Velo Club d’Ardbeg

At art-college I played in a rock band. At gigs the guitarist, prior to bolting amps and drums together, regularly indulged in a glass of Jack Daniel’s. It was the rock ‘n’ roll thing to do. It’s not too much of a stretch to make the connection between whisky (or whiskey) and the world of rock.

What is not so readily apparent is the connection between cycling and single malt. A colleague of mine recently undertook a bike ride through the distilleries of Speyside in the hunt for a trail, as well as an article for a malt whisky society magazine. Every year the Ride of the Falling Rain receives an increased entry, many attracted by the fact that not only does the ride pass five of Islay’s finest distilleries, but stops for lunch at Ardbeg distillery’s Old Kiln Cafe.

Some years ago now, the Mighty Dave T and myself embarked on a concerted campaign to persuade Ardbeg distillery that a cycle jersey with that Celtic bordered ‘A’ on the front would be a particularly good idea (given the number of cyclists attracted to their cafe each year). All credit to the man at the top because after two years he agreed to have 40 jerseys made.

Currently, Ardbeg sells around 200 jerseys per year at the distillery alone. As a result, four of us are collectively known as Velo Club d’Ardbeg, with Brian Smith’s son Ethan, as a junior member.

So what is it that draws cyclists toward single malt? Sadly, I doubt there is any secret: most of us are regular folks, apart from the shaved legs and that little tanned patch on the back of each hand. Islay’s population swells to untold numbers at the annual Islay Whisky Festival, lured by the amber nectar from the island’s eight distilleries, along with the one more on Jura, the next island up. Now there’s a good cycle ride if ever you’re at a loss this summer.

Brian Palmer is the editor of The Washing Machine Post and is teetotal.

The Islay Whisky Festival takes place from May 22-30 2010. The Ride of the Falling Rain will happen on Sunday 1st August.