The distillery is still active and is now owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), which also owns Glenmorangie distillery in the Highlands of Scotland. The current capacity is just over one mil-lion litres per annum and its water source is Loch Uigeadail, after which one of its famous releases is named.
Before the current ownership, Ardbeg had an up and down history, and nearly fell into the annals of closed distilleries forever. It was sold in 1838 to whisky merchant Thomas Buchanan, but still run by John’s son Alexander, who continued overseeing its production until his death in 1853 when it passed to his sisters, Margaret and Flora. In the 1950s, a minority share was purchased by Distillers Company Limited and Canadian outfit, Hiram Walker, before being fully bought out in the late 1970s by Walker. Production ceased in 1981, before being picked up and reopened by Allied Distillers in 1989. Unfortunately, it only lasted a two years before it was once again shut down. The distillery may have been lost forever had it not been for Glenmorangie purchasing it in 1997. The £7 million invest-ment from Glenmorangie ensured it was given a proper reboot, while the acquisition by French luxury goods company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey in 2004 helped spread its reputation further afield.
For most of its history Ardbeg produced whisky to be blended, as opposed to single malt, with well-loved releases such as the 10-year old only launching in the year 2000. Ardbeg built its reputation up by making bold decisions, such as launching a six year old whisky called ‘Very Young Ardbeg’, alongside ‘Still Young’ and ‘Almost There’, all of which are now highly collectable.
The whiskies Ardbeg produce are ranked high amongst the peatiest in the world but are offset and balanced out by a rich sweetness, which comes from the distillation process and the dedication to its cask maturation programme.
A visitor centre opened in 1998, and its well-loved Ardbeg Committee was founded to help build its reputation worldwide, with committee members getting first access to bottlings and helping to choose what gets released.