Ardbeg is one of three distilleries lining the southern coast of Islay, a small island located to the southwest of the mainland. Both Ardbeg and the island itself are associated with a smoky, peaty style of whisky. Legally established in 1815, the distillery had actually been producing spirit since at least 1794. Prior to its official founding, the distillery is said to have been run by smugglers. Illicit activity in the whisky trade was certainly not unusual at the time.
By 1885, Ardbeg employed about one third of the local community, and production would continue for another 100 years. However, the distillery's success would not last forever. Due in part to a downturn in the industry, and in part to overproduction, Ardbeg was shuttered in 1983. Fortunately for fans of peated whisky around the world, it was reopened under new ownership six years later and slowly restored to full production. It is now widely considered a model of distilling and marketing success with a robust range of whiskies, also offering special releases every year which often sell out within hours. Although known as one of the most heavily-peated whiskies, Ardbeg experimented recently with making whisky using a lightly-peated malt.