Tag Archives: Mackmyra

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

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.

A 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 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.