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Checking Out Ardbeg Whisky Through The VR Lens

Editor’s Note: The Whiskey Wash welcomes Julia Ritz Toffoli, founder of Women Who Whiskey, as a new contributor to our site.

My first experience with Virtual Reality—or VR, as we’re calling it apparently—was when I received a curious package in the mail from the New York Times. I unwrapped the box and pulled out a piece of folded cardboard with some bits of glass wedged into it. After a short time fumbling with this contraption, and an eventual quick Google search for the instructions, I realized I’d been sent a (perhaps too obviously named) Google Cardboard: VR goggles. I could tuck my iPhone into the goggles to experience virtual reality videos published by the New York Times.

I was skeptical at first, and a bit self-conscious—stumbling around my apartment with cardboard on my face—but I was eventually pulled into the magical, three dimensional worlds of drugs busts in Mexico, penguins in Antarctica, and even walking around my very own New York City. Soon I saw my friends were using Google Street View to post 3D VR photos of their everyday outings, giving anyone on Facebook the ability to share their moment from thousands of miles away. And all of a sudden, it seemed VR was everywhere.

Ardbeg Virtual Reality
Ardbeg meets virtual reality. (image via Julia Ritz Toffoli)

A few weeks later, I was invited to a Virtual Reality tour of Islay, courtesy of Ardbeg Distillery and the Samsung Oculus (a more sophisticated version of my analog Cardboard). Excited by this new way to travel, I eagerly accepted the invitation, thrilled to have the chance to “visit” Scotland.

Dan Crowell, National Brand Ambassador for Glenmorangie (which owns Ardbeg) and Korinne Munson, Director of Communication & Digital for Moet Hennessy, hosted an intimate evening for a small group of whiskey “influencers”—bloggers, writers, and social media savvy whisk(e)y connoisseurs.  The event was co-hosted by whisky Instgrammer Nate Ganapathi, of Single Malt Daily.

We were all a little unsure as to how this novel evening would unfold, but we were welcomed with a cocktail—Arbeg’s twist on a Penicillin: fresh and bright from the Green Chartreuse, yet with a hint of smoke from the Ardbeg Ten humming in the background—and soon relaxed as Dan and Korinne explained the “trip.” The event had been developed for The Ardbegians, an exclusive group of Ardbeg enthusiasts and patron saints, so to speak (having helped to rescue the failing distillery from its demise), in order to allow those who had never experienced Islay for themselves to visit it virtually, and was now being adapted for all Ardbeg fans.

Penicillins drunk down, we were whisked away into the Moet Hennessy boardroom. Austere and a bit corporate, the fifteen foot table we spread out around in no way prepared us for the magical journey we were about to embark on.

Alternating sips of Ardbeg and be-goggled jaunts to Scotland, Dan talked us through a flight of Ardbeg Ten, Ardbeg Uigeadail—named for the Lock Uigeadail, Arbeg’s water source, and Arbeg Corryvreckan—named for a nearby natural whirlpool, the third largest in the world and the sorry fate of a many a curious Scottish seaman.

The whiskies were phenomenal—smoky, briny, sweet, and grassy—no one could choose a favorite. But soaring above the Uigeadail you could almost feel the damp, salty air whipping around you. We flew over the distillery, visited nearby historical sites, and floating above the water, dove suddenly into the Corryvreckan, plunging into the depths of the sea.

Virtual reality indeed.

Exhilarated, but nerves a bit shaken, we crowded around the bar where Dan surprised us with a final treat: a dram of Ardbeg Dark Cove, a rich and wonderful limited edition whisky perfect to celebrate those of us who had finally found our virtual reality sea legs.

For those of you hoping to see Islay from above with a side of Ardbeg, it looks like they’ll be bringing this to consumers around the U.S., so stay tuned for a popup Ardbeg virtual reality experience near you!

Julia Ritz Toffoli

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