Bill Lumsden answers your Ardbeg questionsSeptember 15th, 2009
If you’ve been following my blog postings (or following me on Twitter), you know I met with Dr. Bill Lumsden yesterday. (Picture is from yesterday.) He’s the genius behind all the new Ardbeg and Glenmorangie creations. We were together for a good part of the morning.
Below are some of the interesting tidbits he told me about Ardbeg, largely based on the questions you wanted me to ask him. (They are in bite-sized chunks because I posted them up in Twitter yesterday.) Tomorrow I’ll post up some of the answers to the Glenmorangie questions I asked him.
Oh, and by the way, on Thursday, I’ll be sharing with you somenew information on Highland Park and Macallan. Stay tuned.
So here are the short tidbits from Bill yesterday:
Did you know “Blasda” is essentially a younger “Kildalton” (i.e very low peating level)? The original Kildalton was from 1980 and 24 y/o-ish. They started making new “Kildalton” & bottled it young and called it Blasda (7 y/o).
There are a couple new Ardbegs coming out in next year or two. Hint: think about remaining stocks from the 1970s.
The new Ardbeg Corryvrecken is a different batch than “Committee” bottling. Committee bottling was aged in more 1st fill French oak: more “leathery bite” as Bill describes it. This whisky was “cut with” first fill and refill bourbon casks.
Ardbeg is cutting back on single cask bottlings worldwide. It’s going to be just for Committee bottlings, Islay whisky fest & at the distillery.
Approximately 80% of Ardbeg whisky is stored on Islay, 20% on mainland. Many casks transerred over to mainland @ 9yrs old for eventual bottling. So, in this regard, they are aged in both locations for a period of time. Bill noted that there are heavy maturation loses in the volume of whisky in the casks on Islay. They will be building new warehouses on Islay and will be studying this very carefully.
Ardbeg Rennaissance was a one-time bottling. Bill’s hope is to make design all the Ardbeg 10 year old bottlings after Rennaisance. (Not at cask strength, but the same type of quality wood–1st fill bourbon casks.)
Ardbeg bottlings will vary more than Glenmorangie because vatting sizes are smaller.
Prime age for Ardbeg? Generally speaking, 15-17 years old. (Bill really liked the original 17 year old bottling.)
Bills says they have casks from the 1970s still, but most of the hold stock “inherited” has been bottled. However, I got the impression he might also have something from the 1960s. He wouldn’t confirm nor deny.
He also mentioned that they have bought back casks from blenders (and other private owners) for their bottlings, like other distilleries have done.
Update: I also asked Bill the difference between the pre- and post-Glenmorangie produced Ardbeg 10 year old. His response: they’re trying to reproduce the same style but with improvements. What improvements? Mainly with the quality of the wood. He also noted that it was a challenge reproducing the same style because they are no longer malting their own barley at the distillery, and this effects the flavor of the whisky.