Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What a Day - Ardbog Day Sydney 2013

4.5L of Ardbog... big enough for you? (image courtesy of Gourmantic)
Let us just start with this simple fact, if you did not register nor had an interest in going to Ardbog Day then it was your loss. What an outstanding, fun, and clearly enjoyable Ardbog Day Australia: Sydney (Ardbeg Day) 2013 was.

Ardbeg Day
, renamed for this years limited edition bottling of Ardbog, coincides directly with Ardbeg's open day during the 'Feis Ile' Islay Festival of Malt and Music over in Islay. Ardbog Day was celebrated in 16 countries around the world (including Ardbeg Distillery, Islay, Scotland) and each with their own take on festivities. Though all Ardbeg Committee members should have know about this in advance (I being one), I actually missed the initial promotions for it but luckily still managed to snaffle a place on the day as did fellow D.T.W.C. member The Grey Bush. It was not restricted to Ardbeg Committee members of course but I dare say most were avid Ardbegians at heart.

Grounds of the Superintendents Residence
Ardbog Day Australia: Sydney was held in the grounds of the Superintendents Residence, cnr of Oxford Street and Lang Road, Centennial Parklands on Saturday, 1 June 2013. The event ran from 12:30pm to 3pm with games, music, treasure hunts, food and free flowing Ardbeg from start to finish. We shall see what happens next year but it certainly seems from what others have said that a tradition of Islay rain also blows in to keep us needing to reignite the Ardbeg fire in our tummies. Tweed was the dress code of the day but next year I think a Dr Who scarf, game basket, and some gumboots are also in order.

Those elusive Ardbeg coins
We arrived on the mark at 12:30 already finding that a host of people had snaffled the tables. Unbeknownst to us at first, 5 coins had been spread throughout the grounds and in amongst the straw lining the ground. If you were lucky enough to find one then a free bottle of Ardbeg was yours to keep. Unfortunately as people were let in early the coins were picked up and popped in peoples pockets not knowing what they were for. After a lot of us searching the straw through the day (just in case) finally people were coming forward saying they had picked them up earlier not know what they were for. Oh well maybe next year then.

A swag of Arbegian booty
No loss on the coins though as we were there for the fun. Games galore were to be played resulting in opportunities to snag a booty bag of goodies to take home. Hoops, skittles, treasure dig, and pin the tusks on the mammoth allowed me to snaffle some tight goods. For myself a stuffed Shortie, 3 Ardbeg Tumbler glasses, an event shirt, and a hard back edition of the Ardbeg: A Peaty Provenance filled my bag. Enough for any committee member to be happy with but wait there was more. On our walk home in the rain we meet another couple holding one of those elusive Ardbeg umbrellas. "Hi Ho" is said "I really wanted one of those umbrellas you lucky buggers". After a brief chat the wife decided to hand it to me! For all the pushing back and the downtrodden husband making grabs for the umbrella the insistence was that I should keep it. Well thank you mystery Ardbeg Committee member, if I see you next year I will be sure to say "Hi Ho" once again and return the favour.

Stuffed Shortie
Cracking on, the food on the day was glorious with roast spit pork and beef, breads, cakes, aperitifs, and other exciting tide bits to soak up all that Ardbeg. Oh the Ardbeg! Cocktails were on offer through the day and I was rather taken by the Ardbeg Bloody Mary, and Ardbeg with Passion Fruit. Yes every general release of Ardbeg was up for samples and I assure you I was sampling. A note of praise to the young chaps named 'The Bearded Gypsies' (hailing from Wollongong I believe they said) for some excellent tunes though I did only count 1 beard in the band (I am sure that joke was said at elate 1000 times that day).

A modest dram or 4 of Ardbog
Of course then there is the the whisky of the day Ardbog. I shan't say that samples were in short supply as very healthy drams were passed around for all to try and then a rather hefty 4.5L bottle of Ardbog was opened to top everyone up. Probably the most important note about the Ardbog Limited Edition is that is is a 10yo matured in ex-bourbon American white oak casks then finished in ex-manzanilla sherry butts then bottled at 52.1% ABV. Manzanilla is a super dry spanish sherry named because of its flavours associated with chamomile tea. Chamomlie is also called Manzanilla in Spain hence the naming. I think the dried florals actually do come through on the whisky. I did managed to get some notes down early on in the day so this is what I found on first impressions:

Nose: Earthy straws, dried florals, iodine, medium peat with dry smokes.

Taste: Sweet but dry pallet, earthy and a little greasy with a  smack of green olives.

Finish: Warming and long and spicy like chilly liquorice.

Overall: Very enjoyable but it left me thinking it was a little soiled or dirty. Very unique and a soft change from your regular Ardbeg's and I think that is just fine. You will have to take these notes with a good dash of salt because I did have a few drams of 10yo prior but tried to clean my pallet as well as I could. Tasting notes relating this this edition made special note to the salts but personally I did not fins the in any way different to the regular 10yo.

Kevin from Gourmantic hunting for Ardbeg coins
Leading up to the event several small email promotions and a movie was produced for the coming event bug I am still a little confused about exactly how Ardbog was inspired. Archeology and discovery of Ardbeg is clearly part of it but was there something happening on Islay at the time that made this choice for them? Several references to Vikings can be found. Not to worry though as it was fun all day long and I am ever so praising and thankful to Ardbeg for such a generous party.

Kevin & Corinne from Gourmantic, The Baron, and The Grey Bush at Ardbog Day Australia: Sydney
Yes I will come again next year. It was good to see some familiar faces of course but I have to say it was one of those events everyone was happy to have a chat and spin a few yarns without worry about who you were or even if you would ever see them again. Good fun, good times, and a good deal of Ardbeg to boot.

The Baron

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