Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to what was called “Ardbeg Day Munich”, only to find out that the venue actually was in Oberschleißheim where I live. The event was held at the Oberschleißheim rowing course which was a venue of the 1972 Olympics in Munich. I had never been to this place before despite having lived here for 13 years now, so I took the opportunity to see both the annual Ardbeg celebration and also have a look at the rowing course on last Saturday.
The venue itself has a bit of an eerie aura because despite it still being used for competitive rowing many of the 1972 installations have been abandoned and are slowly being reclaimed by nature, such as the ticket counters in the picture.
Ardbeg Day proper was not very easy to find since the rowing venue covers quite a large area, and I heard complaints about the lack of signage.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the venue was also a refreshing lack of Ardbeg branding. Apart from signs explaining the different games and the many people wearing Ardbeg t-shirts there was surprisingly little marketing ballyhoo.
In the weeks leading up to Ardbeg Day there was some irritation among German Ardbeg fans because of the way it was promoted. There was an online vote for the central German Ardbeg Day venue, but after the vote, all of a sudden all candidate towns had their own Ardbeg Day. And nobody really believed that this was just done because the vote was so close.
So at the end there were five different Ardbeg Days in Germany in Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin. This of course meant that the individual events were significantly smaller than the centralised Ardbeg Days of previous years. About 200 people attended in Munich, and I have to say I quite enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the event. But I heard some people complaining that there was not as much going on as in previous years. It really is a matter of personal preference, I guess. The event was moderated by radio DJ Florian Weiß who did a good job in keeping up the tension while not overdoing it by constant “encouragements” as I originally feared.
The atmosphere was a bit of a cross between a beer garden and a children’s birthday party. Attendees could earn “peat coins” by successfully competing in the games that ranged from barley sack lifting over bucket memory to guessing whiskies using the new Ardbeg Ceò vapourizers. The coins could be invested in drams of Ardbeg whisky, and there also was a remote competition which city managed to win the most coins. Of course Munich won. There also was a team competition where the winning team could take home a bottle of Ardbeg Ten.
After all competition winners had been announced, brand manager Carolyn Sanchez introdued the eagerly awaited Ardbeg Perpetuum in a short tasting. The event ended with a barbecue (grilled meats, not a proper one unfortunately, but I admit to being spoilt here) and acoustic live music by the band China Room.
To summarize, I enjoyed the event more than I originally expected, mainly because the trademark Ardbeg marketing silliness was toned down to an easily bearable level.
But of course you should keep in mind that organising events like this costs quite a bit of money. The small additional amount the attendees paid on top of the Perpetuum retail price will not have paid much of the costs. And if you consider that about 15000 people worldwide have attended this year according to Ardbeg, it doesn’t need much imagination to see that Ardbeg spent a lot of money on this. And it takes just as little imagination to see that this cost is included in the price of the bottle.