I’ve decided to start my look at Malt Whiskies with Ardbeg 10 year old, one of the South Islay holy trinity. Islay, located in the Inner Hebrides, is the home of some of the biggest Malts with peat being a central character. Heading to Ardbeg from Bowmore we travelled south to Port Ellen, along a flat road with peat cuttings on either side. It is said there is enough peat there for 100s of years at the current rate of use. From Port Ellen we followed the desolate coast east, passing the other 2 members of the holy trinity, Lagavulin and Laphroaig before arriving at Ardbeg. Before entering the distillery we chose to go a little further along to visit the 1,300 year old Kildalton High Cross, one of the best preserved from that era in Scotland. Back at Ardbeg one quickly gets the impression that more than a distillery it was once a village, Ardbeg used to have a large workforce, back when they cut their own peat, malted their own barley, made the whisky and stored and bottled it. The current visitor centre is modern and well run, which is as well, as they have a large visitor turn over. The tour was informative and interesting and culminated in an intimate tasting room.
As said earlier Ardbeg Malt is high in peat and as such is not to everyone’s taste. For those who like this style it is well recommended, don’t be put off by the pale colour, the nose has smoke, tar, salt chocolate and hessian, and the flavour is big, Dominic Roskrow calls it a ‘meal in a glass.’ Whisky and food matcher Franz Scheurer talked of an Ardbeg on ABC RN First Bite, saying, ‘Walk down a hospital ward, or go to a working harbour, wet ropes, diesel, wet ropes, hemp etc and much more, and it gets worse when you drink it!’
We chose to have Cullen Skink for lunch, alas the many tours had just about bought them out, so we shared the Cullen Skink with Venison Burgers and a local beer. Very nice they were too. The sun was finally coming out as we set off back down the road to Laphroaig.