despite the large, blue helvetica lettering plastered across a warehouse not a thousand miles from the velo club's favoured coffee hostelry, most single malt whisky distilleries are not in the least bit progressive. in fact, the anonymous one to which i refer makes great play of using no computers in the process of turning water, yeast and barley into an amber nectar that has the ability to have you forget not only your own name, but where you were when you last remembered it. progressive rather goes against the grain (if you'll pardon the pun), undoing all that sterling work by fevered marketing departments to convince us of the ageing process in oak casks stacked close to the atlantic swell. not a single factor that would link the art of whisky-making with yes, genesis or pink floyd.
match that with the almost obligatory ten years old, twelve years old, seventeen and eighteen. granted, there's the occasional oddity that may have been lurking at the back of an all but forgotten warehouse, a matured malt that promises to adopt the meaning of the word lucrative. i have, in the course of my perambulations, visited each and every distillery on the island on several occasions, though never for the purposes of consumption (though i did have a panini at ardbeg's old kiln cafe once). and on all those visits, the one word that has never sprung to mind is the word progressive. but then, 'twas not me that made mention in the first place.
first, a bit of history. many years ago, a group of employees at glenmorangie's livingston bottling hall (glenmorangie are the owners of ardbeg distillery and are themselves owned by moet hennessy) appeared on islay to run the annual half-marathon, dressed in ardbeg corporate colours in the shape of rather fine looking cycle jerseys. not unnaturally, i made further enquiries and it transpired that they had had around a dozen made when participating in a twenty-four hour mountain bike race.
so i made overtures to the brand manager at glenmorangie, pointing out what a rather spiffing idea it would be if the corporate might (and marketing budget) were placed squarely behind producing more of the same, offered commercially to the great unwashed. to cut a long story short, after many apparently deliberate sidetracking attempts, but never a definite "no", the nice gentleman capitulated, saying "we're only going to have 40 made, and truthfully just to keep you quiet." produced by brian gibb at thecyclejersey.com, they currently sell upwards of 300 per year from the old kiln cafe at the distillery and probably just as many direct from thecyclejersey's website. in other words, it has become a commercial success, one for which i have been at least partially credited.
but a good thing can only last for so long. many are the velocipedinists who visit the island already dressed in ardbeg colours and many are those who leave after a short or long visit similarly clad. but cyclists are never satisfied with stasis, and after a lengthy run in its ageing format, the ardbeg cycle jersey has been given a contemporary makeover, already available from the distillery as you happen by this coming summer, or allegedly also available from thecyclejersey.com website.
its polyester functionality is a tad less figure hugging than some of the garb inhabiting the professional genre, but then its fan base is somewhat less specialised than a tour de france peloton, apparently being frequently found clothing those mountain biking chaps and chapesses. perhaps the most obvious nod in this direction is the lack of bicep grasping sleeves with silicon gloop on their inner regions. i have high hopes of persuading mr gibb that a matching set of armwarmers emblazoned with the ardbeg name would be a most palatable and synchronous notion, but i'll let you know how that pans out.
the jersey is available from the link at the end of this article, resulting in the newest edition being posted out in return for your £42.95, failing that, what better excuse to pay a short or long visit to the ancestral home at ardbeg?
you can thank me later.
tuesday 17 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................