Ardnahoe is the newest single malt distillery on the famous whisky island of Islay. It has been built at a stunning location on rugged north eastern coast, perched on a rocky ledge overlooking the Isle of Jura. The distillery presents one of the most amazing views from any stillhouse in the Scotch whisky industry. The imposing Paps of Jura dominate with the Strait of Islay, the narrow channel of water that separates Islay and Jura, flowing quickly in the foreground. The Isle of Mull can even be seen in the distance on a good day. We await the first whisky to be released from Ardnahoe, but is an exciting time.
As the distillery is so young, no spirit that has been released yet to assess the style. However, the projected plan is to produce a variety of styles. This includes the traditional peated style of single malt that Islay is known for, plus lightly peated and unpeated spirits. These will range in peating levels from 5ppm to around 40ppm - PPM refers to the Phenol Parts per Million level. Phenol is the compound in peat smoke that gives the smoky aroma and flavour. The malt is produced to Ardnahoe's specifications at the Port Ellen Maltings on Islay. To date, around 80% of the spirit produced has been filled to American oak ex-bourbon barrels. The remaining 20% filled to European oak ex-sherry casks.
Ardnahoe is relatively small scale in comparison to its more established island neighbours. The 2.5 ton mash tun gives 14 mashes per week. There are four Oregon pine washbacks. Ardnahoe's fermentation time is between 65 and 70 hours depending on the time of year - longer in Winter and shorter in Summer. The distillery has one pair of large stills. The wash still has a 13,0000 litre capacity, while the spirit still can hold 11,000 litres.
They practice a slow distillation and the stills have the longest lyne arms in Scotland at 7.5 metres in length. This helps to increase contact of spirit vapour with the copper and aid purity. Ardnahoe also has the only wooden worm tub condensers on Islay. This sees a copper tube spiralling through a large vat of cold water to condense vapour back to a spirit. It is so called as this resembles a coiled worm.
They are currently running at 600,000 litres per year. However, the distillery has an overall potential annual capacity of one million litres.
Ardnahoe was founded by the family owned independent bottling company Hunter Laing & Co. in 2017. It became the ninth distillery in operation on Islay and the first new one since Kilchoman in 2005. The distillery is named after the nearby deep freshwater Loch Ardnahoe, from which the water for production is taken. The meaning of Ardnahoe translates as 'height of the hollow' from Sottish Gaelic. The distillery is located near the village of Port Askaig, and between the distilleries of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.
The project for the distillery was spearheaded by Stewart Laing, the owner and founder of Hunter Laing & Co, and his sons Andrew and Scott Laing. The production began in late 2018 with Cask #001 filled on November 9th. Hunter Laing designed the distillery to be very traditional and hands on. This is reflected in the equipment installed, which was manufactured specifically for the new site. The only exception was the Boby mill that dates back to the 1920s and was acquired from the east Highland distillery of Fettercairn. Ardnahoe also boasts a modern and visitor-friendly shop, cafe, bar and whisky tasting area.