For over 200 years, Ardbeg has been made on the small, remote Scottish Isle of Islay. Some people travel to Ardbeg along the winding road from Port Ellen. Others follow their nose, their destiny or the advice of a good friend.
Ardbeg lies solitary, in a small cove off the south coast of Islay. It was once a stage for illegal distillation, when smugglers took advantage of the remote location and exceptional conditions for whisky production. Eventually, excise men seized the original, illegitimate buildings from the smugglers and destroyed them.
It was not until 1815 that a legal distillery was established and founded by John McDougall. Sitting nearby leviathan distilleries; Laphroaig and Lagavulin, Ardbeg has always produced a very sought-after single malt, despite its production scale being less than half that of its neighbours.
After running into some financial difficulties the distillery closed in 1981 and it was not until 1989 that distillation resumed, although on a very small scale. After closing again in 1996, then owners, Allied Domecq, put the distillery up for sale. It was bought in 1997 by Glenmorangie Co and was, at last, restored to its former grandeur. Its chief watersource, Loch Uigeadail, or "dark and mysterious place" in Gaelic, became the inspiration for a bottling launched in 2003 under the same name.
Ardbeg Uigeadail was later Jim Murray's 2009 World Whisky of the Year, a title held previously by Ardbeg's ten year-old. Ardbeg has become known for its rich, peated whiskies, very easily identifiable by their fullness of body and perfect harmony of flavour.
A welcome new addition to the Ultimate range. Ardbeg An Oa is singularly rounded, due in no small part to time spent in the newly established bespoke oak Gathering Vat where whiskies from several cask types - including; sweet Pedro Ximenez; spicy virgin charred oak; and intense ex-bourbon casks, amongst others - familiarise themselves with each other.
Rounded and smoky aromas - like burning Applewood - with creamy toffee, aniseed, treacle and dates. A curious suggestion of juicy fruits, such as peach and banana. With a drop of water, reminders of Ardbeg"„¢s classic fragrance, lime, pine resin, fennel, saddle soap and tar. A gentle waxiness, like fragrant candle wax, and hints of smoked herbs. An Oa gives a final subtle reminder of the sea with briny notes and seaweed but always accompanied with creaminess. A smooth, creamy texture leads into a huge syrupy sweetness, flavours of milk chocolate, treacle toffee, aniseed, orange and smoky tea leaves. Gentle, sweet spices (nutmeg & cinnamon), some cigar smoke, and a very unusual flavour of grilled artichokes. Wood is always present in the spirit, gently nutty and reminiscent of a carpenter"„¢s workshop. A long, sweet finish, with floral overtones, mint toffee and some gentle malty biscuit notes. Lingering, seductive, gentle yet intense finish, with flavours of aniseed, hickory and distant subtle smoke.