Tag Archives: Danish whisky

Busy day at Whiskymessen 2014

whiskymessen 2014 whiskymesse whiskyglas

The main whisky event in Denmark this Spring was the annual Danish whisky festival Whiskymessen. We (Danny and Martin) have attended since 2010 with a varying cast of thirsty mates and this year we turned up seven heads strong. As none of us were dramming rookies, we were wondering if the festival would offer something we had not tried before. Was it really worth going through the agonizing post-whisky festival hangovers once again?

fredericia messecenter whiskymessen 2014

Whiskymessen has been going on since 2001. In 2012 it moved from a sport arena in the city of Kolding to the larger exhibition center in nearby Fredericia. As the festival has grown steadily in popularity, so has the need for more room and more whisky serving stands. This year Whiskymessen occupied the largest of the halls in the exhibition center in an effort to make sure a couple of thousand predominantly middle aged men could take on an eight hour whisky binge without bumping too much into each other.

Despite this ambitious setting, 2014 was logistically the best year of Whiskymessen so far. Food and cash were readily available throughout the day and the large hall had been filled with stands offering whisky from a small army of brand representatives and volunteers. This was the first year it was possible get served at practically any stand without having to fight your way through a wall of seemingly paralyzed drunks, unable to make way after having their glasses filled.

whisser

As the previous years, we started the day with the thinking bourbon. 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.

whisser whiskymessen app

Getting an overview of the selection of several hundred whiskies this year proved quite challenging. The printable tasting catalog had been release a couple of days before the festival, but unfortunately it was not accurate with the selection at some of the stands.

An app had been launched the previous year for iPhone but was now also available for Android. Despite this make-over the app had still not been optimized for usage at the festival: It was possible to see and search an alphabetical list of all whiskies available as well as a map of the different stands. It was however not possible to see a list of what whiskies were available at the specific stands, so using the app had to be continually supplemented with the printed program. Unfortunately the app was not up to date either and had some differences with the printable catalog as well as reality.

old ballantruan 10 tomintoul with a peaty tang speyside

The whiskies offered at the festival vary in price. From free to pricy. However, it is still possible to get a substantial amount of drams for free or just a few quid. Obviously most of the freebies are the basic and generic releases by the larger distilleries and blenders, but there are some interesting drams in between. Like the entire range of peated Tomintoul.

With Danny being addicted to Tomintoul’s smooth peaty Speyside spirits, it was mandatory we made way for the Tomintoul stand early on and tried the most recent release before it ran dry: The Old Ballantruan 10. Warming up with the heartbreakingly soft and tender Tomintoul With A Peaty Tang and then on with the fiercely tasteful yet well-rounded no age Old Ballantruan, which never fails to get the blood pumping. Following these two the Old Ballantruan 10 unfortunately fell flat on it’s stomach in an unimpressive aftertaste-missing pool of dissapointment.

caol ila 8 unpeated 2008 danny kreutzfeldt whisser

Obviously we had not come just to get free booze. During the day we also dropped by Eksklusivbaren, which is a bar-like stand operated by Whisky.dk with more rare or high end whiskies available. Like the legendary Caol Ila 8 Unpeated 64.9% 2008 edition. An unpeated but otherwise full-bodied Islay beast, where the lack of peat paves the way for a fistful of Hebredian whisky badassery. For some of us this was the best dram of the day.

biksemad med bernaise sovs

Another crucial part of whisky festival survival is food. As mentioned in another post, it is an essential part of whisky festival survival, and also serves as an occasion to plan the next moves.

This year it was handled by the exhibition center cafeteria. They did rather well by serving tasteful food in a hurry, but the selection of food was taken from the darker corners of traditional Danish cousine. There was also a BBQ, but it did not start until rather late in the afternoon which did not sit well with our tight schedule.

Danish whisky distilleries

After lunch we did a stint solely with Danish whisky. The three most prolific Danish whisky distilleries where there: Stauning, Braunstein and Fary Lochan. They were also joined by Trolden Distillery, who were offering some young cask samples.

fary lochan distillery danish whisky danny kreutzfeldt whisser

Fary Lochan is based in Farre near Give, Jutland. They have recently launched a few limited releases of very young whisky, but have also almost from the start sold new make along with a selection of snaps (aquavit). Having previously tried both the 1st and 2nd edition unsmoked new make, we were curious about the further development of this forthcoming dark horse in Danish whisky.

At Whiskymessen we were offered their first release: The still unassuming 3 year old Fary Lochan Efterår 2013 Batch 1. We were also treated with the smoky 3 year old Fary Lochan Forår 2014 Batch 1. This surprisingly harsh dram is indeed made with smoked barley. But rather than peat smoking it they are burning stinging nettles. Rather rudimentary but also quite effective, this will sit well with the aquavit crowd.

michael svendsen trolden destilleri og trolden bryghus

Trolden Distillery is part of the Kolding-based brewery Trolden Bryghus. Both are run by Michael Svendsen who started distilling for a small whisky production in 2011. He has previously had a stand at Whiskymessen but this was the first year he had brought spirits along, which was a very pleasant surprise.

We went through the selection of three young spirits all matured in small casks to ensure maximum taste. Each of them were soft and silky despite the young age. One of them had been stored in a Danish Rondo wine cask, which worked particularly well. It was also possible to buy a 1 yo 20cl release titled Dragon Fire, which almost all of us ended up doing, effectively selling out this limited release.

Trolden Distillery is also working on a production of peated whisky. Generally we think it is an interesting and promising enterprise to follow.

stauning whisky px olorosso sherry cask 2nd edition

No reason to hide the fact that Stauning Whisky is our favorite Danish distillery. Since last year master distiller Mogens Vesterby has retired but this has not dampened neither production nor ambition of this prolific West Jutlandian distillery.

As the other years we have met them on Whiskymessen, they have brought some pre-released or very recently released bottlings along. This year the 7th Edition Young Rye, Traditional 2nd Edition Olorosso sherry cask and the Traditional 2nd Edition PX sherry cask. Over the past year Stauning has released sherry cask maturations of both their peated and traditional editions, but sadly the peated editions were long gone by the time of the festival. Of the two traditional sherry cask releases it was a unanimous vote in favor of the Olorosso cask.

whisser martin skou danny kreutzfeldt stauning whisky

We have previously covered the good work of Stauning Whisky with our visit to the humble rural distillery and tasting of the now ridiculously sought-after Stauning Peated 1st Edition.

Talisker master class

In the early afternoon it was time for the Talisker Master Class. We have previously expressed concern about and advised caution against signing up for these events at whisky festivals. With the lowest common denominator setting the standard for jokes and anecdotes, they take up a lot of valuable tasting time and often do not deliver neither ample information, entertainment nor inspiration for the seasoned whisky enthusiast. Instead we generally advise raiding a stand of a particular brand rather than paying for their master class.

With one of our favorite distilleries doing one at the festival we were willing to give it another try nonetheless. This turned out to be a mistake. Despite our very low expectations this was still the low point of the day.

talisker master class

To an audience of some +50 eager whisky enthusiasts, the brand ambassador presented a slide show with the most basic info on the distillery along with a few nonsensical marketing slogans and the reading up of generic tasting notes. While encouraging the audience to ask questions, the lack of substantial answers seemed symptomatic for the event as such. When asked why Talisker did not release cask strength editions the short answer was that Talisker whiskies were supposed to be pleasant to drink.

talisker whisky master class whiskymessen 2014

A part from these issues the biggest problem was the selection, which meant anyone actively following Talisker were not presented anything new or special. The last dram was kept a secret till the end of tasting. Once again encouraged to participate by guessing what it was, a small ripple of enthusiasm crept across the audience. Unfortunately the answer was the Talisker 25: The last of the five whiskies that Talisker had also brought along at their own stand.

On a positive note; the price was fair for what we got, and we were also treated with a bit of Talisker chocolate cake.

fredericia messecenter whiskymessen 2014

By this the time whisky festival haze had started to set in, and we needed something to straighten us up. Luckily we had saved one of the best places for a last heroic stint.

Scottish Malt Whisky Society

smws scottish malt whisky society whisky festival whiskymessen 2014 fredericia

Just like last year, the SMWS had brought enough personnel, bottles and furniture along to make a small festival in itself. It worked rather well and given the impressive overall quality of the many SMWS bottlings, it was understandably a place many festival goers spent a lot of time.

Rather than waiting for an available couch we stood in one end of the bar getting a good chat with Danish SMWS owner Terje Thesbjerg, whom we visited at his home base SMWS in Vejle a couple of years ago.

terje thesbjerg smws scottish mail whisky society whisser

Our SMWS stint consisted of a good handful godly single cask whiskies of predominantly Islay origin. Mainly based on our own wishlists but also a couple on recommendation from Terje. We ended with the immaculate SMWS 127.39 Intensely Tasty, which is a fierce 11 yo Port Charlotte of a whooping 66.7% alc.

whisser danny kreutzfeldt smws 127.39

Danny vs. SMWS 127.39

whisser martin skou four roses bourbon 125 anniversary edition

Steffen Bräuner runs this nice and frequently updated whisky blog. Prior to the festival he had commented on our thinking bourbon recommendation in our whisky festival survival guide, saying he actually preferred bourbons at the end of long day of dramming rather than the beginning. Incidentally he was serving bourbon in the Whisky.dk stand, so after the SMWS 66.7% peat monster we thought it fitting to drop by and test his advice.

We went through a few of the most tasteful bourbons of the festival, and in all fairness it was possible to pick up a surprising amount of notes despite the scorched tongue and palate. Especially the Four Roses 125 year anniversary edition impressed. In general we do however not recommend exploring new expensive bourbons at the end of a busy day like this. There is simply too many impressions and complexities neither getting picked up nor registered by the human sensory apparatus.

fredericia messecenter whiskymessen 2014

While we have mentioned quite a few of the whiskies we tasted at Whiskymessen 2014, this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything, and naturally the day after this ordeal was not a pleasant one. So was it worth it?

Yes, we think so. But despite the exceptional handling of the logistics at Whiskymessen 2014, whisky festivals are still chaotic and disorganized events, where it is very much up to the visitors to find the surprising, interesting or fantastic drams and seek out the entertaining or inspirational moments. In general we think this is a good thing, and we are happy to report that these drams and moments are still there at Whiskymessen if you put the effort into it.

High lights this year: The selection at SMWS and Eksklusivbaren. Meeting with and tasting the fruits of the still fresh and fertile Danish whisky scene.

d & m (Thanks to T. N. Jensen and T. Holm for additional photos)

Whisser is a Danish whisky blog. We do this for fun and are completely independent of commercial interests and often opinionated or maybe even wrong. If you were into this sort of thing, you should follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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

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.

dansk maltwhisky akademi independent bottlings danish whisky

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.

whisky sunset over djursland jutland denmark

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.

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)