Black Bowmore 50 Year, The Last Cask To Be Rediscovered

Bowmore® Islay Single Malt Whisky, the first distillery on Scotland’s isle of Islay, has announced the release of the fifth and final edition of the exclusive Black Bowmore® 1964 distillation. Available from 1 November 2016, the last cask to be discovered of Black Bowmore® has spent an astonishing 50 years maturing in Bowmore’s legendary No.1 Vaults, the world’s oldest Scotch maturation warehouse, making this captivating whisky the most aged expression of the Black Bowmore® series.

UNLOCK HIDDEN DEPTHS™ The unique environment of Bowmore’s No. 1 Vaults has ensured that this sequestered last cask of Black Bowmore® to be rediscovered has developed a rich and intense yet perfectly balanced flavour of exceptional depth and quality. After 50 years of meticulous maturation in the vaults, Black Bowmore® offers a sublime elegance with flavours of tropical fruit and honeyed black truffle complemented by the signature peat smoke notes of Bowmore®. With its exquisite deep black pearl colour imparted from the Oloroso sherry casks that it was matured in, Black Bowmore® 50 Year Old is beautifully rounded and complex and should be served and savoured neat.

HIGHLY COLLECTABLE Black Bowmore® was first distilled on 5 November 1964 at the Bowmore distillery on Islay, and over the years, has become one of the most rare and sought-after single malt whiskies ever created. With 4 acclaimed releases, the first in 1993 and the fourth in 2007, one last cask was rediscovered in the darkest corner of the No.1 Vaults. Having been carefully nurtured by Bowmore’s master craftsmen and with only 159 bottles available internationally, the last cask of Black Bowmore® to be rediscovered has all the hallmarks of a collector’s whisky.

A refined dram with its remarkable concentration of flavour and depth superbly defines the Black Bowmore® collection’s half-century history. Filled and sealed by hand, the last edition in the series will be presented in a stunning handmade cabinet revealing the beguiling history of Black Bowmore® with each silver contour marking the passing of time since the historic first distillation. Launching just in time for the festive gifting period, this rare whisky makes the ideal gift for whisky lovers and luxury collectors alike.

Only 10 bottles will be available in the UK from 1 November 2016 at selected whisky specialists including The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason RRP £16,000 | 40.9% | 700ml

Hunter Laing & Co. Gets Go Ahead To Build New Islay Distillery

Hunter Laing & Co. has been given the green light from Argyll and Bute Council to build a new malt whisky distillery on Islay. The family-owned Glasgow whisky company led by Andrew and Scott Laing, along with their father, Stewart, expect to start work on Ardnahoe distillery in November and the first drop to flow from their stills in early 2018.

Hunter Laing & Co., which was established in May 2013 and distributes whisky to 65 markets around the world, submitted its planning application earlier in the year and will now proceed with plans to build Ardnahoe distillery on a four-acre piece of land at Ardnahoe, on the north east coast of Islay near Port Askaig. The land has been purchased from Islay Estates.

The distillery, which will focus on creating a single malt Islay whisky, will be the ninth on the island and the first to be built since Kilchoman was established in 2005. The distillery will draw water from the nearby Ardnahoe Loch and production of around 200,000 litres of alcohol is planned for the first year.

Commenting on the new distillery, Andrew Laing, Director, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our plans for Ardnahoe have been approved. Since starting our company, we’ve seen a huge demand for Islay whisky around the world and now is the perfect time to make the progression from blenders and bottlers to distillers and secure our own supply of Islay single malt.”

Adding his thoughts, Scott Laing, Director, said: “Our father spent time on Islay early in his career while working for a brief spell at Bruichladdich. He has always had a natural affinity with the island and we’re all fans of the peaty style of whisky it is renowned for so it’s wonderful to be able to build a distillery on the island.”

The building of the distillery will see a visitor centre comprising of a café, tasting room and shop. The distillery will create many full-time positions on the island, as well as a number of seasonal roles.

Remarking on the distillery, Stewart Laing, Managing Director, said: “This is the natural next step in the journey of Hunter Laing & Co. To be able to work with my sons on the new distillery is a real joy, as is the opportunity to be part of the incredible tradition of whisky-making on Islay, the whole experience is a dream come true.”

Hunter Laing & Co. Family To Build New Distillery On Islay

Hunter Laing Islay distillery CAD image copy

Whisky entrepreneurs Andrew and Scott Laing, along with their father, Stewart, today reveal plans for Islay’s first new distillery in a decade. An application has been submitted with Argyll and Bute Council to build the new malt whisky distillery at Ardnahoe, on the North East coast of the island. Should permission be granted for the £8m project, land currently owned by Islay Estates will be transferred to the whisky company.
Since Hunter Laing & Co. began operating in May 2013, the highly successful independent bottler and blender has been investigating the opportunities for owning its own distillery. After extensive work, the family pinpointed the four-acre site near Port Askaig as the only viable option to meet the needs for their expanding business. Subject to approvals, the new distillery is expected to see the first drop flow from their stills by the end of 2017.

Commenting on the plans, Andrew Laing, Director, said: “We have shown formidable growth in the last two years and the time is now right for us to invest for the future. While this is our family’s first foray into distilling, my father’s 50 year record of blending quality products of high demand and our three generations of expertise in the whisky industry ensures we enter this venture with strong confidence.”

Adding his thoughts, Scott Laing, Director, said: “Our family has had a long affiliation with Islay and my father spent time in the early part of his career at Bruichladdich Distillery. The opportunity to bring fresh investment to the island, create jobs and provide a new chapter in Islay’s illustrious whisky-making history is tremendously exciting for all of us.”

The building of the distillery is planned in two phases, with the first seeing the establishment of distilling operations, warehousing and a visitor centre comprising of a café, tasting room and shop. The second will see an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing. Contractors for the build have been identified and will begin cutting turf in May 2016, pending approval. The distillery will create several full-time positions on the island, as well as a number of seasonal roles.
Lord Margadale, Chairman of Islay Estates, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Hunter Laing in the development of a new distillery on Islay. This project will contribute considerably to the island’s economy through the direct provision of jobs, it will also increase the demand for barley from Islay farmers and add to the attraction of Islay as a destination for the increasing number of followers of Scotch whisky around the world. Islay is a beautiful, tranquil and fertile island that is famed for its distinctive whisky; this is an exciting opportunity to build on this reputation and to help secure a strong economic future for the Island.”

Remarking on the opportunity, Stewart Laing, Managing Director, said: “The surge in demand for single malt Scotch whisky from Islay in recent years has been extraordinary. While the established distilleries on the island have been increasing production, there is obvious room for yet further expansion in output as discerning drinkers the world over are charmed by the rich, smoke-filled flavours that have become such an integral part of the island’s style of whisky. The new facility is being designed to create a particular style of spirit that we know from our experience of selling whisky in 65 countries around the world will appeal to the Islay whisky lover. By building this distillery, we are fulfilling a long held dream. ”

Now the application has been submitted to the council, a 21-day public consultation period will begin.

Bruichladdich Distillery


Recently, Joanne Brown of Bruichladdich sat with the Manchester Whisky Club and guided us through the range from Islay. It got me thinking though at my surprise of never featuring the brand on this site. I’d come across Bruichladdich and Joanne at the Fishermans Retreat a few years back, and even worked alongside the brand with tastings across the UK last year, but never had I dived in a really got to know the name and liquids they produce.

So lets rectify this.

Bruichladdich was built back in 1881 by the Harvey brothers, William, John and Robert. Located on the shore of Loch Indaal, on the Rinns of Islay (the westernmost part of the island) they utilised their family history as the Harvey name had owned two Glasgow distilleries since 1770 (Yoker and Dundashill). Creating the distillery from scratch instead of the usual method of converting from old buildings, the, at the time, state-of the art design of using stone from the sea-shore and building around a spacious courtyard on a slope had its advantages and set them up for the future (the slope for example leads to gravity-fed distillation, becoming more efficient).

They commissioned two unique tall and narrow-necked pot stills, going against the usual wider stills favoured at the time. Only 5 years later, William was left to run the distillery after a disagreement with his brothers. Although he ran the company until his death in 1936, this was to be the last involvement the family had as in 1938, Joseph Hobbs, Hatim Attari and Alexander Tolmie purchased the distillery for £23 000 through the company Train & McIntyre. They themselves then sold it onto Ross & Coulter from Glasgow in 1952, who incidentally sold to A. B. Grant in 1960, then Invergordon Distillers took over eight years later. Despite the many owners, in 1975 the number of stills increased to four to keep up with the demand. This did not last long though as in 1983 it temporarily closed and soon after, Whyte & Mackay bought out Invergordon Distillers, seeing Bruichladdich distillery surplus to requirements in the January of 1995.

The brands fortunes turned around though in the new Millennium as Mark Reynier of the group Murray McDavid bought the distillery from Whyte & Mackay (then named as JBB Greater Europe) for £6.5 millon on 19th December, making sure the stock dating back to 1964 came with him. Hiring Jim McEwan of Bowmore fame, he became their Master Distiller and started Bruichladdich’s first distillation on 29th May 2001 after 5 months of dismantling the whole distillery, then reassembled with the original Victorian equipment. In September, the first bottlings from the old casks were released (10, 15 and 20 yrs) followed by the first in the Octomore range in 2002. In 2003, Bruichladdich became the only distillery on Islay to have its bottling on-site. On 23rd July 2012, Rémy Cointreau reached an agreement with Bruichladdich to buy the distillery for a sum of £58 million.

So although it started well, changed hands several times, closed, then re-opened to the point of becoming one of the main names in Scottish whisky, how does it all fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Joanne Brown, Ambassador of Bruichladdich
Joanne Brown, Ambassador of Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie – 46%

Made with 100% Scottish barley and matured in American white oak barrels. Peat notes on the nose with hints of vanilla, citrus and citrus fruit. A softer peat flavour on the palate, with the vanilla still present alongside apples and citrus fruits. The peat smooths the dram out with a lingering finish.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 – 50%

Harvested in 2006 and distilled in 2007, the grain for this was grown for Bruichladdich in the Minister’s Field at Rockside Farm by Mark and Rohaise French.
Heather mixed with ripe fruits of pears and pineapples on the nose, with a palate full of the fruits and floral notes blending well.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006 – 50%

Produced from crops planted in the Achaba and Achfad fields on Kynagarry farm, Islay. The fields hadn’t been used for agriculture in over a century and no chemicals were used either.
Bold citrus aromas on the nose with an oily butter note that follows to the palate. Rather thin and sharp, creating a dry spice in time for a big barley finish.

Bruichladdich Black Art 4 1990 – 49.2%
Matured using French and American oak. Fresh fruit on the nose with soft sherry and glazed cherry mixed with green apple. Rich, bold sherry with a developing sharpness upon the palate, with deep port flavours creating a very long finish with plenty of port and a natural sweetness.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley – 50%

Peated to 40ppm. Iodine, black pepper and heavy smoke dominate the nose, with a sweet, smooth and slightly warming palate of toffee and vanilla create a long-lasting finish.

Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1 5yr Scottish Barley – 57%

Peated to 167ppm. Notes of the crisp sea mixed with iodine aromas, with a little pepper and heather following. Lots of flavours on the palate – barley, oak, vanilla, pear and citrus dancing nicely. A warm finish.

Bruichladdich Octomore 06.3 Islay Barley 2009 – 64%

Peated to 258ppm. Soft dry smoke on the nose with soft peat and damp oak combining. Oily on the palate, lots of malt, with a very sharp kick of heavy peat, backed by an underlining sweetness that creates a lingering, dry finish.

Bruichladdich Cuvee 407 PX – 46%

21-year-old whisky aged in American oak and finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Deep notes of port and sherry on the nose, with a very smooth offering of vanilla. Rich sherry on the palate, with citrus notes drying out the experience to create thin yet very long finish.

Going from unpeated, to heavily peated to super heavily peated offers a cracking change in flavour profiles, and offers the world surely something for everybody. If you’re still struggling, perhaps The Botanist gin would help?

Created and produced by Bruichladdich since 2010, The Botanist is slow distilled in ‘Ugly Betty’, a Lomond Still and one of the last in existence. The distillation takes seventeen hours and involves nine classical gin aromatics with a further 22 locally picked wild Islay botanicals, including;

Bruichladdich(*) = Non Islay Botanical

Angelica root *
Apple Mint 
Birch leaves
Bog Myrtle leaves
Cassia bark *
Chamomile (sweet)
Cinnamon bark *
Coriander seed *
Creeping Thistle flowers
Elder flowers
Gorse flowers
Heather flowers
Hawthorn flowers
Juniper (prostrate) berries
Juniper berries *
Lady’s Bedstraw flowers
Lemon Balm
Lemon peel *
Liquorice root *
Meadow Sweet
Orange peel *
Orris root *
Peppermint leaves
Mugwort leaves
Red Clover flowers
Sweet Cicely leaves
Thyme leaves
Water Mint leaves
White Clover
Wood Sage leaves

In the 17 hours of distillation, the gin is distilled after an overnight maceration of the nine base botanicals – the seed, berry, bark, root and peel categories – in spirit and Islay spring water. This alcohol vapour infusion from the distillation then passes through the botanical basket containing the 22 more delicate Islay aromatic leaves and petals, effectively creating a double infusion.

The Botanist – 46%

Bold apple and mint aromas on the nose, with orange, lemon and natural honey following nicely. Soft and very smooth texture on the palate, with a warming of citrus and floral orange. Slight spice on the tip of the tongue, but a great blend of subtle flavours, with a mint finish.
So perhaps Islay’s first and only gin could be a treat for you? Whether it’s Bruichladdich using 100% barley from Islay or Scotland, or The Botanist with its fray into a variety of botanicals, I think you’ll be covered for any time of the day! Grab some bottles, crack them open and enjoy.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bowmore Launches New Luxurious Range

BowmoreBowmore Islay Single Malt Whisky, one of the world’s most prized and beloved whiskies, is launching a new range of luxurious single malts, exclusively available in Travel Retail & Duty Free
shops worldwide. Reserved solely for the discerning traveller, this selection of premium single malts has been inspired by Bowmore’s extraordinary home, the island of Islay.

Beautifully packaged, the new range takes inspiration from the magical and remote island of Islay, widely regarded as Scotland’s whisky island. The trio of whiskies, including Black Rock, Gold Reef and White Sands 17 Year Old, celebrate the rich diversity of this unique and enchanting environment, whilst communicating the provenance, tradition and craftsmanship of Bowmore, #pieceofislay.

Upholding its commitment towards whisky connoisseurs and collectors, Bowmore has created a premium and highly giftable range that pays tribute to its previous collection – Bowmore Black, Bowmore Gold and Bowmore White, which is one of the world’s most collectable single malt ranges.


At the heart of the range is Black Rock, an incredibly rich single malt named after the jaggy outcrop that’s clearly visible in the bay across from the distillery, which has stood on the shores of Loch
Indaal since 1779. Matured predominately in first-fill ex-Spanish sherry casks, the result is a delicious balance of peat smoke, treacle toffee and orange.


Venture further out to sea, deep beneath the waves, and you’ll be greeted by the island’s reefs. The warm glow of the sun’s rays reflecting off the coral seabed can be seen in the deep golden hues that catch your eye inside every bottle of Gold Reef. A satisfyingly smooth malt, it’s matured mostly in first-fill ex-bourbon casks with notes of vanilla, citrus fruits and coconut milk.


Bowmore White Sands 17 Year Old is the pièce de résistance in the range. Not only is it Bowmore’s Master Distiller Eddie MacAffer’s personal favourite, it has also been inspired by the stunning beaches of The Big Strand and Laggan Bay, a stretch of coast just south of the Bowmore distillery.
The whisky has been matured for 17 years in Bowmore’s legendary No.1 Vaults, the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland. Savour notes of rich treacle toffee and ripe exotic fruits bound together by warm peat smoke.


Founded in 1779, Bowmore is the oldest distillery on Islay; an archaeological treasure trove and a haven for whisky aficionados around the world. Standing proud on the shores of Loch Indaal, the
distillery’s proximity to the sea, along with the combination of peat, barley, sea breeze, water, wood, people and tradition together create the perfectly balanced warm and smoky character of Bowmore Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

Manchester Whisky Club Review – October

Manchester Whisky Club

The end of last month saw the next meeting of the Manchester Whisky Club held at The Castle in Manchester. Like previous meetings, a region of Scotland was the order of the day, with Smoke in the Water covering Islay and beyond being the chosen. Club founder Andy brought with him 5 expressions, but like last month, set a challenge to the rest of the members and revealed the brand names at  the end, so effectively a night of blind tastings. So without further a do, lets see how they all fared –

Tomatin Cù Bòcan – 46%

Very light with a nose of chocolate, peaches and plums. Aromas of cereal and barley come through too. A dryness on the palate, with corn syrup flavours dominating over whispers of peat and oak. Long.

Millstone Peated – 40%

Golden syrup notes on the nose, with light lemon and caramel also present alongside delicate smoke aromas. Peppermint blends with caramel on the palate, creating a smooth texture with flavours of smoke, prickly heat and a short finish.

Bunnahabhain Toiteach
Bunnahabhain Toiteach

Bunnahabhain Toiteach – 46%

Rich tequila like notes on the nose with subtle smoke, a slight citrus aroma and salty fudge blended with hints of iodine. An incredibly rich and powerful palate with mouth-watering bursts of vanilla, plenty of smoke and fresh iodine straight from the sea. Very, very long. Stunning.

BenRiach 17yr Septendecim – 46%

Slight smoke on the nose with a light cream and oil aroma. Slightly floral too. A sharp, dry biscuit flavour on the palate, with a developing peat and heather heat, with a short citrus burst. A very long finish.

Kilchoman 100% Islay 3rd Edition – 50%

Aromatic pears on the nose has a subtle smoke lingering soon after on the nose. Soft peat on the palate, with some flavours of citrus lemons coming through for a long finish.

A very diverse collection, with many of the expressions causing quite a discussion. As you can see there were none of your regular Islay and Smoky names such as Lagavulin, Bowmore or Laphroaig, so this gave a great chance to try some of the lesser known, or in the case of Tomatin, brand new expressions. A highlight for me though would be the Bunnahabhain Toiteach. An incredible dram, and one that I’ll be searching in every whisky bar known to man. This should be there.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bowmore Islay Single Malt Launches The Devil’s Casks

BM_DevilsCask_Bot_Cart-hi copy


Bowmore, Islay’s first Single Malt Scotch whisky, has announced the launch of The Devil’s Casks – a devilishly delicious dram which has been matured exclusively – and unusually – for 10 years in the finest first fill sherry casks. This non chill-filtered, small batch release is bursting with Bowmore’s hot and fiery characteristics, deep mahogany colour and rich fruitcake flavour.

Created to celebrate one of Islay’s most famous tales – a story shrouded in myth and legend – 6,000 bottles of The Devil’s Casks will be released in October, just in time for Halloween. The story goes that the Devil himself was spotted in the round church of Bowmore and chased by local congregation down into the No. 1 vaults at the Bowmore distillery. Here, as the warehousemen were filling casks and loading them aboard the paddle steamer (The Maid of Islay) the devil was lost. It is believed he escaped in a cask of Bowmore bound for the mainland.

The devil is in the detail when it comes to packaging for this delectable treat – the perfect addition to any whisky connoisseur’s collection. A deep red box tells the story of the legend alongside smoke illustrations and a Devil’s pitchfork suggesting the Devil himself isn’t far away!

Bowmore’s Master of Malts Iain McCallum: “Ten year’s maturation in first fill sherry casks has brought out Bowmore’s fiery characteristics. The notes in this dram are hot and seductive. This small batch release is quite simply, devilishly good!”

540 bottles of the Devil’s Casks has been released in the UK priced at £50.99 RRP, 56.9% ABV. Bowmore The Devil’s Casks is available from October.



Bowmore is a brand that is well-known to not only the whisky enthusiasts of the world, but recognisable to even the most amateur of whisky drinkers. It’s location on an island that holds no fewer than eight distilleries means that it has to produce the best it can on a constant basis. And I think that for over 200 years since its first opened, it seems only right to check out the oldest distillery on Islay, and to see how it has achieved its longevity.

The Western harbour town of Bowmore, Islay’s capital is the home to the brand since 1779, founded by a gentleman named John Simpson. Following the purchase of the distillery in 1837 by William and James Mutter, the distillery was resold in 1892 to an English businessmen consortium named Bowmore Distillery Company Ltd after some additional construction of the distillery. Changing hands twice during the late 1920’s (J. B. Sheriff and Company in 1925 and Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1929) and again in 1950 when William Grigor & Son took over, 1963 saw the distillery purchased for £117,000 by Stanley P Morrison. Bowmore has had a long affiliation with Japanese pioneers Suntory who acquired a 35% stake in the company during the late 1980’s and in 1994, they bought the company outright. The famous legendary Black Bowmore is launched in 1993 with a recommended price of £100 (at least ten times the amount today if it can be found). Another two versions were also released in 1994 and 1995. One year after the Japanese takeover, Bowmore was nominated for ‘Distiller of the Year’ in the International Wine and Spirits competition.

A chequered history of owners, but that should never come across your mind to doubt its quality. Bowmore comes across as a little different to its main Islay competitors. Far from being a lighter offering compared to its Northern Islay-based Bunnahabhain, or as heavily peated nor as smoky as its three Southern names surrounding Port Ellen. It’s due to its unique combination of the pure water from the Laggan River, traditional floor-malted barley (one of only a handful of distilleries in Scotland who still perform this method) that has been carefully smoked in a peat-fired kiln and matured in oak casks left to rest in the No. 1 Vaults – the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland and the only one below sea level.

So how does this well-balanced Islay whisky fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on the range so far –

Bowmore 23yr
Bowmore 23yr

Bowmore 12yr – 40%

A heavy nose of burnt peat blended with chocolate follows on the palate with a deep, smokyness balanced out with flavours of lemon and honey.

Bowmore 15yr – 43%

Finished for three years in a Oloroso sherry butt, it creates a light, fruity nose with raisin aromas and a slight smoke note. Treacle flavours on the palate, again with a slight smokyness with a short finish.

Bowmore 23yr – 50.8%

Matured exclusively in port casks for 23 years. An instant aroma of sea smoke and subtle iodine with dark cherry notes on the nose. A developing palate of hard peat, rich fruit and damp smoak from the port wood produce a mouth-watering and extremely long finish.

Bowmore Tempest Batch No. 3 –55.6%

Aged for a decade in first-fill bourbon casks. Very dry on the nose with a balanced mix of peat and smoke. Still rather dry once it hits the palate, but develops flavours of lemon and salt with a peppery finish.

Bowmore Tempest Batch No. 4 – 55.1%

Aged for ten years in first-fill ex-bourbon casks in their No.1 Vaults. Wood notes on the nose, slight sweetness of vanilla and a fresh hit of honey. Blackcurrant dominates the palate briefly, creating an acidic mouth-feel. Vanilla, chocolate and dashes of smoke round off the flavour, complete with a dry finish.

Bowmore Devil's Cask
Bowmore The Devil’s Casks

Bowmore The Devil’s Casks #3 – 56.7%

Matured in first fill sherry casks, Oloroso and Pedrox Ximenez. Bowmore’s third, and final, release in the sought after Devil’s Casks series.
A fresh, deep fruit nose of sultana, raisin and flesh mango. A sharp, dry flavour upon the palate of treacle, dried fruit and orange ladened oak that offers a long finish.

Some cracking drams available, with the new 23yr the pick of the bunch so far, although it’s a shame only 12,000 bottles will ever be released. The main range also includes Legend, an 18yr as well as a 25yr, with Limited Editions and Specialist Release always showing a treat or two for your cabinet at home.

Bowmore really shows why it has stood the test of time and rightly serves as Islay’s oldest distillery. Its continuation to showcase bottlings in various ways proves popular with the whisky world, and I hope that it doesn’t fall from grace any time soon.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ardbeg Tasting Notes


Ardbeg is another name in the whisky world that I have encountered on many occasion, and since we’ve just had Ardbog day (1st June), it makes sense to combine my experiences into one place and discover why Ardbeg won World’s Best Whisky for three years running.

Ardbeg, from the Scottish Gaelic: Àrd Beag, meaning Little Height, is found within a small cove off the south coast of Islay, its home since 1815. A gentleman named John McDougall founded the distillery until handing it over to Thomas Buchanan in 1838, who was a Glasgow spirit merchant, for £1,800. John’s son Alexander continued to manage the operations though until his death in 1853 where the company was then ran by Colin Hay and McDougall’s sisters Margaret and Flora (quite possibly becoming Scotland’s first female distillers). By the early 20th Century, Ardbeg trademarked its name and its distinctive letter ‘A’ after hearing that they are the most productive distillery on Islay.

An uncertain future came during the 20th Century where The Alexander McDougall & Co. Ltd purchased Ardbeg for £19,000 in 1922 before being bought by Ardbeg Distillery Ltd in 1959 and then Hiram Walker in 1977. Unfortunately, Ardbeg stopped production and closed its doors in 1981. Hope came in the form of Allied Lyons purchasing Hiram Walker, but ultimately closed again in 1991. Six years later, the Glenmorangie company purchased the distillery and in less than a year it was voted Distillery of the Year and producing 600,000 litres a year by 1999.

Ardbeg came full circle by winning Jim Murray’s World’s Best Whisky award in 2008 for it’s 10 year-old expression, before again winning in 2009 with Uigeadail and 2010 with Supernova.

So how does Ardbeg come about?

Ardbeg uses water from Loch Uigeadail located three miles away behind the distillery, as well as malt from Port Ellen. Ardbeg are also one of the very few that use a Boby Mill to crush their malt into grist. Boby Mills are extremely rare within the whisky industry and are more commonly found within breweries. After being distilled twice, Ardbeg uses commonly ex-bourbon casks but sherry butts and new French oak barrels are also selected for different expressions.
For a more detailed look into the production method, check out this nifty page.

As mentioned, I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the Ardbeg range, so with this, below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Ardbeg 10yr – 46%

On the nose, a subtle hint of peat mixes with light hits of smoke. Lemon and limes are also swirling slowly. The palate enjoys light, fresh combinations of cinnamon, lemons and limes with a hint of iodine.

Ardbeg Uigeadail – 54.2%

A smooth, mellow hint of peat with honey and sugar mixing well on the nose. However the palate has a sharp peat hit mixing with winter spices that mellows quickly to produce a rather short after-taste.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 57%

Light, peat iodine notes with lots of herbs and blackcurrant combining well on the nose. A soft blend of cream and spices start well initially, but develops into a rather harsh dance of salt and iodine for a short after-taste.

As you can imagine, Ardbeg isn’t one for cocktails, however it’s not too bad when it comes to being used within a garnish * –

Old Quartermaster
Old Quartermaster

Old Quartermaster

Glass – 


Ingredients – 

30 ml Mt. Gay Eclipse Black rum
22.5 ml Famous Grouse scotch whisky
15 ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
4 drops Ardbeg as garnish
1 orange twist, as garnish

Method – 

Stir over ice and strain into a small chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add the garnish so that each drop represents a point of a compass. Squeeze the twist over the drink, then discard.

Well worth a try if your ever in a bar that stocks the Ardbeg range. Or of course stock up at home, you need to raise a late glass to what is turning into an annual Ardbeg day anyway!

* Recipe courtesy of Gaz Regan.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Lagavulin Tasting Notes


A well-known Scottish whisky that springs to mind when you talk about the Islands is Lagavulin. This is also a brand that has got a fantastic range, but more on the exclusive side. So why the limitations?

The distillery of Lagavulin officially dates from 1816, when two gentleman going by the names of John Jonston and Archibald Campbell constructed two distilleries on the site. Records show illicit distillation in at least ten illegal distilleries on the site as far back as 1742 but by the 1830’s only two distilleries remained in the bay – Lagavulin and Ardmore (although this has nothing to do with its namesake, as far as I can tell). In 1837 these distilleries amalgamated to form Lagavulin. At this stage the distillery was under the ownership of the Graham brothers and James Logan Mackie. In the 19th century, several legal battles ensued with their neighbour Laphroaig, brought about after the distiller at Lagavulin, Sir Peter Mackie, leased the Laphroaig distillery. It is said that Mackie attempted to copy Laphroaig’s style. Since the water and peat at Lagavulin’s premises was different from that at Laphroaig’s, the result was different.
Lagavulin was the best-selling Islay single malt scotch until 1998, when it was overtaken by the neighbouring Laphroaig. Its slight demise can be factored towards the fact that Lagavulin is currently experiencing problems in meeting whisky demands. The recent difficulties stem from a few decades when working conditions were decidedly lax; a two day working week led to very low production and it was not until 1981 that a five day week was finally instated. This could be a major fact in the lack of a more regular and widely seen portfolio.

Lagavilin is created in the traditional way too, but at a much slower rate.

The barley used to distil Lagavulin is malted at nearby Port Ellen and has perhaps twenty times as much exposure to peat smoke as a typical Speyside such as Cragganmore. Fermentation of the barley is a slow process where between 55 and 75 hours are taken. The four stills at Lagavulin, two of them pear-shaped, follow the original practice of the slowest distillation of any Islay malt – around five hours for the first distillation and more than nine hours for the second.

So how does it all fare? Well below, i give to you my tasting notes on my experiences with their range so far –

Lagavulin 16yr – 43%

Heavy peat on the nose with whispers of smoke and iodine. Very rich on the palate with the peat bursting several times. Slightly dry, with a biscuit malt, subtle spices and a long lingering finish.

A distillers edition ad 12yr cask strength are the two other more common varieties, but if you ever see Lagavulin behind a bar, or indeed someone’s drinks cabinet, your more than likely going to encounter the 16yr, and if you do you’ll experience something fantastic.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.