Monday, June 3, 2013

Ardbeg Day Japan

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
Unless you happened to be on another planet last weekend, it was hard – as a whisky enthusiast – to miss Ardbeg Day (June 1st). This year, for the first time, Ardbeg fans in Japan had a chance to celebrate their day in style as the Japanese team had organized a special party in the heart of Tokyo, at a fantastic place called IDOL in Omotesando.

Visitors were handed a personalized Ardbeg Day Passport and the idea was to participate in various peat-related shenanigans. There was a “peat DIG”, where you had to try and fill a bucket with just enough peat so that the weight of the bucket and the peat equaled the weight of an Ardbeg magnum bottle. There was also a “peat GRAB”, where you could have a go at beating the standing record of how many peat cones you could grab with one hand and transfer from a pot to a bowl, but the most interesting corner was the “peat SMOKE” greenhouse where you could experiment with adding extra peat smoke to your Ardbeg 10. Using a special peat pistol – I’m sure this would be the hit of the year (no pun intended) among peat heads if someone were to make this generally available – and a peat cone, extra smoke was “shot” into a big glass and then covered to keep the smoke in contact with the liquid. If this sounds like a gimmick, I can assure it was much more than that: it’s an extraordinary experience. In the first phase, you just get extra smoke with your whisky, which is nice enough, but after a while some strange sort of alchemy takes places as completely new aromas and flavours start to emerge from your staple Ardbeg. It’s as if the peat smoke that’s shot into the glass acts as a sort of catalyst. Truly extraordinary. If only every bottle of Ardbeg 10 came with a little peat gun and some peat cones…

After completing these 3 “tests” – and getting your passport stamped to prove it – you had a chance to go for the “Lucky Dig”, which involved rummaging around in a big bag of barley in search of the prize you were hoping to win. It sounds like a sort of “whisky theme park”, and in a way, it was, but there was loads more going on: lots of Ardbeg to try, any way you liked; phenomenal food served on peat spades (the lotus root with horseradish worked really well with Ardbeg, as did the French blue cheese they brought out towards the end); good music; a fun crowd… and, of course, Ardbog – the new limited release – which was dug up towards the end of the party and very well received. There are whisky events literally every week here in Japan, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this: the whisky equivalent of a fun fair. Another day on the calendar to block from now on.

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