Ardbeg distillery has unveiled The Rollercoaster, a very limited edition set of two Ardbeg whiskies distilled in the 1980s for €100,000.
The whiskies, distilled in March 1981 and October 1989 respectively, were chosen to represent the tumultuous history of the Ardbeg distillery prior to becoming an Islay institution.
The Ardbeg Rollercoaster Bottles
The first bottling was distilled in 1981 the same year in which Ardbeg was mothballed for the first time thanks to the 1980s Whisky Loch, meaning that this bottle contains some of the last whisky distilled at Ardbeg before the closure, and has been drawn from the last remaining 1981 cask at Ardbeg. The distillery reopened in 1989, after which point the whisky in the second Rollercoaster bottle was distilled.
Together the bottles tell the story of a rocky period in the life of Ardbeg and serve as a time capture of the distillery at that time.
The bottles in the set are as follows:
- Ardbeg 1981 42 Year Old, 47.3% ABV, created with a combination of heavily peated malt (~110ppm) and lightly peated malt. Aged in bourbon and then finished in an Oloroso sherry butt.
- Ardbeg 1989 33 Year Old, 45.3% ABV, created with a lower ppm malt (~30-35ppm) and matured in bourbon casks before being finished in a refill bourbon cask to enhance the subtle peaty flavour.
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The Ardbeg Rollercoaster Case
The two bottles are presented in a presentation box designed by John Galvin, a Scottish designer with a long history of collaborations with Scotch whisky distilleries such as The Macallan (The Macallan Reach), Bowmore (Bowmore STAC 55 Year Old), and Dalmore (Dalmore Constellation).
The design of the display case mirrors the up-and-down nature of Ardbeg’s lifetime, with a distinctive upward trend at the end, showing that Ardbeg is back and better than ever.
The Price of the Ardbeg Rollercoaster
The Ardbeg Rollercoaster will be available exclusively through Moët Hennessy’s private client channel and will retail at €100,000 for the set. Only 143 sets are available to purchase.
The History of Ardbeg
The Ardbeg distillery was founded in 1815 by John Macdougall on the south coast of Islay and soon became a fixture on the island. By 1887, Ardbeg’s output was 1.1 million litres per year, making it the most productive distillery on Islay. This was thanks in part to the growing demand for Ardbeg as a component in whisky blends. The distillery complex also blossomed into a small community complete with housing, a village hall, a school, and a bowling green.
In the early 20th century, the distillery was sold to DCL following an economic downturn. DCL subsequently sold Ardbeg to Hiram Walker in 1979 after the Canadian company bought DCL’s share in the company. The 1960s and 70s saw Ardbeg prosper again due to a boom in the popularity of blended whisky.
Another downturn in the market forced the distillery to close in 1981. It reopened in 1989 after being purchased by Allied Distillers and then fell silent once again in 1996. The following year, the distillery was bought by Glenmorangie plc. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength having developed a cult following during its years of mothballing.
This period of prosperity is known as the Ardbeg Renaissance, for which a bottling is aptly named. Both new whiskies and old stocks have been released, and Ardbeg has re-established itself as an Islay giant.