On 3rd September I had the pleasure to attend the opening of Munich’s second Ardbeg Embassy at Bar Gabányi. Being a member of the Ardbeg Committee entitled me to join the festivities on the premises of the former Aurora Bar on Beethovenplatz, not far from the Oktoberfest area.
Stefan Gabányi, a true german bar legend and former bartender at Schumann’s had opened his own bar only a few days before, so the Ardbeg Embassy opening was a very welcome opportunity to promote it. He is a big whisky fan and has been active at the Munich Finest Spirits festival as well.
The event coincided with the launch of Ardbeg Galileo, so it was no suprise that the setting was space-themed. The Ardbeg girls normally seen pushing wheelbarrows full of peat had swapped their checkered shirts and rubber wellies for mock space suits, and visitors were invited to have their pictures taken next to an astronaut figure.
Since the weather was fine, the first part of the event took place at the space outside the bar which was just not crowded enough to become uncomfortable. To warm up for the main attraction, small tasty bites were served, followed by grilled meats and vegetables.
As could be expected form a proper bar, two different cocktails made with Ardbeg Ten were served. The first one was a ‘Peat Julep’, a smoky variation of the famous bourbon Mint Julep. I was surprised how well the Ardbeg peat harmonised with the mint, a very nice creation indeed, but next time please skip the straw.
I was far less impressed with the second cocktail offering, an Ardbeg old-fashioned. I am a huge fan of the traditional bourbon old-fashioned, so maybe I am a bit biased, but this one just did not work for me. I don’t know if it was because of the method of preparation or if the Ardbeg is generally not suitable for this drink. But the bitters were hardly noticeable here, essentially the cocktail just tasted like a toned down and lightly sweetened version of Arbeg Ten on the rocks.
The crowd then gathered in the downstairs bar to finally have a taste of the much anticipated Ardbeg Galileo. Michael Scheibe, German Brand Ambassdor for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, explained the bottling and gave his tasting notes. Other Ardbeg bottlings were on pour as well which could be enjoyed at leisure afterwards.
My tasting notes:
12 yo, partly matured in first fill marsala casks – 49%
Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Wood smoke, grapes, raisins, honey, vanilla, candied ginger and nutmeg along with a gentle sea breeze.
Palate: Peat, sweet cloying grapes, ripe banana, liquorice, treacle, nutmeg, hints of pepper.
Finish: Long, sweet and fruity, slightly spicy.
Overall: The strong Ardbeg peat is tamed by sweetness here, underlined by a light fruitiness.
Rating: 85/100 – Price Tag $$$$$ – Value for your Money $$$$$
Buy Ardbeg Galileo at The Whisky Exchange
I am not convinced that the marsala cask experiment done by Bill Lumsden can be called successful. The Ardbeg officials hinted that the pure marsala cask whisky was much too sweet to be truly enjoyable, so they decided to cut it with first fill and refill bourbon cask whisky. Still the sweetness is quite dominant, and when tasted next to the Ardbeg Ten, I don’t think this bottling is an improvement.
Ardbeg have been hopping from special release to special release for a few years now, all of which can be subsummed under the term designer whisky – and the marsala cask Galileo puts it essentially in the same category as Jim McEwan’s quirky cask experiments over at Bruichladdich.
Mind you, all recent Ardbegs are very good whiskies nevertheless. But somehow I am missing the red thread in Ardbeg’s bottling policy, I would much prefer some continuity instead of a cavalcade of noisily advertised special releases.