ardbeg.


1981 – Production dwindles to nothing.
1981

1981 – Production dwindles to nothing.


The distillery closes with the loss of 18 jobs and a devastating effect on the local community. 

1987 – Allied Lyons acquires Hiram Walker and therefore Ardbeg.
1987

1987 – Allied Lyons acquires Hiram Walker and therefore Ardbeg.


Two years later, small-scale distilling resumes to satisfy demand for Ardbeg from blenders. 

1997 – The Glenmorangie Company purchases the distillery.
1997

1997 – The Glenmorangie Company purchases the distillery.


After the second closure in 1991, the Distillery reopens in 1997. Full-time production commences, with the first bottlings comprising 17 Years Old, 1978 Vintage and Ardbeg Provenance. 

1998 – Ardbeg is voted Distillery of the Year.
1998

1998 – Ardbeg is voted Distillery of the Year.


The Visitor Centre and Old Kiln Cafe open, attracting 3,500 visitors. It’s a remarkable turnaround in only 12 short months. PLUS Ardbeg 1975 launches.

1999 – Production reaches 600,000 litres a year.
1999

1999 – Production reaches 600,000 litres a year.


Investment in new people and new equipment is already beginning to pay off. PLUS Ardbeg single casks are hand selected and released in very limited, exclusive bottlings.

2000 – Ardbeg Ten Years Old and Ardbeg Committee launched.
2000

2000 – Ardbeg Ten Years Old and Ardbeg Committee launched.


The extraordinary balance of peaty power and floral sweetness makes it a big hit and the core expression in the Ardbeg range. PLUS the worldwide Ardbeg Committee is formed to ensure ‘the doors of the Distillery never close again’.

2001 – Ardbeg Lord of the Isles is launched.
2001

2001 – Ardbeg Lord of the Isles is launched.


2002 – More awards for Ardbeg.
2002

2002 – More awards for Ardbeg.


Jackie Thomson is awarded Visitor Centre Manager of the Year by Whisky Magazine. In the same year, The Distillery is named as a 4 star visitor attraction by The Scottish Tourist Board. 

2003 – Ardbeg Uigeadail is released.
2003

2003 – Ardbeg Uigeadail is released.


It is named after the Distillery’s water source, meaning ‘dark and mysterious place’. PLUS the first Glenmorangie Company distillate is released to The Committee ‘for discussion’, a limited bottling of Very Young Ardbeg.

2004 – Very Young Ardbeg is born.
2004

2004 – Very Young Ardbeg is born.


The Committee overwhelmingly approves the distillate, leading to the launch of Very Young Ardbeg. Distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2004, it turned whisky thinking on its head.

2005 – A serendipitous year.
2005

2005 – A serendipitous year.


Ardbeg is established as part of the House of Glenmorangie within Moet Hennessy/LVMH. Production reaches 1 million litres. PLUS someone pulls the wrong lever and mixes Ardbeg with a small quantity of Glen Moray. Disaster is averted with the unbranded release of Serendipity (pity to waste it).

2006 – Young, old and rare.
2006

2006 – Young, old and rare.


  • Ardbeg Still Young is launched, the next step on ''the peaty path to maturity''.
  • Ardbeg 1965, an extremely limited release of only 261 bottles is the oldest Ardbeg ever to be released: 'the envy of Islay'.
  • Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist ("the Beastie") is released, drawn from rare and restricted whisky stocks, laid down in 1990. 
2007 – Michael Heads becomes Ardbeg’s 20th Manager and Chairman of the Ardbeg Committee.
2007

2007 – Michael Heads becomes Ardbeg’s 20th Manager and Chairman of the Ardbeg Committee.


PLUS:

  • Ardbeg Almost There is bottled – the third limited release of the 1998 distillate.
  • Ardbeg Mor becomes the biggest launch to date. Mor (Gaelic for  'big and magnificent') is 1,000 sought-after 4.5 litre bottles of cask strength Ten Years Old.
  • Ardbeg Double Barrel unveiled – 250 pairs of the acclaimed Ardbeg 1974 vintage single cask bottlings presented in luxury shotgun cases.
2008 – World Whisky of the Year.
2008

2008 – World Whisky of the Year.


Ardbeg Ten Years Old wins World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s 2008 Whisky Bible – a big achievement indeed. PLUS: Ardbeg Renaissance completes the peaty path to maturity. Ardbeg Corryvreckan is released to the Committee. Lightly peated Ardbeg Blasda  Gaelic for 'sweet and delicious'  is launched. 

2009 – World Whisky of the Year again.
2009

2009 – World Whisky of the Year again.


Ardbeg Uigeadail scoops the World Whisky of the Year honour in the 2009 – the second time for Ardbeg. PLUS: 3,000 bottles of Ardbeg Supernova, the peatiest Ardbeg ever are snapped up in record time. Ardbeg Corryvreckan joins the core range on worldwide release.

2010 – Three times a winner.
2010

2010 – Three times a winner.


Ardbeg Supernova is awarded Scotch Whisky of the Year. Ardbeg Corryvreckan wins World's Best Single Malt Whisky and Single Malt of the Year. PLUS Ardbeg Rollercoaster is released to celebrate the Committee’s 10th anniversary.

2011 – The tale of the ‘Islay-gator.
2011

2011 – The tale of the ‘Islay-gator.


‘Alligator char’ American Oak casks and a smoky, spicy flavour ensure Ardbeg Alligator is snapped up by the Committee. PLUS Ardbeg conducts the first whisky experiment in space on the International Space Station.

2012 – Galileo – watch this space.
2012

2012 – Galileo – watch this space.


To celebrate our ongoing and historic space experiment, we launch Ardbeg Galileo. 60,000 bottles sell out within 48 hours. PLUS we celebrated the first ever Ardbeg Day by holding not the Olympics, but the ‘Islay-limpics’.

2013 – Ardbeg TracTOur – torque about powerful.
2013

2013 – Ardbeg TracTOur – torque about powerful.


8.6 litres and 100mph of pure, supercharged V8 fury, our custom-built Massey Ferguson tractor toured the world. PLUS our second Ardbeg Day became Ardbog Day as we celebrated all things peaty.

2014 – The Ardbeg space experiment comes home.
2014

2014 – The Ardbeg space experiment comes home.


The world’s first whisky experiment in space touched down in Kazakhstan, on 12th September 2014. The answers to the mysteries of maturation and the universe were imminent. Ardbeg Supernova 2014 took off. PLUS the world limbered up and partook in the Ardbeggian take on the football world cup for Ardbeg Day. Ardbeg Auriverdes launched.

2015 – 200 years of Ardbeg.
2015

2015 – 200 years of Ardbeg.


Instead of looking backwards for Ardbeg’s bicentenary, we looked 200 years into the future. Ardbeg Perpetuum launched, as did Dr Bill’s White Paper on the results of our space experiment.