Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Ardbeg Distillery, old post office, former workers’ cottages, warehouse number two, old warehouse, Sea View and Excise House, Ardbeg, IslayLB52613

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Category
C
Date Added
08/11/2022
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Planning Authority
Argyll And Bute
Parish
Kildalton
NGR
NR 41560 46220
Coordinates
141560, 646220

Description

Ancillary buildings within large coastal distillery complex built between 1878-1897 which are located to the west and north of the principal early core of distillery buildings (see separate listing LB52611). The buildings consist of a single storey former post office and single storey pair of semi-detached former workers' cottages, the single storey warehouse number two, a two-storey mixed used building known as the old warehouse and a pair of semi-detached two-storey houses known as Sea View and Excise House.

The late 19th century distillery buildings are primarily built in harl pointed rubble with some tooled ashlar dressings and most of the exterior walls are painted white. The roofs are mostly pitched and slated and some have modern sheet metal coverings. Only warehouse number two has walls of exposed rubble.

At the north of the distillery site, on the east of the access road into the main distillery complex, is the former post office building. Dating to the late 19th century, it is a single storey structure, rectangular in plan with a lean-to projection to the rear under a modern sheet metal roof. The walls are of rubble or brick construction, harled/rendered and painted white with tooled ashlar door and window margins with decorative chamfered edges and wood framed windows and door. The front elevation is asymmetrical with two rectangular windows on left half and a door and rectangular window on the right half. Interior not seen at time of visit.

Immediately south-southeast of the former post office is a pair of single storey semi-detached former workers' cottages. Dating to the late 19th century, both cottages are of a mirrored rectangular plan with projecting front porches to centre and rear projections at the gable ends. The walls are rubble or brick construction, covered by a smooth render and painted white under pitched slated roofs. There is a chimney stack on each gable end and a shared stack from the shared wall between the cottages. The front elevations are symmetrical with round arched windows to the front porches and mullioned windows to either side. The windows and doors are modern replacements. The interior, as seen from outside, have been stripped and cleared.

At the south end of the distillery access road is warehouse number two. Dating to the late 19th century, it is a single storey building, with exposed rubble walls with some metal wall ties below wallhead, under a pitched slated roof. It has very roughly dressed stone quoins, door and window margins. There are timber windows on every elevation, most of which are behind metal bars. The main elevation is asymmetrical, facing onto the east access road, with a doorway at western end of elevation. The interior (seen 2022) is open plan warehouse storage with exposed timber roof structure. There is a modern metal frame structure within the building.

Directly opposite warehouse number two, on the south side of the east access road, is the building known as the old warehouse. Dating to the late 19th century, it is rectangular on plan, with walls of rubble construction and whitewash finish. It has mixture of roughly dressed stone and simply tooled ashlar door and window openings and a pitched slated roof. The upper storey windows are formed by pitched gablets on the western half of building with a brick chimney stack in centre. The eastern half of building has evidence of blocked and removed upper storey window gablets which have since been replaced with modern skylights on a pitched roof. The front elevation has a wide cart-door to centre and a standard doorway to the right of centre. There are timber windows and doors on all elevations. The interior (partly seen 2022) is a mixture of storage space and rooms for staff and office use.

At the east of the distillery site, on the south side of the east access road, is a pair of semi-detached two-storey houses known as Sea View and Excise House. They are rectangular on plan with projecting porches to the front and have projecting gable end extensions. The walls are of rubble construction with whitewash finish. The gable end projections are harled and also whitewashed. They have pitched slated roofs with brick chimney stacks on each gable end and on the shared dividing wall. There is a mixture of roughly dressed stone with tooled ashlar door and window margins. The window frames and doors are predominantly timber. The rear elevation has projecting two-storey bays on the end of each house with and first floor modern balcony between. The interior (partly seen 2022) is entirely modernised with few period features such as plain cornicing and some wooden doors and skirtings.

Historical development

Ardbeg Distillery was formally registered by John MacDougall as a legal commercial distillery in 1815 but was known to be in production from the late 18th century (Smith and Wallace, 2018). The commercial venture led by John MacDougall received backing from Thomas Buchanan Junior; a Glasgow whisky merchant. However, early historical whisky records indicate spirit was being illicitly produced at Ardbeg from 1798 (Smith and Wallace, 2018). Islay Rentals record that Duncan McDougall, father of John and Alexander, rents the farms of Ardbeg, Airigh nam Beist and Ardenistiel, as well as half of the farm of Lagavulin. By 1818, Ardbeg is officially producing whisky with its first recorded listing of operation.

The site of the distillery was probably chosen due to the plentiful supply of fresh water immediately north of the distillery, the surrounding fertile land was ideal for a distillery farm, the land for the buildings was relatively flat for development and potential expansion and the location on the water allowed ease of access for imports and exports by sea.

The 19th century was a long period of development for the distillery as it was established and expanded. In 1835, output for the distillery is recorded at up to 500 gallons (2273 litres) per week (The Ardbeg Project Website, History).

In 1853, after the death of Alexander MacDougall, Ardbeg is co-run by Colin Hay and MacDougall's sisters, Margaret and Flora, who may rightfully be Scotland's first female distillers. In 1855, John Ramsay becomes owner and landlord of Laphroaig, Ardenistiel, Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distilleries and their villages, pastures and associated farms. Ramsay ensures the current distillery owners had long leases and had properly secured water rights – important factors to provide stability that allows future business planning and potential expansion.

The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1878) depicts a smaller site at Ardbeg; showing the footprint of some buildings surviving today such as the east malt barn and kilns, the old filling store and mash house and some of the west kiln building as well as the pier. This early map also shows formally laid out gardens to the west for workers to enjoy in their spare time.

Up until 1887, records indicate the MacDougall family either owned or ran the distillery, representing around almost 100 years of whisky production, some illicit, by the family at Ardbeg. The distillery reached a historic peak of production in 1887 with records showing 1,100,000 litres distilled that year.

The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1897) reflects this peak activity at Ardbeg; showing the footprint of an expansive site with many buildings surviving today and some being taken down since. The gardens to the west are replaced by massive warehouses and the west kiln is extended north to provide a second malt barn to aid increased production. The old post office, workers' cottages and the excise house and warehouse number two have also been constructed relatively recently by this map date.

The 20th century initially saw a continuation of good fortunes. A landmark date for the branding of Ardbeg comes in 1911 when it was registered as a trademark and the famous letter "A" logo was established. However, the mid to late part of this century saw a downturn for the whisky industry and Ardbeg Distillery. The distillery was closed during the Depression of 1932-35. Changes in registered business details and owners and shareholders takes place over the next several decades. A period of development is witnessed on the site with a series of modern warehouses constructed around 1950s-60s at the eastern side of the site (Smith and Wallace, 2018).

The major whisky slump of the 1980s affected many distilleries in Scotland. The malt barn floors at Ardbeg were used for, what would become, their last time in 1980. On the 25 March 1981, Ardbeg Distillery closed and would not reopen until 1989. Production was restarted on a part-time basis until 1996.

In 1997, Glemorangie PLC purchased the distillery with the Old Kiln visitor centre and café opened the following year. In 2004, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey Group purchased Ardbeg Distillery. This modern era has witnessed further development with the construction of a new boiler house and still house and the ongoing maintenance, adaptation and upgrading of some buildings for the running of a 21st century distillery and visitor attraction.

Statement of Special Interest

Ardbeg Distillery, old post office, former workers' cottages, warehouse number two, old warehouse, Sea View and Excise House meet the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

Age and rarity

  • They are a later but integral part of an early 19th century whisky distillery.

Design

  • Their survival is rare and adds to the interest and understanding of the historic collection of buildings, showing what was required to produce whisky on an industrial scale.
  • They are not significantly altered and have distinguishing design details for their building type.

Setting

  • The buildings' general setting is largely unchanged from the date of the site's construction and development in the 19th century.

Social historical interest

  • The group of buildings form an important historic collection of industrial buildings and contribute to our understanding of the socio-economic history of a distillery site in rural island life.

Architectural interest

Design

Ardbeg Distillery is a relatively complete distillery site. It retains many of its original buildings which together are a historic collection of buildings required for producing whisky on an industrial scale. The buildings on the site date from roughly 1815 onwards, with a period of expansion in the mid-late 19th century and then mid-late 20th century. The listed ancillary buildings largely date from between 1878-1897, when the distillery was at an historic peak of production.

The old post office, former workers' cottages, warehouse number two, old warehouse and Sea View and Excise House were all constructed within a 20-year period as part of the later 19th century expansion of Ardbeg Distillery.

Stylistically and materially they are similar to the industrial distillery buildings and show a clear functional relationship with the operation of the site. Warehouse number two and old warehouse are located directly southeast of the main production complex and were used as bond warehousing and storage. The other domestic buildings and post office, have some distinguishing architectural details from the late 19th century period. These include roughly dressed stone and tooled ashlar door and window margins, gabled porches, some arched windows and coped gable wallheads.

The footprint of most of the buildings have been moderately altered with some extensions at Sea View and Excise House, the downtaking of outhouses at the former workers' cottages and at the south of the old warehouse. However, the footprint of warehouse number two and the old post office appear largely unchanged.

Most of the buildings have undergone some other changes with door and window replacements.

The interiors have been altered to various degrees with a mixture of accumulated changes over time (old warehouse), recently stripped out (former workers' cottages), modernised (Sea View and Excise House) and little internal alterations (warehouse number two).

Overall, these changes are not considered to have an adverse impact on the design interest of the buildings either individually or as a group. The ancillary buildings are all recognisable as related to an historic distillery, their original function is still readable and their design is in-keeping with the general aesthetic of Ardbeg Distillery.

Distilleries can be found all over Scotland and their design and plan form does not vary widely between the regions, with the exception of the materials they are constructed from. With just eight other working distilleries on Islay and around 140 across Scotland, distilleries are a distinctive and important part of the built heritage of this part of Scotland.

Setting

When approached from the west, Ardbeg Distillery can clearly be seen across the distillery farm fields and is a distinctive industrial building in the rural coastal landscape. The distillery is on the southeastern edge of the island of Islay, on low coastal ground. The wider site is surrounded by farmland, occasionally dotted with agricultural and residential buildings. To the north of the site is a line of low hills. The pagoda roofs of the malt kilns can be seen from the approach road.

Ardbeg Distillery, like all surviving historic Islay distilleries, is located directly on the coast as the sea was the main link to mainland Scotland for imports and exports. This is demonstrated with the survival of the early 19th century pier and slipway which is an historic transport hub for the distillery. The distillery is also prominent in views from the sea.

The completeness and integrity of the historic group of buildings that comprises Ardbeg Distillery, as well as its immediate setting is unusual and is of special interest. The complex retains many of its early and later 19th century industrial buildings, including the old post office and former workers' cottages to the north, and Sea View and Excise House. The contemporary warehouse number two and old warehouse are from the later 19th century and survive immediately southeast of the older courtyard core of the distillery.

The historic relationship between these buildings can be clearly seen by the close proximity of the buildings to each other and they remain intervisible. The buildings also share similar design details. The survival of these buildings and the relatively lack of obvious change to this historic group is important in showing how the site functioned when the distillery was in operation in the 19th century.

This grouping of ancillary buildings helps to represent the totality of distillery life which included amenities and facilities for the workers. This functional relationship between the buildings enhances the overall value of the setting that survives at Ardbeg Distillery.

Adjacent to the north of the distillery complex is the former farmhouse for the distillery. Each distillery required a reliable and plentiful supply of grain, ideally in close proximity for efficiency and cost saving. The farmland around Ardbeg Distillery was managed from the old farmhouse and contributes to the general historic setting of the distillery. The farmhouse and farmland act as a reminder of the total whisky production process and how crucial locality was to early commercial distilling on Islay and Scotland generally.

The immediate setting of Ardbeg Distillery largely retains its industrial appearance with the addition of later buildings which are in keeping with the form and function of the site. There has been later development to the east including some mid-20th century warehouses to the east, but these retain the general appearance of massive whitewashed walls and contributes to explaining the continuing development of the distillery. To the southwest is a 21st century still house which takes design cues from the 19th century kiln pagodas and is built from whitewashed walls covered in a traditionally slated roof. Many distilleries of a similar date have had their immediate setting altered by a greater degree.

Although the site continues to be extended, it still retains its historic distillery character within its immediate and wider setting.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

Scotland is renowned worldwide for its whisky. Whilst distilling alcohol is an ancient art, industrial scale whisky production in Scotland developed in the 1770s and 1780s, and distilling has remained one of Scotland's most important industries. The 1823 Excise Act cut the duty on spirits produced, allowed a rebate on malt tax and opened the export trade to all distillers. This had a dramatic effect on the industry with over 200 new distilleries licensed in two years. To survive, distillers concentrated on improving quality and efficiency.

By the 1890s the industry boomed to satisfy ever growing consumption. Scotland was regularly consuming over six million gallons a year and exporting ten million. To meet this demand new distilleries were constructed, and existing distilleries were rebuilt on a larger scale.

The older a building is, and the fewer of its type that survive, the more likely it is to be of special interest. The distillery building type is not rare in Scotland with approximately 100 distillery buildings listed. However, in the overall context of the surviving historic buildings representing the whisky industry, Ardbeg Distillery is a very early example of its building type. Dating from around 1815, it was built and opened around 75 years before the boom period of distillery construction. However, whisky has been produced at Ardbeg, initially illicitly, since the 1790s which makes it one of the very oldest still operational distilleries in Scotland. There are only several older operational distilleries in Scotland; Glenturret, Bowmore, Balblair and Strathisla-Glenlivet (surviving buildings are much later than Ardbeg) and Littlemill (subsequently demolished and rebuilt).

Focussing on Islay, records show a total of 24 distilleries have, across history, operated on the island. Only nine are in operation today on Islay, two of which are modern, setting Ardbeg Distillery apart within its regional context.

These ancillary buildings date from the historic peak of whisky production at Ardbeg and just before the Scottish whisky industry hit a peak at the end of the 19th century. These buildings were constructed due to a high demand for Ardbeg whisky and subsequent expansion of the distillery site aimed to capitalise on this success. Further facilities, housing, warehousing and storage were constructed. These were vital functions within the overall whisky production process and essential in allowing the commercial expansion of the industry. The survival of a complete grouping of historic buildings supporting the whisky production process is now rare.

Ardbeg Distillery is highly significant as a rare physical survivor of the start of the commercialisation of whisky production in Scotland. The mid to late 19th century ancillary buildings included in this listing directly relate to one of the earliest surviving examples of a distillery in Scotland. They retain their authenticity and are still clearly readable and appreciated as 19th century ancillary distillery buildings that still contribute to whisky production in the 21st century.

Social historical interest

Distilling is Scotland's most iconic industry with malt whisky exported worldwide. As around only 6% of the country's malt whisky distilleries are on Islay they are numerically a minor part of its architectural and historical character. However, the influence and famousness of Islay single malts greatly exceeds their numerical stance within the Scottish whisky industry.

Ardbeg Distillery being the second oldest survivor on Islay can take credit towards the level of worldwide fame and high regard there is for Islay single malt whisky. Ardbeg Distillery is a very well preserved example of a distillery built from the early 19th century and further developed before the boom period of this industry. The survival of various distillery buildings together is significant in contributing to our understanding of how the distillery site functioned from in the 19th century. It is an exceptional tangible reminder of the early historical development of one of Scotland's most important industries.

The ancillary buildings at this site are physical reminders of the importance the distillery had within the community communities. The distillery was an economic driver for the community and helped support local employment from farmers to distillery works to postmen and postmasters and merchant sailors. Today, Ardbeg Distillery has many physical surviving elements that helps tell the story of the whisky industry, particularly in its socio-economic impact on the development of rural island communities.

Association with people or events of national importance

There is no association with a person or event of national importance.

References

Bibliography

Maps

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1878, published 1882) Scotland, Argyllshire Sheet CCXXXII. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1897, published 1900) Scotland, Argyll and Bute CCXXXII. 6 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Online Sources

Ardbeg Distillery, History

https://www.ardbeg.com/en-US/about-ardbeg/history [accessed on 29/07/2022]

The Ardbeg Project, History

http://www.ardbegproject.com/history.shtml [accessed on 29/07/2022]

Edinburgh University, Department of Computer Science, List of distilleries in date order

https://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/dists.html [accessed on 29/07/2022]

Scotch Whisky, Ardbeg

https://scotchwhisky.com/whiskypedia/1808/ardbeg/ [accessed on 29/07/2022]

Visit Scotland, The Land of Whisky: Islay

http://static.visitscotland.com/pdf/whisky-distilleries-guides-islay.pdf [accessed on 29/07/2022]

Printed Sources

Craig, C.H. (1994). The Scotch Whisky Industry Record. Index Publishing Ltd, Dumbarton.

Moss, M. and Hume, J. (1981). The Making of Scotch Whisky: A History of the Scotch Whisky Distilling Industry. James & James, Edinburgh.

Smith, G. and Wallace, G. (2018). Ardbeg: Heavenly Peated. Hogback Publishing, UK.

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Images

Ardbeg Distillery, old post office, former workers’ cottages, warehouse number two, old warehouse, Sea View and Excise House, viewed from northwest, looking to front elevation of Sea View and Excise House.
Ardbeg Distillery, old post office, former workers’ cottages, warehouse number two, old warehouse, Sea View and Excise House, viewed from southeast, east gable and front elevation of warehouse number two.

Printed: 03/12/2022 08:53