With all the clamour about gin over the last many years many people’s focus has been juniper-led, however the whisky industry has continued in an upward curve and is enjoying great success. Some of the gin we’re all seeing is often the result of a new whisky distillery bedding itself in and creating cash flow with a product which can come to market much quicker than maturing whisky.
Back to whisky though, and recently Julian has paid his bi-annual visit to the Hebridean island of Islay which now boasts 9 active whisky distilleries. Considering the island has a population of just over 3,000 people (with many more sheep and midges), this concentration of distilleries is quite amazing. Even more so if you consider the globally-known names such as Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Bowmore who call the island home.
Very much ‘family time’, Julian still found some time to visit Islay’s newest distillery, Ardnahoe. Sitting on the east side of the island in-between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila, Ardnahoe also boasts amazing views over the sound of Islay across to the Paps of Jura.
Founded by the Laing family (Stewart, Andrew and Scott), ground was broken in 2016 and distillation commenced in 2018. Whilst not having the history which it’s neighbours do, the Laing family carries much whisky heritage, so it’s no surprise the distillery was up and running so quickly.
Being a modern distillery, the tour doesn’t take you on twists and turns which are usually borne from expansion over decades. It’s a straight forward set-up, with some additionally points of interest such as their 100-yo Boby Mill which, unconfirmed comments suggest it *may* have originated in Fettercairn…
The mash-tun gleams, and the washbacks are Oregon Pine as you’d expect. But then the next little twist is the tall and elegant copper stills which overlook Jura. Much debate may be given to the type of whisky they will produce due to their shape, but what caught our eye was the incredible length of the lyne arms – if I remember correctly – 4m in length. This is of course to maximise the contact of the condensed / condensing spirit with copper.
Another point of interest in the process was the exterior worm tubs (with handily-placed mirrors for you to look inside). As well as taking advantage of the climate (although gloriously sunny on our visit), they create another point of difference on the island, as well as visual appeal too.
Now it’s too early to comment on the whisky, as it’s not yet matured and although we were given samples which *may* indicate a direction for the distillery, we’d much rather comment on the real thing. Ardnahoe is, as expected, a ‘polished’ environment and experience (the food is really good as is the service and engagement from the staff) – and over time (as with ALL young distilleries) we’ll get to see more personality and unique character come from this.
In conclusion, a great start to a new distillery which – let’s be honest – has picked some heavyweight neighbours to compete with. But as Kilchoman showed, there’s still room on this little island and Ardnahoe has made itself at home. However, with the legendary Port Ellen under refurbishment which will make 10 working distilleries – is there room for the much-rumoured 11th and 12th…!? Watch this space..