June the 5th marked this year’s annual Ardbeg Day celebration and with Covid still fairly rampant across the globe, the festivities were once again broadcast online. TWR teamed up with RGBC to host an intimate event at our Wynberg warehouse, treating 20 guests to a guided tasting of six exceptional Ardbeg expressions, including the latest: SCORCH.
The evening began with a lively online exchange between two Ardbeg elites: Distillery Manager, Sir Colin Gordon (dressed in a full suit of armour), and Global Ambassador, David Blackmore (fresh off a Game of Thrones set in his Dire wolf coat). The two Scots kept us wildly entertained. Aside from their indecipherable banter and increasingly pink complexions, Sir Colin’s virtual tour of the new Stillhouse and valiant efforts to move in his costume were a true highlight.
In the build-up to the main event, guests were treated to canapés and delectably brazen penicillin cocktails, laced with Glenmorangie 10yo. It’s safe to say that young mixologist, Alex Dedekind, is a fiend behind the bar. TWR co-owner, Sean Gunns, then led an Ardbeg Q&A as we made our way through the five initial expressions provided by RGBC. These included Corryvreckan, Wee Beastie, Ardbeg Ten, Uigeadail and An Oa but it was the new release, SCORCH, that had our mouths watering in anticipation.
At last the whisky wizard himself, Dr. Bill Lumsden, materialised through the projector and adorned the warehouse wall in all his omnipotent glory. The real fun had begun! Accompanied by fellow whisky creator Gillian MacDonald, we were finally introduced to Dr. Bill’s “fire breathing beast of a dram,” SCORCH. It did not disappoint. Matured in fiercely charred ex-Bourbon American oak casks with an ABV of 46%, it packed a peaty punch, balanced beautifully with hints of salty liquorice and caramelised sugar.
The evening ended in suitably high spirits and we were thrilled to have hosted true Ardbeg fans who would, under normal circumstances, have made the annual migration to the Ardbeg Embassy in the Dullstroom.
“It was a cold and miserable Saturday on June the 5th at Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom,” reflected owner Dave Gunns. “As an Ardbeg Embassy, the prospect of another pandemic-cancelled Ardbeg Day celebration was particularly bleak… but luckily, by collaborating with The Whisky Rebellion on a separate project, we were able to provide 60 devout Ardbeggians with tasting samples (Kelpie, Grooves, Drum, Wee Beastie, Uigeadail and Scorch) coupled with an online guided tasting.”
The TWR and Wild About Whisky sample kit was a hit, as one delighted customer said, "I was absolutely blown away by the whiskies as well as the knowledge, professionalism and sincerity with which Dave presented the tasting. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience from start to finish!”
Despite successfully bringing a small essence of Islay to our fellow Ardbeg enthusiasts in 2021, we long to once again warm up the bagpipes, join arms for the parade, toss a sheep and clink glasses in traditional Ardbeg Day revelry. Here’s looking at you 2022, we cannot wait to see what sorcery Dr. Bill will serve up for us next. Sláinte!
Many thanks to Rob Gray (RGBC), 180 Degrees Catering, Silver Spoon Function Hire, and the Wild About Whisky team.
All gallery photos by Stephen Segal