Ardbeg and the new 21yo

Ardbeg. That wonderful Islay distillery with a cult following so devoted, over 120,000 fans from over 130 countries have pledged their allegiance to ensure the distillery never closes its doors again.  Again?  Yes, Ardbeg has quite a tale to tell…

Ardbeg has a weight, a brand, a persona, that is bigger than itself. It has a reputation for huge, bold, peaty whiskies, and its name travels so far and with such reverence that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the biggest distillery on Islay.  In truth, it’s actually the second smallest!  With just one pair of stills churning away, its potential annual production capacity is just a trickle over 1.1 million litres.

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The pioneers of Australia’s malt whisky appreciation community

“The whisky appreciation scene and the whisky enthusiasts’ community is booming.”

Captain Obvious, 2016.

For anyone who’s climbed aboard the hurtling whisky juggernaut in the last three or four years, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was always this way.  Here, in Australia, we have brand ambassadors flying around the country and presenting whiskies to established fan bases and new audiences.  We have multiple whisky bars operating in the capital cities and out in the suburbs.  We have countless whisky clubs that meet regularly.  We have online whisky clubs and groups that exist in various Facebook spheres.  We have a selection of 40 to 50 different whiskies to choose from in the supermarket chain retailers.  We have online whisky stores that ship the latest and greatest releases to your doorstep.  We have whisky expos in each of the capital cities.  We have distilleries opening up or establishing all across the country.   I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  We ain’t never had it this good before.

But it wasn’t always this way.   Hard as it might seem to believe, there was a time when life for the Australian whisky enthusiast was the polar opposite.   Imagine being a whisky fan in the mid-1970’s when less than a handful of single malt brands were available.  Imagine going into a bottle shop in the late 1990’s and having a selection of no more than six different bottlings to select from.      Imagine no whisky bars.   Imagine no online whisky resources or communications.  In fact, imagine no internet.

It was in those seemingly primitive times that the first pioneers and members of the whisky enthusiasts’ community of Australia set out trying to (a) source malt whisky, (b) share their enthusiasm with other people, and (c) gather together a community of like-minded souls around them.

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Lagavulin 8yo Launch

As is widely known across the whiskysphere, 2016 sees the Lagavulin distillery celebrate its 200th Anniversary. No one celebrates a 200th birthday lightly, and Lagavulin has been widely praised for the release of its limited edition (but widely accessible and affordable) celebratory 8yo in honour of the occasion.  Whisky & Wisdom had an early taste of this, and wrote up a piece about the distillery and the whisky back in April.   You can read that piece and the review on the 8yo here.

However, more recently – and closer to home – the 8yo had its local launch in Australia just a few weeks ago. Held at The Wild Rover in Sydney’s Surry Hills, the launch was not just the unveiling and tasting of the whisky, but it was also an incredible virtual reality (VR) tour of the distillery.

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