Being fifty-something, I’ve worked out a few of my favourite things.
One of them is something Julie Andrews never sang about: single malt whisky, particularly the smoky, peat-filled expressions produce on Islay, a remote island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides.
Mr P has a connection to Islay. His cousin (maybe removed once or twice) is the manager at Ardbeg distillery, one of Islay’s most popular (and our favourite, of course) whisky exports.
Our enjoyment of single malt whisky has led us to meet some fabulous people. The most fabulous are surely the GOBSMACT crew – a Melbourne-based collective of single malt devotees who meet every so often to share some fine drams and even finer conversation.
This year, we got together in Melbourne for Ardbeg Day which sees Ardbeg whisky fanatics gathering at “embassies” around the world to taste the special Ardbeg Day bottling, celebrate all things Ardbeg and enjoy some spirited dramming with like-minded folk.
Several GOBSMACT regulars had travelled to Islay to experience the Ardbeg Day celebrations there in whisky holy land. So numbers were down.
The rest of us enjoyed an early dinner at The Supper Inn in Melbourne’s Chinatown before heading to 1806, a nearby cocktail bar, for the official proceedings.
After whispering the not-so-secret password (“Shorty” in honour of the distillery’s canine mascot) we were ushered downstairs to the very new, very intimate UnderStudy Bar where the Ardbeg flag was flying and the new bottling was on the pour.
There was a mammoth 4.5 litre bottle of the Ardbeg Day expression, open and ready for us to enjoy and a tasting board of some of Ardbeg’s best.
Few had ventured out on this chilly Melbourne evening, so we practically had the place to ourselves. The service was impeccable, as were the warming drams!
UnderStudy has an Alice in Wonderland theme played out with giant (mostly over a metre tall) marionettes and crafted figures, strung from the ceiling and set high on giant pedestals. Papier-mache teapots and teacup candles liven up the space, saving it from its dark, dungeon-like (or maybe rabbit hole) bones.
Most lively, though, was the sense of occasion and the conversation that flowed as freely as the scotch. How lucky are we to be able to enjoy some of the world’s finest whisky in the company of great friends?
Fifty-something life is for celebrating such things.