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Ardbeg - The Beast of Islay - Ardbeg Day Bottlings

Updated: Mar 6

Ardbeg the beast of Islay single malt

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The first distillery on the Isle of Islay, named Ardbeg, was established in 1794 by James Stewart. However, the current Ardbeg distillery that we know and love today was licensed by John MacDougall in 1815. Many casual Ardbeg drinkers may not be aware that the distillery has experienced a couple of major closures in the past. The most notable closure occurred in 1981 when the demand for whisky dropped dramatically. During the 80s, 19 distilleries were closed, and many more were mothballed, including Ardbeg.

Although Ardbeg restored production in 1989, almost no whisky was distilled in the 90s, and the distillery closed again in 1996. A year after Glenmorangie Plc bought the distillery for £7 million and launched the Ardbeg 17yo and Provenance, the 10yo was reintroduced in 2000, and the Ardbeg Committee was established. The Committee is a 'club' for enthusiastic lovers of Ardbeg's heavily peated whisky, and today, it has more than 120,000 members worldwide. Members are entitled to the first picks of new Committee releases, which are sometimes released cask strength alongside the Ardbeg Day bottlings.

Ardbeg Day, which falls on the last Saturday of Islay's Festival of Music and Malt (also known as Feis Isle) at the beginning of June, is an annual celebration of all things Ardbeg. Since 2012, the distillery has released special bottlings to celebrate its day. In the beginning, people were lining up early in the morning to get their bottles from Ardbeg Embassies around the globe due to limited stocks, but over the years, the hype of these bottlings has settled down.

We wanted to look back and take our readers with us to remember what bottlings Ardbeg has released in the past 10 years or so to treat their fans as part of their special day.

This article also comes at a time when we're saying goodbye to Ardbeg's Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads, who has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to the whisky industry. He announced his retirement in March 2020, which he embarked on in October 2020, leaving Ardbeg distillery after 13 years.

Ardbeg single malt distillery Colin Gordon & Mickey Heads

Image by Scotch Malt Whisky Guide - Colin Gordon & Mickey Heads

The Ardbeg distillery has appointed Colin Gordon as its new manager. Gordon has previously worked with Lagavulin distillery, and we wish him the best in his new role. We also wish him good luck with the distillery's extension! We are excited to see what the future holds for Ardbeg.


2012 Ardbeg Day

In 2012, Ardbeg released a limited edition whisky to celebrate Ardbeg Day. The bottling was a blend of sweet and spicy single malts and powerful, deep, and botanical whisky from the distillery. It was then married in refill sherry casks that had been used to mature Ardbeg Uigeadail for six months.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day First Special Release 2012

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2013 Ardbog Feis Isle

Ardbog was released on Ardbeg Day, which was on the 1st of June 2013, and it has since gained a cult following among Ardbeg enthusiasts. For this whisky, the distillers first matured it in ex-Bourbon barrels before finishing it further in ex-Manzanilla Butts. Although only 13,000 bottles were produced, there is still a sizable number of bottles available for purchase across various outlets.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Ardbog  2013 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2014 Auriverdes Feis Isle

Auriverdes whisky was named after the Ardbeg bottle livery, which features gold (auri) and green (Verdes) colours. The design was also inspired by the Brazilian flag as a tribute to the country hosting the 2014 World Cup. This whisky is matured in American oak barrels for approximately 12 years. Additionally, a sample version of the whisky was created for bloggers and members of the press, which was presented in a memorable golden bottle.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Auriverdes 2014 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2015 Perpetuum Feis Isle

Ardbeg Perpetuum was released as a part of the distillery's 200th-anniversary celebrations. The word 'Perpetuum' stands for 'Forever', and it is a fitting name for hardcore Ardbeg fans to cheer at the Feis Isle music and whisky festival. This special Ardbeg Day bottling was matured in both ex-Bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It is the first Ardbeg Day bottling to offer a higher ABV version exclusively for the members of the Committee. However, Ardbeg has released other limited Committee editions before this.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Perpetuum 2015 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2016 Dark Cove

The Ardbeg Dark Cove was advertised as the 'darkest Ardbeg ever' and was partially matured in 'dark sherry' casks. However, we have seen Ardbeg's darker than the Dark Cove, even without added colouring. We believe that this bottling of Ardbeg lacked depth and complexity, which resulted in it not meeting the expectations of many.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Dark Cove 2016 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2017 Kelpie

In 2017, Ardbeg released its saltiest edition, named after a mythical water demon called Kelpie. This version of the whisky has been matured in barrels made from oak grown on land located in the Adyghe Republic in Russia, stretching down to the Black Sea coast.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Kelpie 2017 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2018 Grooves

The Ardbeg Grooves whisky has been aged in ex-red wine casks that were heavily charred to create deep grooves in the wood. This allows for maximum contact between the whisky and oak. However, it makes us wonder about the quality of the wine cask, the reason for charring it, and how much of the wine's flavour remains and affects the taste of the whisky. Despite this, the whisky's funky label is eye-catching.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Grooves 2018 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2019 Drum

Ardbeg has released a whisky that has been aged in ex-rum casks sourced from the Americas for the first time. It's important to note that there is no defined period for ageing whisky. This bottling celebrates carnivals and the Islay festival, and it was advertised with a carnival theme featuring maracas and pineapples.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Drum 2019 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2020 Blaaack - 20th Anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee

The year 2020 marked the 20th Anniversary of the Ardbeg Committee, and to celebrate the occasion, it released a special bottling called Blaack on Ardbeg Day. The name of the release honours the distillery's unique status as the 'black sheep of the family' among the Islay distilleries. The whisky is aged using red wine casks that were previously used for Pinot Noir and sourced from New Zealand, also known as the land of the sheep.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Blaaack 2020 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2021 Scorch

Ardbeg's Scorch, also known to fans as 'Alligator 2', was matured in heavily charred bourbon barrels, earning it the name 'Fire Breathing Dragon' for its full-bodied, smoky flavour.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Scorch 2021 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


2022 Ardcore

Ardcore is Ardbeg's foray into the world of punk. The whisky is made using roasted black malt, which makes up 25% of the mash bill and has been almost burned in the kiln. This results in a 'spiky' and punchy whisky. To achieve this flavour, Ardbeg reduced the malt's peatiness, allowing the 'practically incinerated' character of the barley to shine through. This barley turned the wash black, but the resulting whisky is not coloured in the same way.

Ardbeg single malt whisky Ardbeg Day Ardcore 2022 Special Release Details

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


Ardbeg single malt whisky core range

Image by The Whisky Ardvark

What's been your favourite Ardbeg release? Let us know in the comments.


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