An Ardbeggian Adventure In Lake Sacacomie46.5322° N, 73.2217° W
"Due to its geographic location, Ardbeg has been recognized for its unmistakably smoky flavour"
Tucked away in a slightly remote corner of Quebec lies Hotel Sacacomie, a massive wooden lodge that sits atop a hill overlooking a lake of the same name. It was owned and operated by Yvon Plante, who envisioned a having a world-class hotel built seamlessly within the forest. His dream was realized with a thirty-five-room lodge but it disappeared four months after its inauguration in 1996 because of a fire. It was later rebuilt in 1998, and it became the majestic lodge that we see today. There are a total of one hundred and nine rooms, a spa, and a French inspired restaurant, along with a large convention space. Inside, the décor can be best described as rustic-chic and most of rooms are without TVs, a feature that heightens the outdoorsy experience. For a not so rural stay, you can spend your nights in the suites where you’ll find TVs, fully equipped kitchens, and whirlpool baths are awaiting you.
The surrounding landscape served as the backdrop for our adventure with Ardbeg. For those of you who are not familiar with the spirit, it is a single-malt whisky that was established in 1815. The distillery can be found in Islay, Scotland, one of the southernmost islands in surrounding Great Britain. Due to its geographic location, it has been recognized for its unmistakably smoky flavour, which is accomplished thanks the peat used to dry the malted barley during its production process. The smoke that billows out of the peat fires fuses into the barley, thus making the flavour inseparable as a result. The whisky is further balanced out during the distilling process, which utilizes a purifier on the lyne arm of the still to separate the heavier compounds from the lighter alcohols.
The purpose this experience was to learn more about Ardbeg’s award winning whisky and to take part in activities that sparked our adventurous side. Following an introductory dinner, we woke up the next morning and toured the waters of Lake Sacacomie inside a large canoe. After circling an island at the center of the lake, we headed back to shore and boarded a Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver floatplane to take in the scenery from the air. If we could use one word to describe the rolling hills and the endless sea of evergreen, it would have to be, incredible. Shortly after our landing, we regrouped and headed into the forest to have lunch. At the end of the boardwalk that bordered the beach, we found the Trapper’s Cabin, in front was a large pot full of beef stew. We filled our stomachs with the hearty dish and washed it down with cold beer. Before heading off again, we took a few minutes to bask in the silence of the forest and then we delved deeper into the woods. As we walked through the bush, the guide told us stories of the early settlers and showed us traps they used to capture the wild animals. Some of these animals included lynxes, bears, beavers, and otter. Besides becoming the hunter’s meals, they were also most treasured for their fur. The afternoon was capped off with a lesson in Tomahawk throwing and archery.
We headed back to the hotel to refresh and reenergize ourselves before dinner, where we would also taste the best of Adberg’s offerings in the Presidential Suite of Hotel Sacacomie. Ruaraidh MacIntyre, the National Brand Manager of Ardbeg, joined us and he was to be our guide for evening. Mr. MacIntyre, who was born and raised on Islay, spoke very fondly of his relationship with Ardbeg, which goes back generations as his father and grandfather worked at the distillery. As we went from glass to glass, each whisky became more distinctive than the next. All the while Mr. MacIntyre would weave in tales about the people of Islay and its landscape. It felt less like a formal whisky tasting and more like a stories told from a whimsical land. The following day, we set out on another lake to spend the morning fishing. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch anything worth keeping but it was nice to drift with the current for a few hours.
Here is a brief overview of what we tasted.
Named World Whisky of the Year in 2008. It’s the perfect balance of peat, malty, and fruity flavours. This should be one anyone’s list of favourite single malt whiskies.
In 2009, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named Ardbeg Uigeadail ‘World Whisky of the Year’ for its complexity and silky delivery. Its name, Uigeadail, is the loch (lake) that Ardbeg utilizes as its water source.
It has won World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards 2010. This is a deep tasting single malt that starts off chocolaty and ends with an unforgettable saltiness.
Released just last year in 2015, this single malt celebrates Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary. The Perpetuum is a delicious blend of old and young whisky, matured in both bourbon and sherry casks.
This came straight from Mr. MacIntyre’s personal flask. It was matured in a bourbon cask matured and distilled in 1993. It’s rare and peaty single malt that is the only other Ardbeg release with an age statement.
This is the smokiest single malt from Ardbeg. On the nose it appears rather calm but when you get a taste, it lives up to its name. Despite this, the Supernova’s backbone is fruity and finishes with in a sweet smoke.
Learn more about Ardbeg here.
Words & Photography: Jon Carlo Tapia
Videography: Kevin Alcalde