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Ardbeg distillery stands in a small bay on the south coast of Islay where whisky has been produced since 1798, though the premises wasn’t officially licensed until 1815. The so-called illicit distillers of the island were encouraged by “improving laird” Walter Frederick Campbell to become legitimate businesses, in the hopes that it would bring work and provide local farmers with reliable buyers of their barley.
Ardbeg famously closed in the early 1980’s. The site was allowed to fall into a tragic state of disrepair, with production resuming in brief, intermittent spells between 1989 and 1996. Fortunately the distillery was eventually purchased by Glenmorange plc, later to become part of LVMH, and the stills were fired up once more, this time permanently.
Early this year it was announced that Ardbeg would be partnering with Williams Bros Brewing Ltd in order to take part in the Global Gathering, a project organised by Brewgooder in aid of World Water Day. Since 2016 Brewgooder have been working towards supplying 1,000,000 people in Malawi with clean, drinkable water. Developing their “Clean Water Lager” with Brewdog, they use 100% of their profits on projects like borehole drilling, maintenance and repairs, latrine construction and menstrual hygiene access as well as helping to map and catalogue Malawi’s water resources.
Originally intended to coincide with World Water Day back in March, the release of the Ardbeg Shortie – named after the distillery’s Jack Russell mascot – was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic but finally arrived in the UK in August. Created using the same peated malt that goes into every bottle of the Ardbeg Ten Year old, the beer is a Smoky Porter that weighs in at 6.2%. A pack of four cost £14, though for some reason the Ardbeg website wouldn’t allow you to buy anything more or less than two boxes.
Smell: Slightly yeasty foam before notes of coffee, dark chocolate, malt and toffee. Also liquorice and caramel. I found the smoke barely noticeable thought it is there if you really look for it.
Taste: Velvety caramel texture with great depth to the toffee notes. Evolves to develop a light fizz alongside some malty notes before the smoke comes through with liquorice.
Value for Money: I’ve seen some complain about the price here, but £3.50 a can seems within the normal range of other craft beers of this nature and when it’s for a good cause I see no reason to grumble.
A porter of higher-than-average quality that never quite achieves true greatness. Its unique selling point is the Ardbeg DNA yet the famous smoke was nowhere near prominent enough for my liking. Maybe that balance could help it find a wider audience within the beer scene but it was never likely to get that chance such was the demand among Ardbeg fans. A lovely beer that I nevertheless found a little disappointing, maybe due to my own pre-conceived expectations as opposed to the quality of the beer.
For more on Ardbeg visit here
For more on Williams Bros Brewing visit here
For more on Brewgooder visit here