Ardbeg Has A New Custom Built Stillhouse For Whisky Production

By Gary Carter / April 16, 2021

With a nod to tradition and what works, the well known Islay distillery Ardbeg recently opened the doors to its new stillhouse right on the Atlantic shore.

In an informal ceremony at the distillery, Ardbeg’s Master Distiller Colin Gordon had the honor of lowering the first peat into the still, lifting it back out before the liquid ran through.

“It’s not often a distillery manager gets to take part in something as special as this,” he said in a prepared statement. “I’m privileged to be here for it. We’ve really retained the soul of Ardbeg with this new stillhouse. We hope now there’ll be more of our ultimate Islay malt to go around.”

Ardbeg's new stillhouse

Inside Ardbeg’s new stillhouse (image via Ardbeg)

Ardbeg officials cite the rise in demand from whisky lovers for big, bold, and smoky flavors like Ardbeg’s leading to the new production, and the aim of the new stillhouse is to meet that growing demand with significantly increased capacity.

Gordon said that retaining the character of Ardbeg was at the heart of the project. The new stills were designed to the exact specification as the old ones, right down to the millimeter, he said, explaining that every nut, bolt and rivet had to be in the right place. Ardbeg officials said that altering the character of the whisky was a risk the distillery wasn’t prepared to take.

The new building, built right on Ardbeg’s shoreline, is home to two wash stills and two spirit stills, as well as a large picture window. Workers and visitors will now be able to have a dram and drink in the views over the Atlantic.

The launch of the new still came with a degree of tradition. Information from Ardbeg explained that it’s customary to “sweeten” a still with a handful of botanicals relevant to the spirit. This ritual is seen as a good luck charm among distillers. At Ardbeg, they find the best way to create the smoky malt flavors is with heather, peat and seaweed … true Islay flavors.

Dugga Bowman, Ardbeg’s head warehouseman, was tasked with securing the peat. He was sent out on a quad bike by the distillery manager with a turfing spade in hand, to locate the perfect patch.

Historically, the distillery cuts peat at Kintour Moss on the Ardtalla Estate … about three miles from Ardbeg. This is where Dugga went to find a little slice of Ardbeg history.