Ardbeg Committee Special Release

Ardbeg Committee Special Release (Photo by the brand)

Whisky Loch

How did Ardbeg Distillery ensure its doors will never again shutter? The great “Whisky Loch” of the 1980s saw Ardbeg’s doors close for a second time, the first during the Great Depression. A victim of misreading demand, the 70s saw massive increases in whisky production and a proliferation of brand expansion. Missing the telltale signs of changing preferences toward vodka and white rum, the Scotch and Irish whisky markets collapsed under their weight. Irish whiskey production ceased nearly altogether, and Scotch was relegated to hardcore drinkers of brand stalwarts J&B, Cutty Sark, and such.

We lost many great brands in those dark days; Banff, Brora, Dallas Dhu, Glen Mhor, Linlithgow, Glen Flagler, and Port Ellen, to name just a few. Most disappeared permanently, ghosts with a few orphaned barrels floating around until only a memory remained. Others locked their doors while hopefully awaiting better days. Such was the story for Arbeg. One of the lucky distilleries, Ardbeg, limped along until demand returned. Vowing to never again be in that position, Arbeg created “The Ardbeg Committee.”

Ardbeg Committee

Billed as a fan club intended to “promote the advancement of general knowledge and enjoyment of Ardbeg,” the Committee keeps members updated about Ardbeg’s ecosystem and provides a way to get feedback from a self-identified, highly targeted market. There are significant membership perks, as well. Besides an annual newsletter with interesting distillery information and tasting notes, members receive access to limited edition “Committee Release” whiskies available only to members, usually one or two a year. These whiskies are available as member-only purchases, whether experimental bottlings, one-offs, leftover cask bottlings, or even purpose-made for members. And, for all of this joy, the cost is, well, nothing.

According to Adbeg’s website, there are over 120,000 Committee members, although some reportage claims the number is closer to 180,000. Ask an ISaly Scotch whisky fan their favorite Islay distillery, and Ardbeg will more often than not be the answer. It’s certainly understandable, given the consistent quality of its products. But one thing is for sure – Ardbeg Committee members will all agree.

If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can sign up for free here.