Ardbeg The Rollercoaster as an exclusive duet

The whiskies from 1981 and 1989 are a reminder of the highs and lows of the distillery


Ardbeg presents a very special whisky edition. Only 143 sets of Ardbeg The Rollercoaster are available worldwide. These are two single malts that mark a very difficult phase in the history of the Islay distillery. The distillery was closed from 1981 to 1989, as the whisky industry experienced a significant downturn after a good period. Then new owners dared to reopen and things started to pick up again, a bit like a rollercoaster.

Different base malts for the two Ardbeg The Rollercoaster

The first whisky in the Ardberg The Rollercoaster duet is a single malt from 1981, which was distilled on 11 March, two weeks before the distillery closed. According to Ardbeg, it is the last remaining cask of this year. It was based on two different malts, one a very heavily peated malt (110 ppm) from the company's own maltings, the other a very lightly peated malt that Ardbeg only used for a short time for a special Kildalton style. The maturation in bourbon casks was combined with a subsequent maturation in an Oloroso sherry cask. Bottled at 47.3% vol.

The second The Rollercoaster whisky run out of the spirit still on 6 December 1989, a few weeks after the reopening of Ardbeg. The malt produced by Port Ellen Maltings had 30-35ppm, which was ideal for the use in blended whisky at the time. Ardbeg has since increased the phenol content of the malt to at least 50ppm. In order to preserve the flavour that had developed during the initial maturation in bourbon casks, it was later transferred to refill bourbon casks and spent a total of 33 years in the cask. Bottled at 45.3% vol.

Two whiskies, two styles

Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg's Director of Whisky Creation, said that Ardbeg The Rollercoaster is a unique opportunity to experience two very different bottlings of Ardbeg's heritage. A 1981 single malt made from Ardbeg's own malted barley, with sweet, spicy sherry notes and a hint of Ardbeg's savoury side. Classic notes of lime and vanilla combine with sea spray and very subtle smoky tones in the 1989 Ardbeg. Ardbeg The Rollercoaster is like a time capsule, according to Dr. Lumsden, a snapshot of those days that will go down in Ardbeg history.

The two bottles are presented in a solid wooden box created by designer John Galvin and made from Scottish oak. In Germany and Austria, Ardbeg The Rollercoaster is available on a limited basis from Moët Hennessy Private Sales (, Moët Hennessy Germany announced in a press release, with the price available on request. To get an idea of the approximate order of magnitude, you can take a look at Ardbeg's British homepage. A contact form is offered there to express interest in purchasing the cask, which mentions "£85,000 / €100,000".

Official tasting notes for The Rollercoaster: Ardbeg Cask No.1 1981

Aroma: A beautiful combination of Brazil nut flavoured toffee, orange syrup, linseed oil, the gentlest hint of woodsmoke, some touches of grilled asparagus and pepper and a soft but distinctively savoury note like sourdough bread. A few drops of water releases more toffee notes, a touch of Viennese coffee and some distant herbs.

Taste: A rich, warming and peppery mouthfeel leads into a symphony of incredible flavours – soft burnished leather, aniseed, toffee, demerara sugar and a gentle tarry smoke flavour. Then the spices appear; clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and some sweet, malty biscuity notes.

Finish: The finish, which is soothing and gentle, goes on forever, with a balanced combination of dates, toffee, leather and creosote

Official tasting notes for The Rollercoaster: Ardbeg Cask No.17 1989

Aroma: Sooty and drying, with wax crayons, fennel, mustard seed and toasting bread, along with that most distinctive of Ardbeg aromas of pine resin or smoked lime skins. A splash of water releases a creaminess, with a gentle touch of vanilla and smoked pear, along with some briny sea spray.

Taste: A creamy and effervescent texture is followed by a burst of aniseed, toffee, hints of popcorn, smoked paprika and gentle, soothing antiseptic lozenges. The tarry smoke is always present, but always beautifully integrated.

Finish: The finish is long, vibrant and effervescent, with a suggestion of lemon balsam, soot, tar, liquorice and gentle, toasty oak.


Images: Ardbeg via Moët Hennessy Germany