In a captivating ode to its storied past, Islay's iconic Ardbeg distillery has introduced 'The Rollercoaster,' an exclusive limited edition duo of single malts that transcend time, encapsulating the highs and lows of the brand's tumultuous history. This meticulously crafted offering, housed in a presentation box fashioned from solid Scottish oak by designer John Galvin, pays homage to the pivotal years of the 1980s when Ardbeg faced closure in 1981 only to be revived under new ownership in 1989.
The Rollercoaster's Distillation Journey:
The first whisky in this extraordinary set, distilled in March 1981, emerged from the final cask remaining from the 1981 stock, created just two weeks before the distillery's temporary closure. This 42-year-old expression is a testament to Ardbeg's resilience, crafted from the distillery's own heavily peated malt (up to 110ppm) combined with a lightly peated malt, used for a brief period. After aging in Bourbon casks, it matured further in a single oloroso Sherry cask, resulting in a rich, spicy profile with an ABV of 47.3%.
The second whisky, boasting an ABV of 45.3%, hails from the distillery's final casks of 1989, produced just weeks after Ardbeg's revival. During this era, malt was supplied by Islay's Port Ellen Maltings, with a reduced peating level of 30-35ppm. After an initial maturation in Bourbon casks, the 33-year-old whisky underwent a reracking process into a single refill Bourbon cask, enhancing its subtle peated style.
Tasting Notes and Unique Characteristics:
CEO Caspar MacRae emphasizes the unparalleled nature of The Rollercoaster, stating, "From our distillery’s most perilous low come two unrepeatable bottlings that take Ardbeg to new heights." The 1981 expression embodies sweet and spicy Sherried notes, hinting at Ardbeg's savory side, while the 1989 counterpart combines classic lime and vanilla with sea spray and subtle smoky undertones.
Ardbeg's director of whisky creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden, describes The Rollercoaster as a "unique opportunity for collectors to experience two very different tastes of Ardbeg's heritage." These time-capsule whiskies, vividly capturing the essence of the 1980s, hold an indelible place in Ardbeg's rich history.
Limited Availability and Collector's Appeal:
With only 143 sets available and a retail price of €100,000 (US$107,167), The Rollercoaster is poised to become a highly sought-after collector's item. Available exclusively through Moët Hennessy's private client channel, this release follows the success of Ardbeg's ultra-rare single malt cask, which fetched a staggering US$19 million last year, setting a potential record.
Ardbeg's Rollercoaster not only offers a sensory journey through time but also serves as a tangible testament to the distillery's resilience and evolution. As whisky enthusiasts and collectors alike clamor for these rare expressions, The Rollercoaster cements Ardbeg's status as a global icon in the world of collectible and exceptional single malts.
About Ardbeg Distillery
Ardbeg Distillery, situated on the southern coast of the Isle of Islay in Scotland, is renowned for producing some of the peatiest and most robust single malt Scotch whiskies. Founded in 1815, Ardbeg has a long and storied history, marked by periods of closure and resurgence, but it has emerged as one of Islay's iconic distilleries.
Ardbeg whiskies are celebrated for their distinctive peat-smoked character, which arises from the malted barley being dried over a peat fire. The distillery sources its peat from the nearby Loch Uigeadail, imparting a unique maritime and earthy quality to the whiskies. Despite its intense peatiness, Ardbeg whiskies often display a remarkable complexity, featuring notes of brine, seaweed, citrus, and a subtle sweetness.
The core range of Ardbeg whiskies includes expressions such as the Ardbeg 10-Year-Old, known for its well-balanced peat and citrus flavors, and the Ardbeg Uigeadail, a beloved expression that combines whiskies matured in both ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Additionally, limited-edition releases, like the Ardbeg Committee releases, offer enthusiasts unique and highly sought-after expressions.
Ardbeg has a distinctive distillation process, utilizing copper pot stills, and its commitment to traditional methods extends to its aging process. The whiskies mature in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, contributing to the rich and complex flavor profile that Ardbeg is known for.
In addition to its whisky production, Ardbeg has a strong connection with its fan base through the "Ardbeg Committee," a global community of Ardbeg enthusiasts who receive exclusive releases and participate in events. The distillery also hosts the annual "Ardbeg Day," a celebration of all things Ardbeg, held worldwide.
Ardbeg Distillery's location on the rugged shores of Islay, its commitment to peated whiskies, and its rich history have contributed to its revered status among whisky aficionados. The distillery's dedication to the art of peat and its distinctive flavor profile make Ardbeg a cornerstone in the world of Islay single malt Scotch whisky.