Ardberg Islay makes its most epic sale with Cask No. 3

The 1975 cask of Ardberg Islay single malt Scotch whiskey was sold to a private collector in Asia for £16 million.
The oldest ever released by ardbeg, “cask no. 3” is incomparably precious. It will be bottled over the course of five years for its owner, giving her an unparalleled vertical collection of aged ardbegs.
The oldest ever released by Ardbeg, “Cask No. 3” is incomparably precious. It will be bottled over the course of five years for its owner, giving her an unparalleled vertical collection of aged Ardbegs.

Having survived the near closure of the distillery twice, a 1975 cask of Ardbeg Islay single malt Scotch whisky was sold to a private collector in Asia for £16 million. 

Cask No. 3 is the oldest ever to be released by Ardberg Islay and is incomparably precious for the rare period it was created in. Seeing as the distillery was closed through much of the 80s and 90s, the spirit is truly remarkable simply by virtue of its existence.

The cask has been described as a “remarkable piece of liquid history” by world-renowned whisky expert Charles MacLean. Cask No. 3 will be bottled over the course of five years for its owner. This, of course, means she gets to enjoy an unparalleled vertical collection of aged Ardbegs, which cannot be replicated for at least a decade. 

To celebrate the half-century of patience and generations of distillery workers behind this “vanishingly rare” whisky, Ardbeg will donate £1 million to causes on Islay. Cask No. 3’s private sale is an extraordinary milestone in Ardbeg’s 200-year history apart from being a general auction record-breaker. 

Ardberg Islay has been long renowned for creating the world’s smokiest drams, although its journey has often been turbulent. 

Thomas moradpour ceo with cask no. 3.
Thomas Moradpour CEO with Cask No. 3.

In the 1970s, the majority of its whisky was sold for blending. And since just a few casks were set aside annually for single malt bottling, stock from that decade has always been exceptionally hard to come by. Closed through most of the 1980s, the distillery re-opened for a time before it shut again in 1996 – some thought forever. However, since their return, Ardberg has only gone from strength to strength. 

Commenting on the sale, Thomas Moradpour, CEO, The Glenmorangie Company says, “This sale is a source of pride for everyone in the Ardbeg community who has made our journey possible. Just 25 years ago, Ardbeg was on the brink of extinction, but today it is one of the most sought-after whiskies in the world. That is a reflection of generations of hard work: from those in the stillhouse who craft our smoky spirit to the warehouse staff who care for our casks over decades, to teams around the world who build the reputation of our whiskies with fans, bartenders and collectors.”

Thomas moradpour and dr bill lumsden with cask no. 3.
Thomas Moradpour and Dr Bill Lumsden with Cask No. 3.

Previously, Ardbeg malted its barley onsite until 1981. Today, its malt is produced by specialist maltsters in the Islay village of Port Ellen, where the barley is peated to Ardbeg’s exact specifications. 

Created in that bygone era of onsite barley malting, the smoky, balanced spirit of cask No. 3 was distilled on Tuesday, 25 November 1975. It was then laid down to age in two separate casks, namely a bourbon and an Oloroso sherry. It took generations of Ardbeg’s skilled warehouse workers over 38 years to watch the cask patiently mature. 

Following that, Ardbeg’s acclaimed Director of Whisky Creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, decided to marry the two casks, creating an even more extraordinary single malt. On 31 March 2014, he transferred their whisky into a single refill Oloroso butt, selected to give only the subtlest of wood influence. There it has remained ever since. 

And now, over 46 years after its story began, this single malt is a smorgasbord of sherried, smoky aromas and rich, elegant tastes.

Tasting Notes

Colour: Deep Bronze

Aroma: Brazil nuts in toffee fill the nose, followed by linseed oil, a suggestion of flowering blackcurrants, sweet, aromatic peat smoke and a hint of tobacco. A splash of water brings forth even more complexity, with delicate lime and fennel.

Taste: Complex, rich and surprisingly elegant. A spearmint top note emerges with hints of lapsang souchong tea, some biscuit notes and gentle tar. Espresso coffee simmers alongside salted caramel toffee.

Finish: A sumptuous union of tar, smoky notes and oak.

It's taken a good half-century to mature and now eventually bottle ardberg's cask no. 3.
It’s taken a good half-century to mature and now eventually bottle Ardberg’s Cask no. 3.

Over the next five years, Ardbeg will continue to mature Cask No. 3 in a secure location on Islay for its owner. Every year, she will receive 88 bottles from the cask. By 2026, this Ardbeg enthusiast will possess a unique vertical series of rare Ardbegs from 1975, aged 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 years old.

Director of Whisky Creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, who will oversee the cask’s ongoing maturation says, “Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past. Its aromas are nutty, herbal and smoky, while its tastes of tar, espresso coffee and spearmint have an astonishing finesse for a whisky of such age. So little stock survives from this era, that this cask really is one of a kind. And its complex flavours are testament to the extraordinary skill of the Ardbeg team who have cared for it over the decades. I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.”

So far, the record set for a cask of whisky sold at auction in April 2022 has been widely reported at just over £1m. Meanwhile, in 2019, a bottle of single malt whisky was reported to have sold for £1.5million at auction.

Rare Whisky 101 produces in-depth and highly acclaimed reports on the rare whiskey market. In a recent report, its Collectors Ranking table placed Ardbeg as the second-most collectable whisky, equally weighting volume and value data for whisky sold in the UK at auction. With this sale, things are surely looking up for them now more than ever!

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