I appreciate the arguments and opinions of Admiral, Oliver, and Ardbeg311.
And taking the original question:
Oliver wrote:What is the Best Islay Distillery in terms of quality of product and prestige. In short what would be for you the best representative of Islay's style, quality and singularity?
To meet the given criteria of "best representative of Islay's style
, and singularity
" I can easily agree with all the arguments that narrow the field to the big heavy three: Lagavulin
, and Ardbeg
. My opinion is being the most swayed by the criteria of quality
. To me this not only implies a good product, but also a consistent
product. So in my mind what really strikes against Ardbeg and Lagavulin is not that they have a poor product (far from it), but that you so often hear about how great they were
great now? Absolutely. Is Ardbeg
making great whisky? Without question. BUT you always hear about the magic Ardbegs from the 70's or the older Whitehorse Lagavulin. The recent releases of Ardbeg Uigeadail seems to not be as good as the first few. It also seemes that the 17yo slipped in quality from earlier releases. The same has been said of Lagavulin 12yo cs.
In contrast Laphroaig
is putting out bottlings as good as if not better then ever before. Sure you here about how the older 10yo was more pungent. However, the current Red Stripe cask strength 10yo is regarded by most people to be even better then the earlier Green Stripe cask strength. The 15yo and the most recent release of the 30yo seem just as good if not better then ever. And the Quarter Cask hasn't seemed to slip at all since its release.
Another factor in favor of Laphroaig
is that they have a fairly easy to understand solid line. The basic line is: 10yo, 10yo cs, QC, 15yo, 30yo, and precious few 40yo. Simple straight forward round numbers. They are usually easy to get your hands on that the price is very reasonable.
In contrast Lagavulin
really only has the 16yo readily available. Sure you can hunt high and low for the 12yo cs or the recent 30yo but good luck and it will cost you a great deal.
And what about Ardbeg
? They seem to enjoy putting out hard to get your hands on bottlings
. The Very Young and Still Young were never released in North America. The 17yo is more scarce then ever, and the 1977 seems to be gone forever. I don't even want to talk about the Ooling or the Kildalton. Still, I will concede that part of Ardbeg's problem has been rebuilding from its closure from the mid 90's. Hopefully they will get things in line in the next couple of years. I would love nothing more then to see Ardbeg really get a solid line that offers the breadth that Laphroaig has. But I highly doubt that we will see the same kind of magic that seemed to come out of the distillery in 74, 76, and 77.
So with all that I have say that in my mind that vote has to go to Laphroaig
For me the cherry on top has to do with the category of prestige
. While I would argue that of the open and operating distilleries Ardbeg
has the greatest mythic reputation/cult following I don't think that always translates into prestige. Largely because of the "classic malts" marketing from the 90's (and as Oliver pointed out Michael Jackson high praise)Lagavulin
has become a staple of every bar. So the category almost seems to be a toss up. That is until you add the very small fact that the Prince of Wales has his coat of arms on Laphroaig
. Come on . . . surely that is . . . worth something
All in all a fun topic to consider.
And I do like all the answers . . . except if you said Bunnahabhain and then you are just wrong