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Ardbeg

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1713 - The early days of distilling: If the stories are to be believed (and why not?), the inhabitants of Islay had been enjoying the effects of 'strong wines and aquavitae' for years before the Ardbeg distillery was established.

Even attempts to suppress the unruly islanders with a heavy malt tax could not deter illicit distillers and smugglers operating around Ardbeg's rocky cove.

This was perhaps an inevitable consequence for a remote island, so difficult for the excisemen to reach, yet blessed with an abundance of natural resources needed for producing whisky - fertile soil, peat bogs and unlimited supplies of soft peaty water. Somehow, against a backdrop of raiding Norsemen, inter-island clan battles and English taxation, Ardbeg emerged as "unquestionably the greatest distillery on earth."

1815 - The stage is set: Pour a dram and drink to the MacDougall's - those visionary local farmers who established the Ardbeg Distillery in its present form. The commercial production of Ardbeg as we know and love it had begun... As Ardbeg's popularity grew, so did the community of workers and their families. The distillery became the focus of their vibrant social life, with a choir, billiards, drama, cricket and dancing. On warm evenings, folk would gather to sing on the hillside beside the harbour, accompanied by mouth organs, pipes and a few drams. We feel it's fair to say that not a lot has changed since then, except for the odd skinny dipper spied off the end of the pier...

1981 - Dark days at the distillery: Despite the tremendous popularity of Ardbeg across the world, the distillery experienced fluctuating fortunes. Eventually, production dwindled to a trickle. By 1981, it was mothballed. 18 jobs were lost and the last vestiges of the community crumbled. It seemed the Jewel of Islay might be lost to the world forever...

1997 - There's life in the old girl yet! A world without Ardbeg? Not if Glenmorangie plc had anything to do with it! In 1997, recognising the uniquely graceful and balanced qualities of this precious malt, they stepped in to revive, repair and restore the distillery back to its former glory. Over 1.4 million has been spent on new heating tanks, steam lines, feed tanks and more. Three washbacks have been replaced in Oregon pine, and one of the stills faithfully replicated down to the tiniest detail. Even some familiar faces are working here once again. The maltings are now in Port Ellen, still made to Ardbeg's exact requirements, which has left the original buildings with their distinctive pagoda roofs free to house the Old Kiln Cafe and shop - now a hub of activity for locals and visitors alike.

2000 - Keeping doors open forever: Throughout the years, many people have striven to safeguard the heritage of this beautiful, unique malt. With the formation of The Ardbeg Committee it is almost assured that Ardbeg will be enjoyed for generations to come and that the distillery doors will never close again.

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