Tag Archives: Jutland

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)

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