Ardbeg Day continues to grow and build momentum each year, and on a truly global scale. It is now one of the highlights of the whisky calendar, and the main events that get held around the planet are spectacular occasions.
Each Ardbeg Day has a theme, and this year’s was an entertaining mix of both retro and futuristic. 2015 marks Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary, and it was therefore fitting that we mark the past and acknowledge the distillery’s long and colourful history. But the modern Ardbeg brand has never been one to look backwards, and so a glimpse of the future was also very much at the core of this year’s theme and this year’s festivities.
And so it was that the good folks at Ardbeg took over and transformed the International Cruise Terminal at White Bay on Sydney Harbour. Walking in to the venue, one was instantly captivated by the set up – sharp, clean, sleek, and with some fantastic attractions and activities around the place to both amuse and entertain. And, of course, to renew acquaintances with Shortie the Ardbeg dog!
Immediately as you walked through the curtained entrance, you were greeted by a team of servers waiting with trays of Ardbeg cocktails. A choice of two, they were cool and refreshing; one dry, and one sweet. And it was the perfect drink to hold and enjoy whilst trying to work out which attraction to hit up first. Segway riding? Hoverboard racing? Shortie Circuit? (robotic dog racing!) The Haar Bar? (An opportunity to nose and inhale the “essence” of Ardbeg). Robotic ball? Or how about just sitting in the DeLorean from Back to the Future? And, for those of my vintage, an old-style video arcade console with those classic 1980’s games like Galaga, Space Invaders, and PacMan. The Air Hockey table also proved popular. Yes, like all good Ardbeg Days, there was plenty to enjoy.
Sydney’s whisky community was out in strength, and despite 250-odd people in the room, most were familiar and friendly faces. And whilst there were plenty of activities and attractions on offer, I noticed many people were happy to sit and chat happily, compare notes on the Ardbeg cocktails, share Islay tales, and take in the atmosphere. This was enhanced by some pretty cool music that played throughout the afternoon – a great mix of futuristic sounds, tunes, and beats, including the Mos Eisley Cantina theme from Star Wars!
However, about an hour into the afternoon, the unmistakable sound of an old dial-up modem connecting to the internet rung out loudly over the speakers, followed by – what else – the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme, signalling that it was time for the main event.
With smoke billowing across the floor, trays of this year’s special Ardbeg release, Perpetuum, were distributed amongst the crowd. The very gorgeous Emma, our MC for the day, introduced someone significantly less gorgeous to say a few words about the whisky, and thus yours truly took the stage for a few minutes to share a few words about Ardbeg – the distillery, the story and, most importantly, some information about the new Perpetuum bottling. I’d had a chat with Dr Bill Lumsden (creator of Perpetuum) a day or so earlier, and he shared that Perpetuum was a bit of an “Ardbeg Greatest Hits, Volume 1”. It’s a celebration of many of Dr Bill’s experiments over the years, using “classic” Ardbeg from bourbon and sherry casks as the backbone, but also a smattering of new French oak casks from Corryvreckan, some un-bottled Alligator casks, a few Manzanila sherry casks from Ardbog, the odd Marsala cask, and a few other nuggets. It’s a stunningly good Ardbeg; a real big-hitter, and if you’d like more specific information and tasting notes, you can read my official review on Perpetuum here.
The Perpetuum was being generously poured to allow attendees to get better acquainted with the dram, and some fantastic main course food also came out (mushroom gnocchi) to complement the wonderful canapés that had been doing the rounds for most of the afternoon.
All in all, it was a brilliant afternoon and demonstrated once more that Ardbeg is a fun brand, a great distillery, and run by a great bunch of people. Sincere and many thanks go to the organisers of this year’s event; to Jessica, Garth, Ashley, and the rest of the gang at Moet Hennessy (great to see Jonathon, Sarah & Scott again!); to Oliver & Eliza at EVH; to the crew who donned the futuristic wigs and dresses; to the staff serving food and drams; and to all the members of the Ardbeg Committee who turned up and enjoyed the fun.
Note that most of the photos above were taken before doors officially opened, hence the lack of “the crowd”. Never fear – just a few moments later, the room was packed! For a far more visual and photographic record of the event, with amazing photos that capture the day beautifully, I commend The Whisky Ledger’s account of Ardbeg Day, which you can read here.