Whisky Magazine Issue 53
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If you visit Islay you have to try the cooking of Mary McKecknie and the outstanding visitor centre at Ardbeg Distillery. Richard Jones reports
A visit to a whisky distillery anywhere is always a memorable experience, but there are some that are more anticipated than most.
In many cases, it is the quality of the whisky that arouses the expectation, the opportunity to learn more about your favourite dram and taste it in situ; in others it might be the surroundings, the architecture of the distillery or a jaw-dropping location.
Or it could be the warmth of the welcome you hope to receive, the friendly faces of the staff and the high standard of hospitality.
There are very few distilleries, however, that manage to combine all of these attributes. And there are even fewer that manage it quite so dramatically as Ardbeg.
Like many, I suspect, my first trip to Ardbeg was about the whisky. This is one of the undisputed greats of the world of whisky that fate, or more precisely the machinations of global business, had conspired to deny us for so long.
The tale of woe will be familiar to you all: silent between 1981 and 1989, run sporadically between 1989 and 1996, then silent again between 1996 and 1997. It was saved on the brink of extinction by Glenmorangie in 1997 who poured investment into this much neglected distillery and, equally importantly, brought Stuart Thomson and his new wife Jackie to Islay to manage the production and visitor sides of the operation.
Eight years down the line, the whisky side at Ardbeg is in better shape than ever with a range of world-class releases from inherited stocks plus the recent a...