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Unique sea journey recalls bravery of single malt’s earliest distillers

9 September 2016

Atlantic row marks finale of the world’s most daring whisky challenge

Competitors in the world’s most daring whisky challenge yesterday recalled the bravery of Ardbeg’s earliest distillers. With casks of Ardbeg’s award-winning single malt nestled in traditional wooden skiffs (boats), they set off into the Atlantic from the whisky’s remote Scottish island home of Islay, just as the original distillers might have done. The gruelling row, in driving wind and rain, was the finale of the Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer Challenge, which brings to life the untamed spirit of Ardbeg, the world’s smokiest, peatiest Islay malt whisky.

The Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer Challenge has taken ten contestants from around the globe on an odyssey into essential Islay, as they vied to become the Ultimate ARDventurer. A triumphant winner was declared at the end of their three-day quest over the rugged coastline, wild peat bogs, mist-capped hills and brooding lochs, which inspire Ardbeg’s whisky.

Throughout its 200-year history, the Ardbeg Distillery has depended on the sea to transport its renowned single malt beyond the island’s shores. In bygone days, distillers are thought to have rowed casks to sea to meet small ships, which would spirit the whisky away to the mainland. Yesterday, as the contestants’ odyssey came to the end, they followed in the wake of the original Ardbeggians, by transporting a cask of Ardbeg through the perilous waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Last night, Keishi Iwata, of GQ Japan, was named the Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer, chosen for the title from ten ARDventurers from countries including Canada, Germany, the UK, U.S. and Sweden. He had been ranked alongside his fellow contestants for Ardbeggian qualities such as survival spirit, endurance and resourcefulness, by the ARDventurer hosts, including Mickey Heads – Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager – and survival expert Monty Halls. The ARDventurers’ challenge had begun with an apprenticeship at the Distillery and an arduous trek to Ardbeg’s water source Loch Uigeadail. They camped at the loch, then spent a day cutting the peat which lends The Ultimate Islay Malt its smoky character, before camping again and then embarking on their challenging row.

Mickey Heads said: “Keishi really is our Ultimate Ardbeg ARDventurer. He went about things in his own quiet way, but he has really embodied Ardbeg’s spirit. Keishi was more than a match for Islay’s untamed landscape. He never complained and one night cooked singlehandedly for 16 in camp. Even more impressive, he must have been the only ARDventurer not to have fallen in a bog...”

Ardbeg Ardventure