4 Whisky Festival Survival Techniques

You are not a dedicated whisky enthusiast until you have attended a whisky festival. But the many spirited temptations may lead you into an abyss of sensory deprivation, undignified intoxication and starvation. One way to avoid this is moderation. Another is to use our 4 whisky festival survival techniques.

  1. The thinking bourbon
  2. Stints & Meals
  3. Line-ups
  4. Raids

1. The thinking bourbon

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Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon at Whiskymessen 2013

Despite the efforts of even the most skilled organizers, whisky festivals are highly disorganised events. Hundreds of whiskies on offer from brands and retailers each offering a variety of quality and whisky styles. As the day progresses the festival infrastructure is strained as the collective intoxication increases and food reserves are depleted.

The thinking bourbon is the first drink of the day. It is the most interesting or expensive bourbon of the festival ordered straight on arrival, and something to enjoy while getting situated at the festival, locating interesting whiskies, scouting food stands and the general situation. You want a bourbon for this not because it is easier to think while drinking bourbon rather than whisky, but simply because bourbon will rarely be able to compete with the strong, old and peated single malts you will be spending the rest of the day with. Might as well get the best out of the bourbon selection while you can.

We cannot take full credit for the concept of the thinking bourbon. It has been introduced to us by Peter Votava of the Berlin-based doom metal & whisky tasting concept Taste The Doom, which we interviewed some time ago.

2. Stints & Meals

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Resting the taste buds in the middle of Whiskymessen 2012

The main components of your day at a whisky festival should be stints and meals. A stint consists of a number of whiskies no greater than 10. Either in the form of a pre-planned line-up (third technique) or a brand raid (fourth technique). Stints are clearly divided by a meal, which includes a cup of coffee to keep you on the toes and help neutralize your tasting organs.

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Queue in front of a sold-out hotdog stand at Whiskymessen 2012

If you have not had the thinking bourbon (as described above), chances are you have not assessed the food situation correctly. This means you easily risk facing the danger of starvation. Here you will either have to wait in long queues, wasting valuable tasting time, or you risk drinking on an empty stomach and scorching your taste buds because of an un-neutralized tongue and palate.

3. Line-ups

Making a sensible line-up of different whiskies is a well known activity for any experienced whisky drinker. Start gently and somehow balance between old whiskies, peated whiskies and unpeated cask strength whiskies to end up in the glorious climax of old peated cask strength whiskies. Common sense suggests a good line-up consists of 7-10 whiskies of increasing spirit and peating levels.

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Hitting it hard at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011

While this challenge can be hard enough when spending money in a whisky bar or joining whisky collections with your mates in a private setting, it is made all the more hard by the disorganized nature and vast selection available at a whisky festival.

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Martin feeling the burn at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011

Having seen a festival program before attending is a good way to point out what you want to taste. However, on the actual festival site the most important question becomes where you want to taste. All this is sorted out by using the techniques above:

Getting situated by the use of the thinking bourbon is essential, as your sense of space and direction will get challenged during the day.
By dividing into stints and meals you should be planning the line-up of your forthcoming stint as the main conversation subject during the meal.

4. Raids

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Raiding Glendronach at Whiskymessen 2011

A great alternative to line-ups are to do a raid. This means choosing the stand of an interesting distillery or bottler and picking out 6-8 of their whiskies under the informed guidance of a brand representative. This gets some fast rough insight into their selection and should always be considered when planning a stint.

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Danny more or less coping with the antics at a master class at Whiskymessen 2011

Raids are also a good alternative to a festival master class, where an official brand representative tries to impress a room of predominantly old tired festival drunks, which potentially results in a slow pace and the lowest common denominator often setting the standard for the humor and anecdotes.

While some master classes offer tasting of exclusive whiskies not available on the regular festival stands, it is always useful to weigh your options by considering a raid given the time and energy spent with a festival master class.

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Excellent Mackmyra raid at Whiskymessen 2013. Read about it here.

When doing a raid it is important to step away from the stand in between the whiskies you are trying. It is not only courteous to give space to the thirsty people behind you, but also very useful as you will avoid the pushing, shoving and increasingly distracting sweat stench in front of the more popular stands.

Moderation?

We generally recommend avoiding moderation as much as possible. This includes: Not drinking a whisky you are merely curious about. Spitting perfectly drinkable whisky out to save yourself for later, thus missing out on the aftertaste or throat burn. Watering a whisky down by more than a single drop per centiliter. Wasting time writing useless tasting notes about each and every whisky.

If you are of normal fitness and follow the techniques above, you will find that moderation is not needed to sustain a full day of whisky festival activity.

Danish whisky festivals

We have developed these techniques by attending numerous editions of the two annual Danish whisky festivals on the Jutland peninsula. Namely Mac Y Rom og Whisky Festival and Whiskymessen. You can find our comparison of the two festivals here.

Later this month the 2014 edition of Whiskymessen is taking place and once again we will be there, avoiding moderation and worshipping the dram.

d & m / Whisser – A Danish whisky blog

Bruichladdich Distillery warehouse tasting

Not into distillery tours with unenlightened tourists? Luckily Bruichladdich offers a warehouse tasting – an essential whisky activity on Islay. Read why.

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In September 2013 we visited Islay – the beautiful Scottish island in the Southern Hebrides with a long proud history as the home of peated whisky. For any peathead this is an essential pilgrimage to undertake. For one of us it was the second visit and for none of us will it be the last.

We spent a week there and did many things; visited a lot of distilleries (all of them except Bunnahabhain), drank a lot of whiskies, and met a lot of locals and other whisky pilgrims at the Ardview Inn in Port Ellen.

It is impossible to pick one highlight of the trip, but one of them was surely the Thursday afternoon warehouse tasting at the “progressive hebridean distillers” of Bruichladdich Distillery.

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You should always have high expectations when visiting a distillery on Islay. The island is a popular tourist spot and all kinds of people drop by the distilleries for a look and a taste. The distilleries are all very good at making everyone feel at home, and will go to some length to make sure no one leaves thirsty.

As most whisky enthusiasts will know, it can be quite aggravating to try and savor a dram from your favorite distillery surrounded by the unenlightened. Luckily the distilleries are also getting increasingly better at offering something for people who are familiar with the distillery’s standard range and with the whisky production process from other distillery visits.

Nowhere on Islay is this clearer than on Bruichladdich Distillery. While the standard tour offers a nice walk around the premises and a generous taste from the range afterwards, the warehouse tasting offers a much more interesting, substantial and fulfilling perspective on the work of the distillery.

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Bruichladdich mash tun.

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Bruichladdich still room. This is where we tasted the Bruichladdich new make (for the Port Charlotte production), which seems a lot more approriate, rather than to include it in the line up in a subsequent tasting, as many distilleries tend to do.

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Danny posing at the Lomond still, which Bruichladdich has decided to use for their gin production currently available in The Botanist Gin. A product we do not care much for as it is not whisky.

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After the informal tour by general manager Duncan McGillivray it was time to enter the warehouse on the grassy hill behind the distillery overlooking Loch Indaal. As with most cask warehouses still located near old Scottish distilleries, they have a somewhat spiritual atmosphere. Both in the literal and the symbolic sense, obviously.

Dark cold buildings with countless statuesque casks give an immediate sense of being in a tomb. But knowing the old casks contain senseless amounts of priceless spirits living and maturing in the casks does stir up a sensation of awe about the whole situation.

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Luckily the romantic and poetic mood was not allowed to put a melancholic blemish over the tasting. Our charismatic tasting host Raymond Tibbs had brought showmanship, dark Scottish sarcasm and Irn Bru to liven up the tasting.

Normally these sorts of antics at whisky tasting events are cringe worthy attempts aimed at bonding with a drunken audience through cheap laughs and using lowest common denominator to make sure everyone gets it. Not with Raymond though. While taking the piss out of both whisky tourists and native Islay residents he was very keen on getting a banter going with people in the room, which was particularly entertaining in the case of the shy central Europeans, who didn’t really understand a word he was saying.

All this being the case, the entertainment never overshadowed the reason we were there, and all the essential information about the casks was presented timely and authoritatively.

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Ok, so what did we drink? These:

Bruichladdich 1989 Unpeated – cask #51 Limousine cask. Around 50%

Bruichladdich 2005 Port Charlotte PC8 – cask #1586 Bourbon cask. Around 61 or 62%

Bruichladdich 2002 Octomore 1 – cask #1115 Chateau d’Yquem cask. Around 55 or 56%

Even for what is supposed to be a somewhat exclusive tasting, this line up exceeded all expectations. There are two reasons why this is a magnificent line up.

1. The taste range was well suited for those inclined to peat. The soft complex blow of the 24 yo unpeated was a delicious and great opener of the taste buds. The Port Charlotte (or PC8) was a fierce kick in the face and a jolt of all whisky related senses with a nice peat afterburner. The Octomore 1 was a complete immersion in waves of peat and spirit balancing and battling with the more complex results of the white wine cask maturation. One of those whiskies that take a couple of minutes to develop during which time you are forced on a supernatural adventure towards the centre of the Earth.

2. Each and every one of these casks contain whisky, which would have been sold at tall prices, had it been bottled. Especially in the case of the Octomore 1 d’Yquem matured cask 1115, which is allegedly one of only two white wine cask matured Octomore 1 casks ever made. The other one is still left untouched somewhere in the Bruichladdich warehouses.

Given the quality and exclusivity of the casks, we got the impression Bruichladdich had actually chosen the best casks they could find and cracked them open just for the visitors who made the effort of visiting them in the Autumn 2013, regardless of the potential bottle value of a single cask release.

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Some additional comments need to be addressed when it comes to the Octomore 1 d’Yquem cask, so we are dedicating a future post just to this one whisky. The reason for this is that even though this was an exclusive cask reserved for the warehouse tastings, we were actually able to get a fair deal of this with us back home.

Incidentally we had brought a hip flask along. Traveling with public transport on Islay you never know when you end up waiting several hours for a delayed bus or the next available cab, or alternatively need to make a few hours worth of trekking. So having some refreshing back up whisky ready at hand is essential to keep the buzz going after a distillery visit.

Throughout the warehouse tasting our host Raymond had caused some stir and nervous laughter by pouring both Irn Bru and the priceless whisky in his own glass over the warehouse floor in front of our feet.

We struck a deal with him, that if we emptied the contents of our hip flask on the floor he would fill it up again with the Octomore 1. He agreed.

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Martin emptying the contents of the hip flask on the warehouse floor. It was Black Grouse. Our host Raymond looks at the spectacle in equal astonishment and disgust.

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The wonderful Octomore 1 d’Yquem cask being poured straight from the cask and into the hip flask. A priceless whisky ready for private export.

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Danny trying to hide in the warehouse.

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The always friendly general manager Duncan McGillivray and the rest of the visitors center staff gave us another warm welcome at the visitors center, where we were offered samples of some recent Bruichladdich releases. Including the Octomore 6.1 and the Port Charlotte PC Scottish Barley. Impressed by the generosity we couldn’t help the temptation to spend a few quid on their products.

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Martin filling a bottle from the Bruichladdich Distillery Valinch - a single cask whisky only available on the distillery at the time of the visit. In our case a sweet and rough 18 yo unpeated rum cask matured whisky called Bruichladdich 18 Rum Reggae Rockers All Star Delight.

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To sum it all up the quality, generosity, character and exclusivity of the Bruichladdich Distillery warehouse tasting makes this our single most recommendable experience for a peathead on Islay.

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We will post more about our other whisky experiences on Islay later, and devote a post on the Octmore 1 d’Yquem cask. So if you’re into this sort of thing, stay connected with us through Facebook or Twitter.

Additional photo credits go out to Golam Sadeghnia and Allan Skou.

d & m / Whisser – A Danish whisky blog

Tasting whisky at Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi

dansk maltwhisky akademi in bjødstrup on djursland

This summer we visited Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi (Danish Malt Whisky Academy) to have an exclusive whisky tasting. Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi is located in Bjødstrup on the Djursland peninsula in Denmark. It is a whisky importer, whisky distributor and small scale independent whisky bottler. It is also a membership club, which gets you the small bi-monthly magazine “Malten” as well as invitations to various whisky events. The owner and spiritual leader Flemming Gerhardt-Pedersen also does whisky tastings around Denmark, so visiting him on his home turf made it possible to experience all the services Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi can provide.

It was a nice evening with some fine or at least interesting drams. A treat saved for last was a particularly foul whisky, which Flemming thinks is the worst single malt in the world.

flemming gerhardt-pedersen at dansk maltwhisky akademi

The exact line-up of the evening was not prearranged, but something we discussed with Flemming upon arrival. The line-up was based on our preferences and his current stock of bottles. We decided to divide the tasting into two parts: One part in his tasting room with a shared 4 bottle line-up and a second part in his office and where we tasted individually from his bottle storage.

Macduff 9 2000 Creative Whisky Milton Duff 11 1998 Macduff Golden Cask Bowmore 22 1989 Liquid Sun

The shared line-up consisted of three independent single cask bottlings as well as one of his own bottlings:

Macduff 9 2000 Creative Whisky Exclusive Range cask 5779 45%
Milton Duff 11 1998 Macduff Golden Cask CM140 57%
Bowmore 22 1989 Liquid Sun single cask bourbon hogshead 50.7%
Aultmore 16 1997 DMWA single cask 3585 54.6%

During the line-up we were treated with examples of Flemming’s extensive inside knowledge on the history and development of the different Scottish distilleries and whisky companies. He did not miss the chance to offer a few of his personal opinions about the matter. Including that he thought the very prolific young Danish whiskies from Stauning Distillery have not matured enough, and taste more like akvavit than whisky.

Flemming gerhardt-pedersen and Aultmore 16 1997 DMWA single cask 3585 54.6%

The final bottle in the shared line-up was his own Aultmore Cask Owners Selection DMWA bottling. For his asking price it is a very decent Speyside whisky, but without too much going on – it is not a hidden gem.

martin skou whisky tasting at dansk maltwhisky akademi danny kreutzfeldt whisky tasting at dansk maltwhisky akademi

Enjoying the drams. Especially the Bowmore, which one of us ended up buying.

dansk malt whisky akademi in bjødstrup

On the way back to the office for the 2nd part of the tasting, a wild beast attacks.

edradour 15 tokaji matured release

Having tasted another handful of different whiskies indvidually in the office (including some fine old Bunnahabain and his two interesting Mortlach single casks) it was time for the final treat: The potentially worst single malt in the world. The Edradour 15 Tokaji Matured release.

No question this was a bad whisky. Even after a nice tasting on a glorious summer evening. While some of its complete absence in terms of complexity, depth and aftertaste were partly down to the strain of the tasting buds of the other whiskies we had been through, it contrarily did not lack character or substance. However, it was in no way a pleasant one, mainly consisting of a thick oily collision of tastes and smells close to decomposing fruits and vegetables spiced with curry.

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Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi is the perfect place to go hunting for independent bottlings and single cask whiskies in Jutland. The prices for tastings, samples and bottles is totally decent compared to Danish standards. If you have solid background knowledge, Flemming is generous with both anecdotes, opinions and recommendations.

www.dmwa.dk

If you are unable to make the trip to Djursland, Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi has a website on http://dmwa.dk from where you can place international ordrers on some of his stock. It is however not the most userfriendly nor the most contemporary of websites, as the above front page screen shot indicates.

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This was our second visit over the last couple of years. Each time has easily been worth the effort. There’s a direct bus from Aarhus, which stops in Bjødstrup a couple of times each evening. The bus trip itself takes 45 mins and passes through some quintessential Eastern Jutlandian scenery. It is recommended you enjoy it around sunset with a recent purchase from Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi.

Mackmyra Special:10 Kaffegök at Whiskymessen 2013

Back on our feet after Whiskymessen 2013, which took place last weekend and is Denmark’s largest whisky event. Lots of good people, old drunks randomly falling asleep, revisiting dear old whiskies, and exploring new quality bottles constantly spewing from both the Scandinavian and Scottish distilleries these years.

An absolute highlight was the world premiere of Mackmyra’s Special:10 Kaffegök.

Mackmyra special 10 kaffegök whiskymessen.dk 2013

Mackmyra is one of a dozen active distilleries in Sweden, and by far the most prolific. In fact, if popularity is measured by the amount of Facebook fans a distillery has, Mackmyra is with +150.000 fans among one of the most popular distilleries in the world.

However, Mackmyra is not really a predominant brand internationally and most of these Facebook fans are Swedes. A nation with a dubious reputation for settling with either moonshine or the thinnest beer and priciest spirits in the EU.

One of the things that could improve this bleached Swedish reputation in Denmark is Mackmyra. Not only have they recently switched to a better Danish distributor, which means their whisky is not only available in airports and select stores, but they also seem to make consistently decent and interesting whisky.

Because of the poor Danish distribution, we have never actually had a proper chance to taste Mackmyra before Whiskymessen 2013. But when they showed up with 7 of their bottlings, a world premiere and official brand representatives, we not only decided to taste Mackmyra, but to raid them.

Whiskymessen.dk 2013, Martin Skou Danny Kreutzfeldt whisser mackmyra special 10 kaffegök

A whisky festival raid means high-jacking a brand representative and make him select a line-up of 5-7 of their whiskies, which is then tasted in quick succession. (You can read more about raids and other whisky festival survival techniques here)

Under the guidance of Karl Thögersen from Mackmyra, we went through a line-up of increasing ferocity.

  • Mackmyra Brukswhisky
  • Mackmyra First Edition
  • Mackmyra Vit Hund (More of that Swedish moonshining, not bad though.)
  • Mackmyra Special:08 Handplockat
  • Mackmyra Special:10 Kaffegök
  • Mackmyra Moment Skog

The most important thing we learned about Mackmyra is that they are not afraid to try out new things. While it was hard to pin down a distinct Mackmyra taste, they still often manage to stand out because of the unusual tastes they seem very insisting on. Something that is mainly achieved by filling their casks with all kinds of natural ingredients before maturing the mostly unpeated spirit in the casks.

Nowhere in the line-up was this more prevalent in Mackmyra Special:10 Kaffegök, which premiered at Whiskymessen prior to the official release on the 2nd of May. The ironic subtitle “Kaffegök” means coffee punch (as in boozed-up coffee), and thus Special:10 is (sort of) made the other way around as it has been finished on casks that have previously stored whisky spiced with freshly roasted coffee beans. This spiced whisky is then poured out and replaced by regular Mackmyra spirit, which is then given a coffee-finish in the casks.

The result was a unique single malt whisky with strong coffee taste that still felt potent and complex despite the straining done to the taste buds during a whisky festival. It could easily match a conventional lightly peated whisky, and worked wonderfully as a break.

The coffee taste felt like a natural part of the liquid, and was present throughout the 10-20 seconds it took to develop in the mouth. On top of this, the taste of coffee had a surprisingly refreshing effect, which was probably caused by the placebo effect, as both of us are coffee junkies in our daily lives. At least so our theory goes.

The tasting of Mackmyra Special:10 Kaffegök at Whiskymessen 2013 can be summed up like this: Whisky and coffee together, but in a good way.

Mackmyra special 10 whiskymessen.dk 2013

The Special:10 Kaffegök was a great experience for a number of reasons: It improved our perception of Swedish whisky. It tasted like nothing we had quite tasted before. It was a refreshing peak on an otherwise busy day of heavy tasting. And lastly it was a prime example of whisky innovation.

Not since German Cadenhead’s various Stupid Cask projects have we encountered such well-executed artificial cask finishing. An approach we not only find interesting, but also vital in keeping whisky alive as the most fascinating, wonderful or exuberant liquid on Earth.

Other highlights from our day at Whiskymessen 2013:

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Stauning 2nd Edition Peated. Served by master distiller Mogens Vesterby.
Read about our tasting of the Peated 1st Edition at the distillery here.

smws Scotch Malt whisky society at Whiskymessen.dk 2013

SMWS had brought the entire range along, as well as furniture, chicks with tits and a photographer.
Read about our visit to Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Vejle here.

Glenfiddich Cask Of Dreams Whiskymessen 2013

Glenfiddich Cask Of Dreams. Another brand new whisky and one of the best at Whiskymessen 2013.
Also, the first Glenfiddich in modern history where the quality of the whisky matches the price.

Lars Lundehave Hansen whiskymessen whisky tasting taste the doom 2013

Hanging out with Lars Lundehave Hansen of Taste The Doom.
Read our feature about his doom metal whisky tastings here.

A visit to SMWS in Vejle

SMWS in Vejle, Danmark. Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Denmark.

Earlier this year we visited the newly opened Danish branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

SMWS was started as a whisky club in Edinburgh some 30 years ago, but has developed into an international franchise with a fairly snobbish ring to it. It is based on making high quality single cask bottlings from predominantly Scottish distilleries exclusively available to its members. An SMWS branch (or Member Room, as it is formally known) is both a whisky bar and bottle shop. Non-members are allowed to enter the bar and buy a glass, but you must be a member to buy a bottle, and members interested in buying a bottle or two can sip on it before buying, which is quite an advantage. Memberships are not at all cheap and paid annually.

On top of this the Danish SMWS branch is quite surprisingly located in the unexceptional city of Vejle, which is only the 9th largest city in Denmark.

Intrigued and confused, we took the trip not knowing what to expect.

Terje Thesbjerg at the SMWS in Vejle, Denmark

We visited as a 7-guy-group on a Saturday afternoon. We had booked ahead and asked if they could prepare a line-up of some of their bottlings with emphasis on surprise and peat. This was not a problem.

The Danish SMWS member room is located in Torvehallerne, which is a hotel and conference center owned by the Best Western chain. Upon entering we were greeted by Terje Thesbjerg, who owns the Danish branch, and acted as our bartender for the two hours we were there. Two hours with no other visitors and plenty of time to learn more about what SMWS has to offer, and why it has opened in a small city as Vejle.

Terje is affiliated with the management of Torvehallerne. He has clearly opened the Danish SMWS in Vejle for two reasons: To make Torvehallerne more attractive for thirsty business men, and because he is deeply enthusiastic about whisky.

Luckily it was the last of the two which was most prevalent on our visit and we thoroughly enjoyed the engaging and knowledgeable company as he took us through the line-up.

SMWS bottle code 66.36

An SMWS bottling does not directly bear the name of the distillery it is from. Instead it has a code and an extremely silly name, which is somehow related to the taste. However, the code actually tells you where the whisky is from, as the first number represents the distillery and the second number is the number of cask from which the bottle is taken. All you have to do is Google it.

Ignoring the silliness of it and disregarding whatever long forgotten reason for why SMWS started doing it like this, the lack of distillery name does have one advantage the first time you’re exploring the SMWS bottlings: You get to play guess the distillery-quiz.

We did this with rather moderate success throughout this line-up, which had been preselected by Terje.

  • 71.37 – Glenburgie, 14yo, 57.9%
  • 35.77 – Glen Moray, 15yo, 56.2%
  • 66.36 – Ardmore, 10yo, 58.2%
  • 33.115 – Ardbeg, 11yo, 55.4%
  • 29.128 – Laphroaig, 21yo, 58.8%
  • 127.21 – Port Charlotte, 9yo, 65.9%

The line-up was exactly as we had hoped; a tour de force through some gorgeous, soothing and intense whiskies with complexity and of quality.

Some of the bottles were so good, a few of us decided we had to own them, and signed up for membership on the spot. When you join the SMWS you get more than just the permission to spend more money on their bottles, but also a Membership Box. This contains four samples of SMWS bottlings, a Handbook, a tasting notebook and an SMWS pin.

Luckily you don’t have to wear the pin at any time during the visit, but once again SMWS shows a dubious combination of something wonderful and something silly.

SMWS Membership box worth it. Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Of the seven of us who entered, one had been gifted a membership prior to visiting, three signed up on the day, one just a few days later and the rest have been thinking about it since. This is not only a testimony to the high quality of the SMWS bottles, but also to the atmosphere and service of SMWS in Vejle.

This is, however, not an unconditional recommendation to sign up for a membership. Before it makes sense for you, it is our opinion that these conditions must be met:

1. Interest in buying 3-5 bottles of quality whisky a year.
2. Live (or do business) in reasonable vicinity of a branch.
3. Moderate tolerance of silliness

We will return to SMWS in Vejle soon to sample more of their range, but if next time is as joyous as the first time, we will have no problem calling SMWS the best damn whisky bar on the Danish peninsula of Jutland. Well done Terje.

d & m (Thanks to Thomas N. Jensen for the photos)

Stauning Peated 1st Edition at the Distillery

Upon entering the new year, we deemed it fitting to write something about one of last years best whisky tasting experiences. The tasting of the Stauning Peated 1st Edition at the Stauning Whisky Distillery way out west on the Danish peninsula of Jutland.

We maintain that describing the tasting of a whisky cannot be summed up by explaining what is in the bottle. Lots of other factors play a part, with the most important ones usually being: The place and company around you. Your physical condition and receptibility of your senses. Your mood and your expectations.

Stauning Peated 1st Edition Danish single malt whisky

After a wearisome road trip, we arrived eager and curious at the small distillery. Stauning Whisky Distillery is found near the rural hell hole of Skjern. It is a desolate regressed part of Denmark, which does seem like it has been forgotten by God – despite the comparatively high religious activity of the locals. The Stauning village is however a small idyllic place located on the banks of Ringkøbing Fjord. Just outside this village, the small distillery has been opened on a former pig farm.

stauning whisky distillery destilleri skjern

Stauning Whisky Distillery

We were greeted by master distiller Mogens Vesterby and co-owner Hans Martin Berg Hansgaard who took us on an informal tour around the farm. Throughout the tour they emphasized how luck and pragmatism was the key to their success. Stauning Whisky has been developed from a basement experiment to an upcoming brand in just 7 years despite none of them really knew anything about making or selling whisky.

Mogens Vesterby Stauning whisky

Mogens Vesterby demonstrating the Stauning bottling plant and labeling device

However, the huge amounts of Jutlandian modesty couldn’t hide the pride they feel for the their work. Not only by the attention from Danish mass media, the exclusivity deal with the famous NOMA restaurant and the praise from whisky opinionaters like Jim Murray, who rated the Stauning Peated 1st a rare 94/100 in the 2013 Whisky Bible. But also by making everything out of local ingredients, which as far as we know makes Stauning the only completely Danish single malt whisky in production at the moment.

Stauning Peat from Klosterlund Museum archeological dig

PEAT! Currently delivered to Stauning from a nearby archeological dig.

We were presented with the Peated 1st after the laid back walk around the distillery in a short line-up preceded by the Stauning Young Rye and the Stauning Traditional Single Malt. We both agreed it tasted and behaved exactly as a young smooth peated 62.8 % whisky should: Like a blast beat in a classical symphony. Like a temporary shutdown of all senses but taste and smell or – like finding a warm welcoming place in a cold barren landscape.

Stauning whisky casks

Casks are stored in the old farm garage.

In this sense our high expectations about tasting the Peated 1st were not only met, but also greatly succeeded. All the elements came together on the journey this day, hence; The great whisky we were offered went perfectly in tune with the down-to-earth, unpretentious yet positive atmosphere of the Stauning Whisky Distillery. Something which is often gravely missed when being subjected to a tacky overeager tour guide on a well-established Scottish distillery.

So if you want proof that something is definitely NOT rotten in the state of Denmark, visit an old pig farm in a desolate part of Jutland and taste some peaty Danish single malt whisky.

Whisser Mortlach road trip

Have a safe trip.

d & m (Thanks to Thomas N. Jensen for the extra photos)

Taste The Doom in Denmark

The best in testosterone fueled experimental whisky tasting is coming to Denmark.

TASTE THE DOOM from Berlin – Dec 14th in AARHUS and Dec 15th in COPENHAGEN.

Here we present our view on the matter and a short interview conducted with the guys behind Taste The Doom.

Taste The Doom Whisky Tasting

In a rare case of entertaining whisky innovation two guys with backgrounds in extreme music have come up with one hell of an idea. Why not play doom metal at a whisky tasting – and present both with as much enthusiasm as is humanly possible for a misanthropic European?

Over the course of a Taste The Doom session 7 increasingly intense whiskies are presented in a line-up where a selection of diverse doom metal master pieces are chosen to fit each whisky in some way or another.

After six completely sold out sessions in Berlin and some hype from the local press, Taste The Doom has now been taken on the road with the two Danish dates as the first outside Berlin.

It all goes down at:

  • Trøjborg Beboerhus, Aarhus on December 14th, 21:00 – 0:00
  • Mayhem, Copenhagen on December 15th, 21:00 – 0:00.

The limited amount of tickets is available exclusively from the Route66 record stores in Aarhus and Copenhagen and priced at 222 dkr. We suspect both sessions will sell out fast, so stay up-to-date about the ticket situation on the Taste The Doom site.

Needless to say, we’ll be there.

Here’s what Lars & Peter had to say to us about Taste The Doom

Lars Lundehave Hansen, Peter Votava

Taste The Doom – Lars Lundehave Hansen & Peter Votava.

W: What goes on at a Taste The Doom event?

Typically we greet the lucky attendants and then we present the line up consisting of seven excellent whiskies that will be enjoyed with seven excellent mixes of doom/sludge/stoner/drone metal. In between the servings quirky facts about distilleries, production and whisky in general as well as info about the bands that play are given to the audience in a lively manner that seem to sit well with the crowd.

W: Why does doom metal and whisky go so well together?

There seems to be a mysterious link between whisky and music, that can’t be explained as such but only ascribed to the nodness-factor. A factor which, odd as it is, can’t be deciphered but only vaguely explained as a principal correlation that can be expressed as an inverse proportion between the PPM and the BPM.

W: How did you come up with this wonderful idea?

It was a beautiful summers eve on the balcony of Peter’s, in the quickly gentrifying Neukölln area of Berlin where we enjoyed the Ardbeg Allligator Committee Release with Buried At Sea at a decent volume, when the thought arose: If we enjoy this, then chances are that in a city such as Berlin someone else must enjoy this as well. So we set forth to find out if this was the case, and after six very successful events we must conclude, that there is a lot of interest in an event such as Taste The Doom – even from the media, both serious newspapers, hipster magazines and TV!
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It may seem odd or at least the contrast is somewhat striking, that two people enjoying a high level of input/output in most aspects of life have found it suitable to join forces in presenting some really slow music at a whisky tasting, a thing that still has a ring of old man and contemplation to it. But that’s all changing…

Taste The Doom InfoWho:  Lars Lundehave Hansen & Peter Votava

Backgrounds:  Both have some 15-20 years of experience in the music-scene and are behind such things as the first techno raves in Austria, Wasted breakcore events in Berlin, founding of the legendary organization Noisejihad, co-curators at music-festivals and art events. Both are “currently mostly focused in the digital domain be it death ambient or soundart” behind monikers such as Pure, Heart Chamber Orchestra, Wäldchengarten or simply just sound-art as Lars Lundehave Hansen.

The PPM vs. BPM theory

As any peathead will know, PPM is an abbreviation of “Phenol Parts per Million”, which means the higher PPM the more peaty the whisky is.

Respectively, BPM is a music-related abbreviation of “Beats Per Mintue”, which means the lower BPM the slower the music is.

What is doom metal?

d & m

Jutlandian Whisky Festivals

Whisser at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011.

At Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011.

Whisky festivals are becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon throughout the developed world. Even on the Danish peninsula of Jutland. And deservedly so, as they offer good fun for lovers of the holy water. What greater way to spend a day with your mates, than to stroll from brandstand to brandstand and taste as many whiskies as you can possibly feel like, while finding your way through large sports halls or conference centers with thousands of old drunken men.

But danger lurks ahead: Whisky festivals are highly disorganized events, with many brands and retailers each offering a variety of quality and whisky types. And as the day progresses, the collective intoxication reaches critical levels, which strains the festival infrastructure and decreases the patience and sociability of the crowd. If you merely choose to walk around drinking whatever you stumble upon, you will end up with a very unsatisfying result: Mouth numbed by the spirit of cask strength whiskies, tasting buds scorched by peat and terminal amounts of alcohol in a starving stomach.

Festival backpipers & the occasional cask rollin' at Whiskymessen 2012.

Festival backpipers & the occasional cask rollin’ at Whiskymessen 2012.

For the last couple of years, we’ve been attending both of the two big annual Jutlandian whisky festivals:

  • Mac Y’s Rum & Whisky Festival in Autumn way out west near the military airport in Karup. It offers a bafflingly long list of free whiskies and has an annual appearance of self-proclaimed whisky deity Jim Murray selling and signing the annual gospel of whisky tasting objectivity. This is very much a festival for experienced drinkers.
  • Whiskymessen in Springtime down in the triangular area of Kolding, Vejle and Fredericia. It’s comparatively well organized, has lots of master classes with sturdy brands and the atmosphere is pretty easy going, as 1/3 of the crowd are more or less rookies.
Jim Murray & his bible at MacY Rum & Whisky Festival 2011.

Bible salesman at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011.

We’ve been attending these festivals with great thirst for the large selection of whiskies, but increasingly also for the journey itself – from the moment we enter the festival bus till the last drop has been licked from the worn down Glencairn glass. Because of this, the purpose of whisky festivals has shifted for us somewhat over the 3 years. From being a way to taste some specific pre-selected drams into a sort of sporting exercise, where the goal is to taste as much great whisky as possible – within the limits of tasting abilities, dignity and self-preservation.

We get more out of the festival opening hours by making our way through some +30 whiskies rather than trying to savour each dram as a holy experience or – even worse – as a scientific sample in a tasting journal. It is hard work but in the end, we obviously end up in a state of whisky-induced nirvana.

Late afternoon. Whiskymessen 2012.

Very late afternoon. Whiskymessen 2012.

To some, this makes us whisky pigs. But we beg to differ. Tasting notes are a poor and most uninteresting description of a specific tasting experience. A whisky is always a new experience in a different time and setting, and generally speaking tasting journals are for people with no soul. Besides, the bustling setting of a whisky festival does not exactly invite to singling one tasting experience out as something profoundly different from the others.

Berry's Own Selection. Whiskymessen 2012.

Berry’s Own Selection. Whiskymessen 2012.

However, this is probably also the great thing about whisky festivals: You are not bound to some certain order of whiskies and they are not presented to you in the traditionally passive setting of a whiskytasting. Instead it’s up to you to construe your line ups and to design your own tastings amongst the hundreds of different whiskies.

This is quite a challenge and requires a fine-tuned ability to maneuver in an environment of joy, alchohol, bizarre incidents and whole lot of disorganization. Over the years, we have improved our festival experience by adapting a few simple techniques:

  • The Thinking Bourbon is the first drink of the day. It’s the most interesting or expensive bourbon of the festival ordered straight on arrival, and something to enjoy while getting situated at the festival and planing the first line-up of the day.
Palate neutralizing coffee break at Whiskymessen 2012

Palate neutralizing coffee break at Whiskymessen 2012.

  • Line-ups & meals are the main components of the day. A good line-up consists of 7-10 whiskies of increasing spirit and peating levels. The line-ups are divided by a meal and a cup of coffee to neutralize the palate more effectively. It’s important to scout food stands and the general situation about food on the festival. At the 2011 Mac Y festival there was a 1½ hour queue in the small overrun cafeteria. We could only passe the waiting time drinking more whiskies…
Line in front of sold-out hot dog stand. Whiskymessen 2012.

Line in front of sold-out hot dog stand. Whiskymessen 2012.

  • Doing a raid is a good alternative to a festival master class. Choosing the stand of an interesting distillery or bottler and picking out 5-7 of their whiskies under the guidance of a brand representative gets some fast rough insight into their selection. This often beats the time and energy spent with a festival master class, where an official brand representative tries to impress a room of predominantly old tired festival drunks, which potentially results in a slow pace and the lowest common denominator setting the standard for the humor and anecdotes.

If you want to attend a Jutlandian whisky festival, we recommend them both. Whiskymessen for the potentially good master classes and fine infrastructure, Mac Y’s Rum & Whisky Festival for the long list of free whiskies and the atmosphere created by a crowd of a thousand experienced drinkers standing upright till the joyous end.

MacY Rum & Whisky Festival shuttle bus. Silkeborg 2011.

Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival shuttle bus. Silkeborg 2011.

d & m

Black Metal Blend

What to do with boring near-empty whiskies? How to hit the right mood for a black metal concert? This guide answers both.

Boring near-empty whiskies are a common problem in any sensible whisky collection. A near-empty bottle loses taste fast, so either you have to geek out and pour the whisky into a smaller bottle, or you have to drink it. If the whisky has started boring you since the opening neither of these seem worth the effort.

The right mood for a black metal concert comes easy for some and not at all for others. But even the first group of people may still need some aid: The band does not play up to expectations. Local support acts strain your patience with mediocrity. The venue is poorly suited for the action. In all instances; the right kind of intoxication helps. However, due to the unpredictability of most concert schedules, getting warmed-up at home is a balance act between arriving late and arriving sober to the support acts. And most venues only offer bland lager and generic booze. This will not help to set the mood for grim Nordic darkness.

To solve both problems you will need something like this:

Black Metal Blend

GlenDronach 12, Talisker 10, Finlaggan Original Peaty, Big Peat, Hip flask

Getting the size of the hip flask right is important. Bringing a flask is frowned upon by most venues, so it has to be concealable. Secondly you need to figure out how many acquaintances you are likely to pass the flask around to at the venue, and if any of them are bringing their own flask to pass around. Missing this last bit of info is a common reason for downfall.

There is something about peated smokey whisky that fits black metal. Maybe it is because peat has a brooding Nordic character to it. Maybe the smoke is bit like standing next to a burning church. There is a lot of peated whisky around for small money these days – it seems that you cannot pass your local street corner without someone throwing peat at you and not asking for more than a couple of dimes – hence; it is easy to end up with too many strange bottlings and blends of Islay malts (Finlaggan, The Ileach, Smokey Joe, Islay Storm, Black Bottle, Auld Reekie, Smokehead, Big Peat, Islay Mist,..). It is recommended to fill 3/4 of the flask with your boring near-empty peated whiskies.

Cutting yourself to add blood will probably set the mood, but it is not recommended because it will dilute the blend, and most likely make you too dizzy to withstand the blast beats. Instead we recommend filling 1/4 of the flask with boring sherry/wine cask finished whisky. This will give the blend a fitting soft bloody edge, but will also very likely improve the one dimensional character of the whiskies in the blend. Cask finishes is another type of whisky undergoing inflation right now, which means the truly priceless gems (like Bruichladdich Black Art 2) are well hidden beneath heaps of intriguing whiskies that quickly lose appeal. These boring specimens pile up, and are put to better use in a blend than open on the shelf.

Ok, now shake it, enter the venue, drink when you need to – and you are ready to join the fun.

Taake

Taake

d & m

Why?

So we have started a whisky blog. Why?

1.

Most whisky blogs are unbearably bad. Littered with irrelevant tasting notes and dishonest rating systems, which somehow end up rating all whiskies pretty good out of 100. The fact is that the experience of whisky is hugely affected by all the stuff not in the bottles: The story behind the specific bottles. The context it is being ingested in. This is what we want to write about.


Bruichladdich, April 2009

2.

We have decided that whisky is not an interest, escape or a pile of collectables. It is a passion and a life style. We want to expunge whisky from its traditional comfort zone and bring it into inspiring social contexts and the center of fulfilling adventures. We will strive to make these efforts a good read. Thus we want to show that worshipping the dram is not reserved for old red nosed drunks with a tasting journal ready at hand.


MacY Festival 2011

3.

Perks.

d & m