There’s an island in between Scotland and Ireland — Islay — that’s so known for its spirits that, though it only has some 3,000 inhabitants, it houses 8 distilleries.  And despite the friendly commercial competition, each year’s release is celebrated with a legendary weeklong festival.  Now, each distillery leads the festivities on a day set aside for them (which was certainly easier when there were only 7…), but though each has its day, the final day of the festival has always been reserved for Ardbeg, and consequently deemed Ardbeg Day.

IMG_1101

As word spread about the festival, and tourism teemed to Islay during festival time, the small island simply couldn’t accommodate everyone.  But quickly, ancillary Ardbeg Day festivities popped up around the world.  And yet still not everyone was getting to enjoy the full cultural experience.  So this year, Ardbeg outdid itself.  If not everyone could get to the island, Ardbeg would bring the island to everyone!

IMG_1103

Mere days ago, Ardbeg enthusiasts worldwide met to celebrate Ardbeg Day and some were fortunate enough to participate in Ardbeg’s never-before-seen “Untamed Islay Experience,” which went beyond the boundaries of time and space to bring the island — and the distillery — to fans who couldn’t be on it in person.

IMG_1106

Through Gear VR Oculus headsets, guests were provided a 360 degree virtual reality introduction to Islay and the Ardbeg caverns, flying in over the Atlantic Ocean and through Ardbeg’s famous peat moss straight into the distillery.  Not only did they see the landscape, and ‘meet’ some of the Ardbeg staff, but via virtual reality, they could actually enter into the white smoke coming out of the peat furnace, tag along on a trek to participate in the famous key ceremony and return a dram to the Uigeadail… and hover above the swirling Corryvrecken, the second largest naturally occurring whirlpool on Earth!

And because Ardbeg Day always comes with a sample of the distillery’s latest limited edition release, certain intimate secret gatherings boasted being the very first to sneak a taste of its latest concoction, the new Ardbeg Dark Cove.

IMG_1105

Ardbeg itself claims a history of hideouts, secret beaches, and smugglers’ dens.  This shadowy past, as well as the inaccurate expectation that such smoky bottles of malted barley would be dark in color, led the distillery to develop this year’s limited edition offering.  Meaty and thick, the smoke really comes through this one, as the main release is matured in black sherry casks and bottled at an impressive 46.5.

IMG_1104

While virtual reality helped everyone to see Ardbeg in a new light, Dark Cove certainly proved to be Ardbeg’s darkest yet.