What's in a name?

Ardnahoe Distillery takes its name simply from the location in which it is set. Ardnahoe is Scottish Gaelic for “Height of the Hollow” which perfectly describes the beautiful setting in which the distillery lies.

The Water

We draw the water to produce Ardnahoe spirit from the eponymous Loch Ardnahoe, which lies a stone’s throw from the distillery. Loch Ardnahoe offers exceptionally soft water that has been filtered through peat and rock for thousands of years. The result is an exceptional water source to use in all aspects of the whisky making process.

One could be forgiven for thinking they’re in heaven – a natural, stunning and magical environment to create an exceptional spirit with a heart and soul of its very own.

Barley and the Boby Mill

Firstly, the barley is malted, a process where the malt is steeped in water in order to allow the seeds to germinate; that unlocks the sugar potential to be turned into alcohol later in the process.

Once the barley has been soaked, it is then dried over peat smoke for around 20 hours. This is the foundation of the distinctive peaty Islay flavour in the ultimate spirit.

The barley is then ground into ‘grist’ in our beautiful 100 year old Vickers Boby mill – the only piece of equipment in the distillery which is not new. A little bit of the past, brought to the present as we go onto the future.

The Mash Tun

The milled grist is transferred to our copper-domed mash tun. Water from Loch Ardnahoe is heated, added to the grist and the process begins to produce a liquid called ‘wort’; a sweet, sugary solution and in our case, also smoky.

It is constantly checked for temperature, mixing rates and quality. The result at Ardnahoe is a liquid so clear, pure and sweet that it lends itself perfectly to our ultimate, unique and dynamic spirit.

The wort is separated from the barley husks and taken to the next stage of the process, whilst the husks, known as “draff” are taken away by local farmers to be used as cattle feed.

The Washbacks

It is in the four traditional Oregon Pine washbacks that the next part of the alchemic transformation takes place. Specially designed and constructed using this long, straight variety of timber which has minimal sap and knots and offers the optimum habitat for yeast development, these were constructed by JB Vats in Dufftown.

Chilled yeast is added to the sweet, clear wort and the reaction begins. The yeast feeds on the sugar to produce alcohol and froths violently before subsiding after 50 hours into a ‘wash’, a liquid not unlike weak beer. The total fermentation time at Ardnahoe is approximately 65-70 hours which gives the desired result of a wonderfully fruity wash.

The Stills

Situated in their bright, airy still room with beautiful vistas of the Sound of Islay, the two copper pot stills at Ardnahoe were manufactured in the North East of the country by the artisans of Speyside Copperworks.

Lantern-shaped in design, they are relatively large with a capacity of 13,000 litres for the wash still and 11,000 litres for the spirit still, which along with their unusually long descending lyne arms allows the vapour plenty of copper contact.

Slow, gentle distillation ensures that the Ardnahoe spirit has all of the desired characteristics; fruity, peaty and of the highest quality.

The Worm Tubs

Ardnahoe Distillery is unique on Islay and one of only a handful in Scotland still to employ the traditional style of worm tub condenser. Large copper coils submerged in tanks or “tubs” of cold water allow the vapour after it has passed through the lyne arm of the still to condense gently and gradually, thus imbuing it with added texture and complexity.

This style of condensing used to be common throughout Scotland but fell somewhat out of favour in the 20th century because its use necessitates particularly slow distillation. Whilst the accountants may not share our enthusiasm, we believe the benefits of this less efficient method will ultimately be apparent in the glass!


Cask selection is of paramount importance to the creation of exceptional whisky. Our bourbon casks come directly from the United States and are made from American White Oak, which imparts flavours of toffee, honey and vanilla to the whisky. Directly from Jerez, our Oloroso sherry casks are made from European Oak and impart rich intense flavours of red fruits, brown sugar and spices.

A proportion of the Ardnahoe spirit is matured at the distillery on Islay, absorbing the particularly maritime atmosphere and adding an extra element of “terroir”.

Our aim is to produce a classically peated style of Islay single malt whisky; smoky, dynamic and full bodied.