Tag Archives: Whiskymessen.dk

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.


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.

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:

Stauning whisky mogens vesterby whiskymessen 2013
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.

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