Ardbeg Day, Sydney

With Ardbeg Day 2015 rolling around in less than a month (May 30th to be exact), I thought it was about time I recapped last year’s festivities in Sydney. Pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll let them do most of the talking.

Ardbeg Bunting

Sydney’s 2014 Ardbeg Day celebrations were held at The Mint, Sydney CBD’s oldest public building that once operated as a coin producing facility. Walking through the 19th century wrought iron gates, we were greeted by Shortie and his relatives. Pretty sure I’m in the right spot.

Ardbeg Shortie

Two steps further inside. Ah yes, I’m most definitely in the right spot.

Ardbeg Cocktail

I’m not generally a huge fan of whisky cocktails, but there were two variants on offer and one of them was a cracking, moreish concoction of Ardbeg 10 year old, pear nectar and simple syrup with a dash of vanilla and orange bitters to boot. I’m sure it had an official name, but I’m simply going to call it delicious peaty breakfast juice.

Ardbeg Cocktail

We all know what happens when you drink on an empty stomach but thankfully there was no chance of that happening with ample canapés doing the rounds, including dozens and dozens of freshly shucked oysters. If you’ve not yet samples oysters + a drop of peated whisky, take my word for it, it’s a stellar match.

Ardbeg Oysters

Before the day’s festivities even rolled around, we knew 2014’s Ardbeg Day release was called Auriverdes (meaning gold and green). We also knew 2014 happened to be the year the FIFA World Cup was being held in Brazil, so it came as no surprise to find the day heavily soccer themed.

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If you could drag yourself away from the Ardbeg, edible delights & live music, there were a bunch of soccer themed games and activities setup.

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I must admit that I didn’t really pay too much attention until I noticed some mates return with a loot of prizes. Then it was game on!

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I managed to score some Ardbeg coasters, a fob key ring and this neat cardholder – which is rather astonishing considering I have two left feet and zero sporting ability. If there’s a similar setup this year, mark my words, I plan on being a walking Ardbeg merchandiser by the end of the day.

Ardbeg Cardholder

The small Ardbeg-branded foosball table was good fun, but from the moment we first walked in, we all really wanted to see was this one in action. That’s right, a human-sized inflatable foosball table!

Ardbeg Football

Yes, we got to have a go at the end. Yes it was loads of fun. Yes, we all thought we were elite athletes when we were strapped in there. Speaking of which, former Socceroo, Chelsea and Man. United goal-keeper, Mark Bosnich, was on hand to award the winners with their trophy and help officially introduce Auriverdes to the crowd.

Mark Bosnich

And that’s when things really kicked-off!

Ardbeg Day

I don’t think I could ever tire of this sight – enjoyed responsibly, of course.

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Just in case you needed a top-up at all, there was an extra bottle on hand.

Ardbeg Auriverdes Gold

All this sport made many rather hungry, so this was a welcome sight to all. Spit-roast, salads and sides – all generously on the house.

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If you liked the look of this, then you really, really don’t want to miss Ardbeg Day 2015!

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Head on over to Ardbeg.com, register your details, become an Ardbeg Committee Member and be the first to get notified when Ardbeg Day registrations open. See you on the 30th… in the future.

Check out @whiskyledger on Instagram and Twitter for more whisky photography

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

Way back in April of this year I put up this post regarding what appeared to be the label for an all new version of the fabled Ardbeg Supernova. Then one day in September it all came to life for me when a surprise care package arrived at work from the kind people at Moet Hennessey. A whole two months passed before I could find the time to sit down and properly enjoy it, but I finally got that chance over the weekend. So as the mercury hit a positively nippy 42°c (107°f) here in Sydney, I drew the curtains, grabbed the camera, cranked the air-conditioning and got to it.

SN2014 mini

Many probably know the back-story to this bottling, but just in case you don’t, here’s what you need to know. A few years back, Ardbeg sent some tiny whisky samples into space for what would become known as the Ardbeg Space Experiment – analysing the effect of zero gravity. It seemed only fitting that to celebrate their return to earth a special whisky should be released. Enter: Ardbeg Supernova 2014 (SN2014).

The Supernova family

It’s not the first time Ardbeg have used the Supernova moniker before though. Ardbeggians would be well aware that way back on 20 January 2009, Ardbeg released 2,400 bottles of the original Supernova to Ardbeg Committee members. They promptly sold out in a matter of hours.

Given the success, the committee release was soon followed by a broader ‘Stellar release’ of Supernova (SN2009), bottled at 58.9% ABV and peated to ‘over 100 parts per million (ppm)’. By comparison, Ardbeg Ten is peated to somewhere in the region of 55 ppm. Clearly this went down well with peat fans, as it was followed up the very next year in May 2010 with another Supernova (SN2010) bottled at a hefty 60.1% ABV and again peated to 100+ ppm.

Speaking of PPM

Parts per million (ppm) is a scientific measurement and isn’t necessarily a good one when it comes to measuring taste or aroma. For example, you shouldn’t expect a whisky rated at 100 PPM to smell and taste twice as smoky or peaty as one rated to 50 PPM. Not quite sure why? Have a read of this blog post.

Ardbeg Supernova SN2014

With the cult following (and sometimes astronomical prices) of the two previous Supernovas, I’ve never actually tried them. As a result, I’m approaching this new SN2014 release with somewhat fresh eyes (and nose and tastebuds). That could actually be a good thing though, as I won’t be comparing this new release to the Supernovas of years gone by.

What’s in the bottle

So what do we actually know for certain about this whisky? Not a whole lot to be honest. It’s bottled at 55% ABV and is ‘limited’, but other than that, we don’t know its age or how many bottles were produced, nor do we know what kind of casks it’s comprised of, or the level of peating the malt has been subjected to (ppm).

Ardbeg Glass

On one hand the whisky nerd in me really, really wants to know all of this stuff and more. On the other hand though, not knowing isn’t such a bad thing I suppose. I’ll be drinking it because it’s Ardbeg and I know I like Ardbeg, but beyond that, there’s no other detail getting in my way, setting subliminal expectations or clouding my judgement.

Nose

When first poured I found this immediately smoky and charred. It’s ashy and peaty, but in a real dusty and earthy kind of way – not in a saline heavy, charred meat or medicinal fashion. A second nosing delivered hot coals, some hay/grassy notes and something akin to charred zesty lemons. After a good few minutes in the glass the smoke subsides (ever so slightly) and some sweeter vanilla notes become apparent. This become a lot more balanced, malty and complex with some air time.

Palate

First sip is oily, immediately followed by a decent amount and heat of spice right at the tip of my tongue, along with some sweet yet salty brine notes. As soon as you swallow that mouthful though – wow – hugely smoky, more so than the nose suggests. It’s bittersweet, immediately drying, tangy and charred.

Finish

I found the finish on this almost came around full circle, bringing to the palate those drying earthy hay notes from the nose. The peaty coal smoke lingers for the full length of the warming finish. I felt as though I could notice a definite lineage to the classic Ardbeg Ten, but there’s no way you’d ever confuse the two.

When, where and how much?

The Ardbeg Supernova 2014 goes on sale in Australia in December. It’s available through Ardbeg Embassies or direct from Moet Hennessey Collection online at a retail price of AU$240. Whilst I haven’t been able to confirm the exact number of bottles landing on our shores, I’ve heard rumours of it being in the hundreds, so no dilly-dallying if you want one!

We have touchdown

I’ve been missing in action for a wee bit, but there will be plenty of fresh posts in the coming weeks. For the time being though, I’ll leave you with a few shots of a nice little care package that recently arrived from out of space.

Peering into the galactic black bag, I was met with a rather stellar sight

Ardbeg Supernova mini

A small wooden crate. You could say the presentation was out of this world.

Ardbeg Supernova

I think we better pry this open..

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

Sorry, that one was out of focus.. or was it

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

Ardbeg’s latest Committee Release, the new Ardbeg Supernova 2014. Tasting notes and more info soon at The Whisky Ledger.

Available in Australia from December through your local Ardbeg Embassy or at Moet-Hennessy Collection.

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Officially released 31 May 2014, 49.9% ABV

On 31 May 2014, Ardbeg will officially release their third annual Ardbeg Day whisky, Auriverdes – the name being a nod to the golden (auri) Ardbeg whisky and the iconic Ardbeg green (vedre) bottle.

The bottle labeling also points to subtle second meaning in the name, with Auriverdes said to be ‘a winning dram’ with vanilla ‘driving the flavour home’ with this Ardbeg being a ‘kick’. In case you doubted the not-too-subtle World Cup references, then the sight of this stunning trophy – I mean – bottle will surely change your mind!

Auriverdes bottle

I guess this one can simply be called Auri.

Auriverdes front label

Auriverdes is described as being a whisky of two halves, with the official release citing a new toasting technique that gives the whisky ‘a mocha coffee flavour at one end, flowing into creamy vanilla at the other’.

Auriverdes rear label

I’m thinking this could mean that cask the lids have each been charred to a different level? Until such time as I get an audience with its creator, the talented Dr Bill Lumsden, that’s just going to have to remain a guess. As for the remaining particulars, it’s bottled at 49.9% ABV following an unknown number of years of maturation in American Oak casks.

It was a bittersweet moment cracking open this bottle. On one hand, I was opening the most striking, individual looking bottle I’ve ever owned. On the other hand though, I knew it was full of Ardbeg – and no ordinary Ardbeg at that – a new expression that I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of, ahead of its official release. With a squeak and a th’dunk, that cork was out and a dram was poured.

Auriverdes open

It’s golden indeed! Shall we give it a taste?

Nose

Up front, I get some pretty big sweet creamy vanilla notes, milky chocolate and a slight peaty freshness (almost light in a way – not overly medicinal or earthy). After a few minutes I got some grassy hay, a dry herbal character and some hints of lemon and mandarin zest.

Palate

Quite spicy up front. A nice oiliness gives way to some pretty boisterous, tarry medicinal peat – more than I got from the nose, that’s for sure. Tangy saline emerges, along with a fair pinch of spice, zest and a subtle honey sweetness. Overall, still quite dry and fairly light.

Finish

A fairly lengthy, warming finish, albeit quite dry and slightly tannic. I got some more vanilla sweetness at first, but that seemed to fade to a good helping of ashy peat and smoked meats, which linger to the end.

Comments

Overall, I found this to be a lighter style of Ardbeg, taking some of the freshness of Ardbeg Day, but picking up on the subtle rounded notes of Ardbog. In the end though, it’s very different to both and a completely unique expression in its own right. As with the other two, I’m not sure I can liken it to anything else Ardbeg currently offer.

Ardbeg trio

I’m so glad Dr Bill and the Ardbeg boffins continue to mix it up and experiment with their stocks, putting their crazy ideas into practice and coming up with some pretty exciting creations.

In 31 sleeps, Ardbeg fans the world over are going to be in for a bit of a treat when this gets released. If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to the Ardbeg Committee and come along to Ardbeg Day on 31 May.

If you can’t make it – don’t fret – you can also get your hands on your very own (green) bottle of Auriverdes from specialist retailers right around the country from 31 May at an RRP of AU $135.70 (which is actually cheaper than the £80 RRP in the UK – Shh, don’t tell them!)

A sincere thanks to Ardbeg Australia for the sneak preview. Bring on Ardbeg Day!

Edit – I’ve since been advised that the RRP in Australia is actually AU $190 and not $135.70 as referenced above.

Ardbeg Ardbog

Released 1 June 2013, 52.1% ABV

In 2013, Ardbeg decided to (temporarily) rename their global day of celebration to help bring attention to the famed peat bogs of their island home and to celebrate the vital part they play in making Ardbeg the peaty pleasure that so many love.

For that reason, Saturday 1 June 2013 was coined Ardbog Day. And what should they name their limited release whisky for Ardbog Day?

Ardbog

There’s a bit of theme going on here guys!

Fans the world over eagerly awaited this release and just like Ardbeg Day the year before it, Ardbog was released globally on Ardbog Day, 1 June 2013.

Ardbog - Bottle and Box

Ardbog had more of a traditional presentation this time, with the hallmark Ardbeg green bottle, dark-coloured label and black presentation box. Not one to disappoint when it comes to quirky details, the matte presentation box was covered in gloss illustrations and gold lettering spelling out interesting peat bog tidbits.

Ardbog Box

The detail continues on the inside lid, with Ardbeg’s mascot, Shortie, making one of his many appearances throughout the packaging.

Ardbog Box Lid

There’s also a handy Ardbeg Committee booklet inside, detailing Ardbeg’s core range and all you need to know about becoming a committee member.

Ardbog Committee Booklet

And then we get to the whisky itself. While there’s no age statement as such, Ardbog is a vatting of ten year-old Ardbeg matured in traditional American Oak ex-bourbon barrels and European Oak ex-Manzanilla sherry casks.

Vatting vs. Finishing

Finishing generally describes the process of moving the contents of one cask (traditionally an American Oak barrel), into a second cask for a short period of time before bottling. The second cask is often fresher and/or treated with an alternate wine or spirit of some sort (think sherry, port, rum, various other wines etc.) which is done to impart some more flavour and complexity into the whisky before it’s bottled.

2012’s Ardbeg Day is an example of whisky that was ‘finished’ in ex-sherry casks (for a period of six months) before it was bottled.

Vatting on the other hand generally involves taking two or more different casks of whisky and mixing them together in a vat for a period of time, before they’re bottled. In this case, Ardbog is a vatting of ten year-old Ardbeg matured in American Oak ex-bourbon casks and ten year-old Ardbeg matured in European Oak ex-Manzanilla sherry casks.

Ardbog - Glass

Nose

Quite rich, full and deep. Sherry fruitiness, hints of plum, charred peaches, cinnamon, some bonfire smoke and salty coastal notes. Slightly syrupy in nature and full of rather round, soft aromas – quite refined and balanced.

Never thought I’d say this about an Ardbeg, but I almost want to describe the nose as subtle.

Palate

Medium body mouth feel, not too hot and big on flavour. I got currants, some berries, charred woody smoke flavours, some BBQ smokiness and fragrant peat. A salty saline peat tang hits in the sides of your tongue, but nowhere near as much as many other Ardbegs – sherry sweet and salty savoury at the same time.

Finish

A touch of smoke and some salty spicy saline notes start to emerge. These hang around nicely with the residual sweetness – all of which seems to remain to the end of the medium length, warming finish.

Comments

I really enjoyed this one. If I didn’t know, I would have guessed it to be slightly older than ten years and would also guess it to be a fair bit more mature than Ardbeg Day.

As someone who enjoys a nice balance of sherry and peat, I found this one to be really quite pleasing. The vatting (as opposed to finishing) has really done wonders for it in my opinion. All of the aromas and flavours were much softer, rounder and balanced, especially when compared to 2012’s Ardbeg Day.

That being said though, I can also imagine Ardbog being a bit of a let down for some diehard Ardbeg fans, as some of those big hallmark Ardbeg flavours weren’t quite there. I appreciate distilleries playing around with the stock they’ve got and releasing exciting expressions, so that didn’t bother me in the slightest.

If only I had a bottle of the all new Auriverdes to taste…