Ardbeg is revealing a glimpse into its past with the launch of two historical whiskies: The Rollercoaster.
The single malts date from two pivotal moments in the history of the Islay distillery: one from 1981, when the distillery was closed; and the other from 1989, the year it was purchased and reopened by Allied Distillers.
The Rollercoaster's first whisky, a 42-year-old bottling, is from the last cask remaining from the stock of 1981. It was created from a blended malt peated up to 110ppm from Ardbeg's own maltings, as well as lightly peated malt, which was only used by the distillery for a short period to create its 'Kildalton-style' whisky. The spirit was aged in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred into a single oloroso sherry cask.
The second whisky, meanwhile, celebrates the revival of Ardbeg in 1989. Bottled at 33 years old, it is also one of the final casks left from its 'birth' year. By this time, Ardbeg's malt was supplied by Port Ellen Maltings, with an average peating level of 30–35ppm. After initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks, the whisky was re-racked into a single refill bourbon cask.
Caspar MacRae, CEO of Ardbeg's current owner the Glenmorangie Company, said: “From our distillery’s most perilous low come two unrepeatable bottlings which take Ardbeg to new heights. Ardbeg The Rollercoaster shows just how far our distillery has come since its uncertain past.
“Today, Ardbeg is one of the world’s most collectible whiskies. And as its fanbase continues to grow, we are more invested in our distillery and our island community than ever before. We have built a new stillhouse to ensure the future of Ardbeg’s legendary smoky spirit, and we have recently invested in a well-known hotel on Islay, so we can create a world-class hospitality experience for residents and visitors alike.”
Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, said: “Ardbeg The Rollercoaster is a unique opportunity for collectors to experience two very different tastes of Ardbeg’s heritage, and acquire a set of bottlings with an incredible story.
“The 1981 expression was made from some of the last malt ever to emerge from our maltings as Ardbeg teetered on the brink of closure. It is a beautiful combination of sweet and spicy sherried notes and hints of Ardbeg’s savoury side. Distilled soon after spirit flowed from the stills again, with a radically different malt, the 1989 is an equally singular Ardbeg. Classic notes of lime and vanilla combine with sea spray and very subtle, smoky tones. A snapshot of the contrasting spirits of those days, the time capsule whiskies of Ardbeg The Rollercoaster will go down in Ardbeg history.”
The Ardbeg The Rollercoaster duo is presented in a box designed by John Galvin and crafted from Scottish oak. Only 143 sets will be made available (priced at 100,000€ / £85,000 per set), which will be offered to buyers worldwide through the Moët Hennessy private client channel. To register interest, visit ardbeg.com or enquire at the distillery visitor centre on Islay.