Old, established liquor brands usually take themselves pretty seriously. It’s all about the age, the cask, the heritage, which is all fine and good, but it sure is refreshing to find a brand that likes to have a little fun. Leave it to the Scots.
Ardbeg is one of those ancient Scottish whiskys that your granddad would most definitely appreciate. Established in 1815 (hold onto your kilts for the 200 year anniversary in 2015), the distillery is known for the peatiest and smokiest whisky. In the early 20th century Ardbeg was prized by blenders like Mister Johnny Walker, almost like a special ingredient back in the day. But the distillery was bought by another peat lovers’ whisky, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg was soon nearly completely shut down. Glenmorangie bought the brand in 1996 and then Glenmorangie was acquired by LVMH in 2006. Now their fate is secured and they are cozied up to a plethora of other luxury brands and yet they still get to keep that individuality and quirkiness Ardbeg is known for.
So how left field is Ardbeg? Well we spoke to Gregor Mina, their brand director, and he told us that they are the first whiskey to be in space! “We have a vial of Ardbeg on the space station,” he told us with great Scottish gusto. To promote this moment in history, the company has sent out a full sized rocket on an 18 wheeler around America which stops at different events so that locals can learn more about this whopper of a whisky.
Gregor also gave us a bit of a backstory concerning Bourbon and Whisky:
– American whiskey is spelled with an ‘E’.
-American whiskey requires a new barrel every time. This probably stems from the timber lobby back in the 40s and 50s that was trying to provide American jobs.
-In Scotland they use seasoned barrels (and one’s from American whiskey distilleries). But they only use them twice. It’s like a tea bag, you wouldn’t use one more than twice either.
-Ardbeg will never release a whisky younger than ten years old. (Needless to say when Glenmorangie bought them, they had to wait 10 years until they sold the first bottle).
Ardbeg is located in a very old part of Scotland up in the Hebrides and is effectively situated on a peat bog. Laphroaig and Lagavulin are both next to them so they are in good company and it goes to show how popular the island is for whisky making. There are distillery tours around the island and apparently there is a van that circles the roads after business hours since often times whisky lovers are found passed out before they make it back to their hotel. Class!
We also asked Gregor for a recipe for the cooler days ahead and here is what he provided:
The Arbeg Bloody Mary
(Scots call it the Dirty Mary, ahem).
Simply replace vodka with Ardbeg and make it as spicy as possible and add a garnish of bacon.
Then crack open some oysters and pour in a bit of Ardbeg and eat them directly.
After several more Dirty’s we are sure you will be able to sing just like these guys.
To keep up with Ardbeg in the USA and their rocket whereabouts, ‘like’ their Facebook page.