An interview with Geert Bero “The Ardbeg” Collector
I am a big fan of Ardbeg, but it doesnt even come close to Geert’s passion for all things Ardbeg. This week I’ve asked Geert to share his love for this Islay distillery, and he kindly accepted. And what an awesome collections this guy has. One can only be envious.
Tell me a bit about yourself, what do you do in life?
I am the hotel manager/owner of a hotel Golden Tulip Bero in Oostende Belgium,our bar stocks about 90 whiskies.It’s the only place in Belgium where you can try the bottles of the SMWS.I am born in 1973 in Oostende and lived there until 7 years ago when I moved to Stockholm, Sweden where I live with my wife and two daughters.I travel between my job and my home every other week.So I know the tax free shop at Brussels airport quite well.As a member of the Lindores whisky Society we have our clubroom in the Golden Tulip Bero with the whisky vaults of the club as an eye catcher in the lounge,we regularly hold the famous and by now notorious Lindores whiskyfest here.
When did you first start to appreciate whisky, and which was your first whisky you really fell in love with?
We were refurbishing the bar and we wanted to add something special ,so it turned out to be a whisky bar.But I knew nothing about it,so I joined a tasting where I had my first single malt whisky in 1998 ,it was an Oban 14 years and there lightning struck.The taste was incredible the sheer loveliness of that great pallet of taste.Since then my quest to taste the best whisky ever made took off.Off course in my twenties I had some J&B with cola,nowadays catalogued as Junk&Bullshit.
How many bottles are in your collection, when did you start collecting? tell me a bit about this collection.
I joined a tasting in 2003 of the peat freaks in Oostende where we had an Ardbeg single cask #2740 for Belgium.,It was an incredible good whisky so I needed to have some more bottles,at that time those were still OK in price, around 180 euro if I recall well.I had already a couple of Ardbeg’s prior to that single cask ,the TEN,1975,1978,1977,Lord of the Isles,17Y old and a couple of Committee releases,but it was in 2003 it really took off with the single casks.So you might say it started in 2003,I always buy minimum 2 bottles one to drink one to keep for my kids,so they can savour seventies Ardbeg in the future,cause that style of Ardbeg will never come back.I focus on distillery bottles only in the collection,but I do have a fair share of independent bottles.The Ardbeg collection now consists of around 200 different OB Ardbeg bottles,and some miniatures.I recently provided all the bottles except one to make the pictures for the book Ardbeg “a peaty provenance”Quite cool to see the same bottles live with the book next to it,same number of bottles as in the book.There is also an interview of me and some whisky notes in that book.You can see the collection on my website www.ardbeg.eu
What is your favourite bottle, or one you are most proud of in your collection?
That’s a hard one,I have a lot of favourites in all those seventies single casks,as I know how they taste.But if I have to name one, it would be the very scarce old 10 years old ,clear bottle ,black screw cap,black label/white letters this is the standard bottling from the early seventies but different from the black label/gold letters that is much more common.And off course the single cask done for hotel bars around the world ,only 36 bottles were made.And many are empty now!!
do you also drink Ardbeg beside collecting? and if so, how many open bottles do you have, and which one do you enjoy best in the past months?
Stupid question,Off course I drink the whisky!I have about 200 bottles open at the time where of 116 of them are Ardbeg,and of that around 45 distillery bottles .I always want to know what I buy so that’s why I open them.Other distilleries I like are Laphroaig,Lagavulin,Bowmore,Caol Ila,Springbank,Brora,Port Ellen,Longmorn,Clynelish, Duftown, Aultmore.In short just amazing good whisky.But like I said before, the older bottles and varieties of these distilleries,new whisky is just getting to mainstream,they have lost there distillery profile.The best new bottle I bought in 2010 is the Longmorn 37Y 51,3 % 1972/2010 “the perfect dram” by the whisky agency. The best old bottle I tried a couple of months ago is the Largiemeanoch 12 yo 1967 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co., Bowmore, casks #2655/6/7,some good friends and I shared this bottle at a whisky trip to Italy in 2009,the best whisky I ever tried so far.
What is the highest price you ever paid for a bottle and what is the most expensive bottle in your collection now?
Very short answer: Double barrel!!!
What advice would you give a novice collector about to start his collection?
Collect something you like yourself,and try as may varieties you can,take it easy,and do not rush it .The bottles you sometimes chase and miss in your collection, just show up when you never expect it.Buy the bottles when they come out.And try to swap with other people ,this will save you a lot of money.Go to whisky fairs and try as meet people there with the same love for the water of life,you will not believe how many new friends you will get out of this from the whole world.And last but not least DRINK the stuff.
If you had only two bottles of Ardbeg to take with you to a desert island, which would you choose?
I would bring the Ardbeg MOR 10Y 57,3% first edition 1 of 1000 bottles as it’s a fantastic whisky and it’s 4,5 litres,so that will keep me happy and the mosquito’s away On that Island.The other bottle would be the Ardbeg Managers choice Cask #2391 56% 1976/1999 as this is the perfect example of a peated whisky on a fantastic dark sherry cask,the perfect marriage.And I could enjoy that on those magical sunsets on the beach.
What would you say to ‘regular’ whisky drinkers who claims collectors are the main cause of single malt price increase?
Well I would say it’s not true as a “regular” whisky drinker drinks his Ardbeg 10 or his Lagavulin 16 and not his array of open single casks and signatory 1967 or cadenhead 1964 or old Samaroli bottles he has in his cabinet.I buy old sixties and seventies Ardbeg and all bottles are being opened,off course I am not the only one chasing those fantastic drams.That’s why the price goes up of special bottles.The whisky industry is to blame for setting a price on hyped bottles with young or finished whisky.
Thanks to Geert for his time! may we posses a fraction of the richness his amazing collection offers.