The levitating whisky

Rodrigo Varona

Turning two hundred years old is not easy, and neither is getting to Ardbeg distillery in islay. But it is definitely worth your while.

Last year, 1.4 million people visited a Scottish distillery, which makes sense in a world where artisanal and traditional values seem to be on the rise. The destination is all the more tempting if it comes with nature’s splendor and majestic beauty, and the possibility to visit vibrant cities like Glasgow or Edinburgh. Nevertheless, as with everything else in life, there are different types of distilleries, and the eight housed by the Scottish island of Islay (3,300 inhabitants, with an area of 630 km2) have a strong connection with whisky’s mythology. Islay is one of the five legally recognized whisky-producing regions. It is a beautiful retreat, surrounded by foggy lakes, green hills and narrow roads that can only be reached by plane (if the weather allows it) or ferry, from which people get off every day to get rare editions of their favorite distilled spirit before getting back on the boat with bounty under their arm. Of course, it is always better to go to traditional bars in Port Ellen or Bowmore, stocked with a countless number of temptations tagged with prices befitting their uniqueness, making some people spend their life savings in just one night. It is no wonder why locals say that “a whisky will make you meditate if it’s good… and levitate if it’s extraordinary.”

Besides, not all distilleries follow the same pattern. That being said, and no offense intended to the rest, it is probably the ones in the south that have made Islay popular, especially the one in Ardberg. The saline influence of the sea and the complex but elegant turf aromas are just some of the trademarks of a house (with a fanbase of 110,000 people) which has just turned its bicentennial. Nobody could have ever imagined this back in 1981, when the company ceased its operations. Luckily for everyone, in 1989, Ardberg picked up where it had left off. And here comes the turning point: it was bought in 1997 by Glenmorangie (owned at the time by the luxury conglomerate LVHM). From that moment on, Ardberg began building its success once again. And more importantly, it kept inspiring thousands of enthusiasts who enjoy a sip of their favorite edition while fantasizing about the journey that will take them to the origin of the myth.

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