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Islay’s Ardnahoe Distillery unveils first whisky

Inaugural Release marks the first whisky from the distillery since it opened in 2018.

Islay’s Ardnahoe Distillery will release its first ever whisky bottling, Inaugural Release, on 10 May (RRP: £70).

Aged for five years in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks, and bottled at 50% abv, the single malt is the first from a new distillery on the island since 2009. The release marks a historic moment for Ardnahoe, the name of which means ‘Height of the Hollow’ in Scottish Gaelic.

Situated on the northeast coast of Islay, Ardnahoe is the culmination of a family’s dream to have its own distillery on the famous whisky-making island – namely Stewart Laing and sons Andrew and Scott of independent bottling and blending company Hunter Laing & Co.

The distillery lays claim to a number of records: It’s the only distillery on Islay using worm tubs; its stills have the longest lyne arms in Scotland (at 7.5 metres); and its water source, Loch Ardnahoe, is said to be the deepest on Islay.

Commenting on the whisky heritage behind Islay’s ninth distillery, Andrew said: ‘As a family we’ve been in this industry for three generations. My dad did his distillery training here in the 1960s as a teenager, and so this was kind of coming full circle.

‘It was always our father’s, and my brother’s and my dream, to make our own whisky here.’

Inaugural Release, produced with distiller manager Fraser Hughes, has been made using malted barley from Port Ellen Maltings on Islay’s south coast, with a phenol content of 40ppm. Using Loch Ardnahoe’s soft water which has been filtered through peat and rock and fermented in washbacks made of Oregon Pine, it is distilled in large copper pot stills, while the use of worm tubs add texture and further complexity to the spirit.

The whisky is fruit forward, with apple tart tatin, dark red fruits, custard and citrus on the palate, with the peat smoke really coming to life on the finish. It is the first of a series of whiskies which will be released by the distillery this year.

For Andrew, this first whisky release is testament to how Ardnahoe is bringing its own approach to peat and the fruity characteristics of its new make spirit: ‘As independent bottlers and blenders before that, we’ve handled many, many types of Islay single malt whisky over the decades and we know what we like. It’s not just a story about peat, but how it’s balanced and incorporated with the other flavours.’

Aware of the magnitude of opening a distillery in an environment like Islay, Andrew said: ‘We acknowledge that we are playing on a field with some of the very best distilleries and whiskies in the world. And we’re proud to be involved on the island alongside them.’

He hopes Ardnahoe’s approach to making Islay single malt will lead to a legacy that promotes quality.

‘Our process is quite small, quite manual and quite slow. But we believe the quality comes through in the spirit. Having our five-year-old inaugural bottling now is a great milestone. We’re delighted,’ he said.

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