Feis Ile 2023: What to expect from this year's Ardbeg Day - including fancy dress and festival bottlings

As June looms large and summer kicks off, it can only mean one thing for whisky fans - Feis Ile and, in particular, Ardbeg Day.

Published 30th May 2023
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

We are currently almost halfway through Feis Ile, the Islay Festival, which is a celebration of the island - music, malts and everything in between, and that includes Ardbeg Day.

While each distillery has its own day, one of the most highly anticipated events is Ardbeg Day. With a loyal fanbase, this peaty Islay malt has been putting on a show for its day the festival since 2012.

Festival goers dress up, there’s live music, tastings and highly anticipated festival bottlings released. To find out what to expect from this year’s Ardbeg Day, I spoke to Colin Gordon, distillery manager at Ardbeg.

What can visitors expect from this year's Ardbeg Day?

This year’s Ardbeg Day will celebrate our 2023 Fèis Ìle festival release – Ardbeg Heavy Vapours; this is a really creative and exciting new limited edition from Ardbeg, which has - very unusually - been distilled without a purifier.

Heavy Vapours has also inspired the next story in our Planet Ardbeg comic series, and on Ardbeg Day this year we’ll be transporting visitors and whisky lovers into this completely new dimension of Ardbeg, inspired by our ongoing venture into the world of graphic novels.

At the Ardbeg Day celebrations on Islay and around the world, we’re inviting fans to attend as their favourite Ardbeg-inspired hero, comic character or mythical creature.

From tastings and delicious food, to activities inspired by the Ardbeg Heavy Vapours story, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic day.

 For anyone that doesn't know, how did Ardbeg Day come about?

Ardbeg Day has been the ultimate date in the whisky calendar for some time now. Traditionally it’s taken place on the last Saturday of every Fèis Ìle festival and aims to bring each year’s festival release to life in engaging ways.

Since 2012, it’s become a day that’s also celebrated around the world; it’s a day when Ardbeg and whisky lovers in general come together to celebrate a shared love for our spirit and for Islay, Islay’s festival of music and malt, and the whisky community.

It’s the grand finale of what’s been a vibrant week on the Island.

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Ardbeg Day
Picture: Colin Gordon

 Can you tell us about the Feis bottling from Ardbeg?

Our limited-edition release in celebration of Ardbeg Day and Fèis Ìle 2023 is called Ardbeg Heavy Vapours.

For the first time ever at the distillery, we’ve distilled without a purifier – which is the apparatus on the still responsible for maintaining Ardbeg’s unrivalled balance between extreme peat and floral fruitiness.

This has allowed the heaviest vapours to travel up the still during the distillation process before being captured, matured and bottled.

In terms of flavour profile, there’s a really intense yet aromatic smokiness to Heavy Vapours with hints of sweetness, peppermint and cardamom. On the finish, clouds of dark chocolate and eucalyptus roll into disguise Ardbeg’s iconic balance.

It’s been a fascinating process creating this completely full-blown Ardbeg; the idea to remove the purifier came from our Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden, and we can’t wait to see what Ardbeg fans think.

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Any famous faces expected? Given that Neil Patrick Harris visited last year?

What can I say – at Ardbeg Day and in the world of Planet Ardbeg, anything could happen!

What’s your favourite part of the day?

For me, it’s got to be opening the gates! There is a queue and real anticipation of what the day has in store and you feel the energy and love for Ardbeg.

It is always exciting opening up and letting the day begin - seeing familiar faces and also people there for the first time. It’s just a great day all round!

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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