To be honest, when it came to whisky, as a novice who knew absolutely nothing 10-12 years ago, Ardbeg was like my first crush. The whisky I lost my virginity to in as far as drinking it neat and being able to drink it with enough regularity that I was able to finish an entire bottle over a short period of time, was Ardbeg Perpetuum. It gave me the confidence to think, maybe I can do this and really learn to appreciate the subtle variations of whiskey. To this day, it holds a special place in my heart. Ardbeg Perpetuum was different in that it had an amazingly oily mouthfeel. It was almost like you were chewing it rather than drinking it. I never knew that a whisky could taste like this. I naturally had my first tastes of single malt whisky with Laphroaig, and blends like Johnny black, blue and green starting in 2005. I got a little more experienced by 2010, but by 2012-2013 I started really getting into it with the advent of my cigar habit and 4 visits to Cuba. Not until 3 years ago did the idea of going to Scotland start growing in my head, but after my visit to Scotland a few months ago, I am firmly a believer and disciple of single malt. I have since become an Ardbeg Committee member, which was the first whisky society I joined before later enrolling in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Enough of my whisky enlightenment, let’s get to Ardbeg.
So, I only thought it would be appropriate to have my first honeymoon romp in the place where it all began with my first crush, Ardbeg. I heard about the Ardbeg cottage through the Committee emails, and I regularly called the distillery to find out the first day they were releasing room availability, and I was literally one of the first people to book the rooms once they were available online. This is the primo place to stay while you explore Islay. Not only is the price completely reasonable, but you get access to their Committee release of that year and you are centrally located in a really amazing cottage with 2 bedrooms with Queen sized beds and the third bedroom with 2 twin beds for kids. Unbelievable price of 500 pounds for 2 nights. I almost feel like I am giving away a secret I should be keeping to myself. Huge living room with an amazing kitchen, huge yard, your own parking space right next to the cottage. Check out this view from our room, straight into the ocean. Seaview is right.
What an amazing cottage! Two stories, on the distillery grounds!
This is where we played Islay Monopoly. This is like a hardcore whisky lover’s ultimate gift. I never knew this existed. I could not even find it online to buy. Must be a collector’s item.
I loved so many things about this place. It was so cozy, nice mix of mid-century chairs, nice spiral staircase, with plush tufted Ardbeg green colored leather couch that would be the centerpiece of any Man-Cave. Smeg 50’s style fridge, amazing views from every window.
If that is not enough the rental comes with a complimentary bottle of their Ardbeg 10. In our case, we asked for an upgrade to the Committee release Grooves, which was like sold out as soon as it was released, so totally badass perk of renting the Seaview Cottage.
This private backyard going out to the sea was gorgeous. Look at the little table at the hedge. Nice binoculars for watching seals fucking.
After some good seal porn peeping, it was time for a nap. I was like a statue, the whisky tastings that morning had me in a coma.
Our first tastings were at 9-10am on most days. It was like a full blown job, wake up, drink, repeat. “Working 9-5!, and my liver’s getting swollen, working 9-5, my GGT is high and holdin'”
Prime real estate here. Look how scenic this is. This was taken from the balcony upstairs. If the weather is nice enough, I would highly recommend cooking some scrambled eggs with smoked salmon from Loch Fyne, with some fresh farm cow’s milk and sit here and take in the view. We stopped at a farm on the way to our ferry to Islay to get whole cow’s milk that only lasts 4-5 days, with a whole fat creme plug at the top of the bottle. This was some serious death bed/last meal shit. I have never had milk this good in my life.
After my nap, it was time for a late lunch at the Ardbeg Distillery. They have probably the second best food on the island after the Islay Hotel. Here is their secret bar. I will never forget this entitled German prick that barged into the main entrance and caused a scene due to not being greeted with a dram at the door started yelling, “Where’s my warm welcome? I’m supposed to be greeted with a dram!!!” I almost started laughing as I thought he was joking, but when I looked at his face to see if he would laugh along he was instead dead serious.
Here is their secret bar, hidden behind the seascape wallpaper. If that’s not a Man-Cave bar to emulate at home, I don’t know what is.
It was like walking into the room of pleasures in Pan’s Labyrinth…that ends with pain in the pocketbook. Kind of like that monster being the IRS and taking a bite out of my “whisky fund” upon my return from vacation.
Every Ardbeg that was ever made was displayed here. I was Ardbeg-Green with Envy and Awe. I think they only let you taste the Kelpie, An Oa, and a few others if you take the tour with the tasting, but I walked in thinking I was going to get special treatment because we had booked the Seaview Cottage and the distiller had sized up Jerry’s cheap ass rather quickly from his interactions with Emma, the lovely host who arranged our reservation and lunches, etc.
Apparently, the news got out that Jerry likes to ask a lot of questions and expects a lot of freebies, so when I snuck out of our lunch to use the restroom, the distiller saw me head to the ‘secret bar’. He snuck up on me and I told him that I was a big Ardbeg fan, and I keep hearing my friend Jerry raving about Rennaisance, which is the final and ultimate drink in the series of Very Young, Still Young, Getting There, and that I have yet to try this and see what this fuss was all about. The distiller, feeling sorry for me said, “Well if you have never tried Renaissance that calls for a tasting.” As soon as I drank some and saved the rest in my mini-bottle he made sure to tell me with a strong Scottish accent, “Tell your friend, there’ll be no more favors!!!” I immediately started laughing and it was the funniest thing I had heard on the trip. I use this saying to this day with him. “Jerry, there’ll be no more favors!!!!”
This sample made Jerry green with envy. Here is a description of this casks strength 55% monster: Ardbeg Renaissance is the end of the series that began with the ‘Very Young’ 6yo which now changes hands for silly money on eBay. This is the first 10-year old Ardbeg that is entirely comprised of spirit produced after Glenmorangie’s takeover of the distillery in 1997. A fitting end to the series.
I could not make sense out of this one, it was like 4 people talking at the same time, too much complexity for my feeble brain to process. Besides peat and sweet notes, there was fruit, wood, and floral notes, it was like an amalgamation of all scotch regions, like a Speyside that thinks it’s an Islay. This is going to sound weird but almost reminded me of Cadbury fruit and nut milk chocolate bar, in the old wrapper.
You would get each flavor coming and going like people getting in and out of an elevator. I only had a little bit in the mini so I couldn’t perseverate on it to get any further epiphanies. I cannot bring myself to rate whiskeys and give it scores, as each flavor profile may be the bee’s knees for some and repulsive to others, so I find that descriptive metaphors just make more sense for my amateur descriptions. I’ll leave the scoring to more experienced experts like the guy in this blog. I found a nice review of this online:
All of this hard work warranted a nice walk down Ardbeg trail.
It’s actually called the Three Distillery Path. We saw a lot of backpackers coming in with this game plan.
Very pleasant walk with amazing scenery, don’t forget an umbrella.
Look at that rugged coastline. Like something out of a Sting song.
The sheep here were beyond adorable.
Ran straight to mommy when we started walking towards them.
Here’s Erika calling the place Ardberg.
On our way back we notice a sign we missed on the way in. Look at the Ardbeg Supernova sign headed straight up into the sky…Each of these locations on the sign is a different whisky release. Ardbeg takes the cake on quirkiness and playfulness compared to any other of the Islay Distilleries. Maybe this describes my affinity to them.
Supernova was a 2015 Committee release that Ardbeg actually sent into space. Here is a galactic synopsis of this by the Masters of Malt:
Ardbeg, in case you didn’t know, sent some maturing spirit into space. Or, more accurately, tubes of “Ardbeg-crafted molecules” that also contained sticks of charred oak. The idea was to compare their interactions to those of control samples on earth and the results have now been published.
To celebrate the conclusion of Ardbeg’s experiment in space, they released this final Committee release of the super-duper-peated Supernova single malt. At 100PPM (phenolic content measured in parts per million) compared to Ardbeg’s usual 55PPM, this is one of the most heavily-peated whiskeys in the world!
This was not a gimmick, actual science. Fascinating. The space sample had more peatiness and smokiness to it.
As we got back to our room, we decided to go out to the picnic table to get the last glimpses of the setting ‘sun in his jealous sky’ that had been alluding us all day.