Whisky Review: Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I’ve tried a few offerings from the Ardbeg distillery over the years, and generally really enjoyed them. Ardbeg seems to be a good representation of the Islay scotch whisky concept, specifically with the heavy peat smoke and the delicious salinity that are hallmarks of the region. But they can sometimes be a little one-note, and I prefer spirits that do a bit more and have some more complexity to them — which was exactly why one of my friends recommended that I should check out their Uigeadail offering.



Like most distilleries, the story of Ardbeg starts with a farm. Duncan Macdougall was a farmer who rented the Ardbeg farm (the name being an anglicization of “An Àird Bheag” which is Gaelic for “The Small Promontory”), and in that year his son John Macdougall began distilling alcohol on the site using some of the leftover grain from their harvests. They eventually got pretty good at it and wanted to try and make some money from the practice, and in 1815 they were granted a license to officially open the Ardbeg distillery.

For the majority of its history, the distillery produced spirits that were blended with products from other distilleries to create blended scotch whisky (a common practice of the era). They were apparently producing some pretty good stuff, though, since in 1838 the distillery would be purchased by a Glasgow-based spirits merchant who was blending and selling their own brands and wanted the distillery for themselves.

The day-to-day operations of the distillery remained in the hands of the Macdougall family, passing to John’s son Alexander and then eventually in 1853 to sisters Margaret and Flora — who may be the first female distillery operators in Scotch history (but please, comment on the article if you know of any earlier female distillers!).

Ardbeg would continue producing blended sprits for the Scottish whiskey industry and didn’t particularly care about their own brand name until 1911, when they finally got around to trademarking their name and the distinctive stylistic “A” that they still use on their branding to this day.

Things were going pretty well for the distillery until about the 1970’s, when the whiskey market crashed and a lot of distilleries started going out of business. The Ardbeg distillery fell on some hard timed and was sold to Hiram Walker in 1977 — and despite their best efforts, by 1981 the distillery was shuttered and production ceased.

Six years later, Allied Lyons (a conglomerate of Scottish whiskey distilleries) purchased the Ardbeg distillery and started renovating it to try and get it re-opened. The distillery restarted operations in 1989, once again fulfilling a need for strong Islay scotch whisky for blenders to use in their creations. The distillery would be further purchased in 1997 by Glenmorangie, who embraced the concept of single malt spirits coming from the Ardbeg distillery and released a series of incrementally better single malt spirits that led to the launch of their Ten Years Old brand in the year 2000.

Glenmorangie and Ardbeg would later be purchased by LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE in 2004, who continues to own both distilleries to this day.


As a single malt scotch whisky, this spirit starts out as a shipment of 100% malted barley from the Port Ellen suppliers. As you’d expect from what started as a farm distillery, Ardbeg used to have its own malting floor but that was sadly closed in 1977 when the distillery hit hard times and has not been re-opened. For their barley shipments, Ardbeg selects a version of the barley where peat moss has been used to slightly cook the malted barley and stop the malting process, which leaves behind a very rich and thick flavor on the grains themselves.

Those grains are shipped to the Islay-based distillery where they are cooked, fermented, and then distilled twice in the restored copper pot stills on-site at the Ardbeg facility.

After distillation, the spirit is placed into previously-used American bourbon barrels, which is the same process used by Glenmorangie (and probably sourced via the same supplier, too).

This is the distillery’s Uigeadail expression (pronounced “Oog-a-dal” according to the distillery), named for the almost-unpronounceable bog in which Ardbeg sources its water. The distillery purposefully does not place an age statement on these bottles, instead focusing on creating a consistently delicious product without needing to be hamstrung by adhering to a specific time scale for each bottle.

According to the distillery, the difference between this expression and their normal line of spirits is that this Uigeadail version has been rested in some sherry casks for a period of time, which should impart some fruity and sweet notes to add complexity the otherwise smoky and delicious whisky.


This bottle feels like it is toeing the line between simple and stylish nicely. It has an eye-catching design and some special touches, but it isn’t too ostentatious or extravagant.

The bottle itself is designed in a fairly traditional structure, with the round body, quickly curved shoulder, and medium length neck sporting a convenient bulge. The big differences here are the flared base, as well as the addition of the Ardbeg stylized “A” embossed in the glass itself. It’s just enough to set the bottle apart. The whole deal is capped off with a plastic and cork stopper.

One thing to note is the significant level of tint to the glass. Green tinted glass has traditionally been used to keep the liquid inside from degrading with exposure to light, which is appreciated, but it does obscure the color of the contents inside. (And spoiler alert: in this case, it’s a bit of a shock when you finally see the color of this whiskey compared to what you might expect.)

I feel like the label does a good job conveying the important details without going overboard. It’s a pretty simple design that really highlights the distillery name and the stylized A — and while, normally, I’d knock the larger label for obscuring the spirit inside the bottle, I think the tinted glass of the bottle already does enough of that on its own.

One complaint here is that this bottle doesn’t follow their usual design, and looks a bit out of place among other Ardbeg bottles on your shelf. Ardbeg usually visually differentiates varieties with a unique color or accent that, but here it seems to be a bog standard edition of their label just with some different words on it.



This is a noticeably darker and deeper colored spirit compared to some of the other offerings from Ardbeg, closer to a rusty orange than the pale straw that you’d normally expect. There’s also a significant difference in the aroma coming off the glass, as well: the smoke is still the most prominent component but instead of being a typical peaty aroma with some salinity, this is closer to a Texas campfire in quality and aroma. It’s more like a mesquite smoke, with support from some deep fruity components such as orange, dried apricot, raisins, and even a bit of cinnamon.

Taking a sip, the flavors are smoky and delicious but the fruit seems to have been almost completely covered up. There’s a more distinctly recognizable version of the peat smoke coming through now, supported by some brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon spice. As the flavors develop, some of the dried fruit does start to appear; specifically, you start to see dried apricots and some banana flavor but those remain background characters while the peat smoke and the caramel notes take center stage. It certainly gives the spirit a deeper and more well rounded flavor compared to the standard edition, with some richer texture on the tongue instead of a normal, almost watery lightness that we sometimes see in Islay scotches.

On Ice

Ice (especially in scotch whiskey) isn’t always a good idea — but on occasion, it’s a great idea. Sometimes it can throw off the balance of the flavors in a way that makes the drink almost unpalatable, but other times it can help tone down the louder notes and give the flavors a better balance. I think this is a case of the latter situation, where the ice changes things up a bit and makes this a whole different, and actually improved, beast.

One thing to note up front is that the weight of the liquid seems to be a little lighter on the tongue, almost a bit watered down compared to taken neat — which is to be expected. Along with that change, the peat smoke is also a little bit lighter, which allows some of the fruit to come through more clearly. I’m now able to pick out those peaches, some apple, a bit of melon, and even some floral blossoms in and among the other flavors.

There’s still plenty of richness and character here — the peat smoke is still there, but not quite as dominant. There’s plenty of caramel, vanilla, and brown sugar. And there are even some baking spices thrown into the mix. But the overall combination is more diverse at this point, letting all of the various flavors shine through and mingle in a delicious manner.


Overall Rating

This is, by far, the most delicious thing I’ve had from Ardbeg. I love the smoky flavors and other traditional scotch whisky notes, but what really makes this ideal are the sherry cask finishing aspects that come through loud and clear in the finished product. They add a layer of depth and complexity to the spirit that elevates this to a whole new level.

I’d put this on par with my beloved Lagavulin any day — and most times, I might actually prefer it.

Ardbeg Uigeadail
Production Location: Islay, Scotland
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 54.2% ABV
Price: $92.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 5/5
A smoky, rich and delicious scotch whisky that has all of the flavor you would want with just the right balance.


One comment

  1. Haven’t tried a lot of Scotch but I think I’m content just alternating between the offerings of the Ardbeg distillery I love everything I’ve tried from Ardbeg!

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