Tuesday, November 14, 2023


Ardbeg, has today announced the launch of two whiskies from the 1980s - created at the most pivotal moments of the Islay single malt’s past, as part of a new limited-edition set.

Ardbeg - The Rollercoaster, which is comprised of 42 Year Old (47.3% ABV) and 33 Year Old (45.3% ABV) single malt Scotch whiskies, is said to be a time capsule of a bygone Ardbeg, uniting irreplaceable stock from the distillery’s most turbulent time.

Ardbeg - The Rollercoaster

While Ardbeg is today revered around the world, its path has been strewn with challenges. In the 1970s, with fashion favouring blended whiskies, just a few casks each year were set aside to be matured as single malt. As a result, stock from that decade is exceptionally hard to come by. Then during the 1980s, the Scotch whisky industry suffered a downturn, which left Ardbeg in a perilous state.

On 25th March 1981, the distillery and on-site maltings closed, and it seemed the iconic name of Ardbeg might be lost for good. Over the next eight years, the distillery stood silent, its future hanging in the balance. Eventually, as the outlook for Scotch improved, Ardbeg’s fortunes changed. And the distillery re-opened under new ownership in October 1989, to begin a new chapter.

Having closed again in 1996, the distillery reopened a year later, and since has gone from strength to strength, with its multi-award-winning range of core and limited-edition smoky single malts.

Created two weeks before the distillery’s closure, The Rollercoaster’s first whisky is from the last cask remaining from the stock of 1981. The 42 Year Old which was initially matured in Bourbon casks before being transferred into a single Oloroso sherry cask, was created from a blend of heavily peated malt (up to 110ppm) from Ardbeg’s own malting floors, as well lightly peated malt, only used at the distillery for a very short period to create “Kildalton-style” Ardbeg.

Celebrating Ardbeg’s 1989 revival, The Rollercoaster’s second whisky is one of the distillery’s final casks left from that year. It was distilled on 6th December - just weeks after production restarted, and initially matured in Bourbon casks, before being re-racked into a single refill Bourbon cask. By then, malt was supplied by Islay’s Port Ellen Maltings. And to create spirit more suitable for blends, the peating level was lowered to 30-35ppm (today it is a minimum of 50ppm).

Commenting on the launch, Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s Director of Whisky Creation, said: “Ardbeg The Rollercoaster is a unique opportunity for collectors to experience two very different tastes of Ardbeg’s heritage, and acquire a set of bottlings with an incredible story. The 1981 expression was made from some of the last malt ever to emerge from our maltings as Ardbeg teetered on the brink of closure. It is a beautiful combination of sweet and spicy sherried notes and hints of Ardbeg’s savoury side. Distilled soon after spirit flowed from the stills again, with a radically different malt, the 1989 is an equally singular Ardbeg. Classic notes of lime and vanilla combine with sea spray and very subtle, smoky tones. A snapshot of the contrasting spirits of those days, the time capsule whiskies of Ardbeg The Rollercoaster will go down in Ardbeg history.”

Limited to 143 sets, Ardbeg The Rollercoaster, will be available later this month from select specialist retailers, for a RRP of £85,000.

Posted by Steve Rush