Walpole Book of British Luxury | Member of the Week: Ardbeg

From menswear to motor cars, fragrance to fine wines, the Walpole Book of British Luxury offers an enticing look behind the scenes of some of the UK’s best brands… This week, to kickstart our focus on the brands in the book, we highlight Scottish whisky distillery Ardbeg.

Twenty-something years ago, Ardbeg was in its darkest time. The mists rolled over the hills of the distillery’s remote Scottish island home, and the Atlantic waves crashed on its rocky shores, just as they always have. But the smell of sea spray no longer mingled with malt above the distillery’s pagoda roofs. Inside its whitewashed walls, the stills were often empty. The filling store was silent. For the first time since Ardbeg was founded in 1815, the future of the world’s smokiest, peatiest Islay malt whisky hung in the balance.

At that time, the odds were stacked against Ardbeg. But even then, a handful of craftsmen believed that its untamed spirit had a future. And those impassioned few – a young Mickey Heads, now distillery manager, among them – set aside stocks of whisky in a quiet corner of a warehouse. It was their vision that one day the whisky within these precious casks might be shared with the world.

More than two decades on, Ardbeg has risen like a phoenix. In the third release in the Distillery’s Ardbeg Twenty Something series, the hopes of those die-hard Ardbeggians are wonderfully borne out. Its casks of sweetly fruity, smoky whisky saved from oblivion by their foresight, this highly limited 22-year-old bottling is the ultimate embodiment of Ardbeg’s enduring spirit.

Ardbeg’s future is now assured, thanks in no small part to its loyal fan base, the Ardbeg Committee, founded in 2000 to ensure the distillery’s doors never close again. In recognition of its members’ ongoing support, Mickey’s team have made this release available exclusively to the committee, free to join at ardbeg.com.

Those lucky enough to visit Ardbeg today are greeted by the very still that created this whisky’s spirit. Now retired, it stands proud at the front of the distillery for all to see. Mickey is equally proud to share this rare bottling. With a nose of tropical fruit notes, sweet smoke and soot, and tastes of fresh apples, peppermint tea and vanilla, it is a monument to the determination and vision that kept Ardbeg alive.