The BorderShop in Puttgarden on the island of Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea is quite a curiosity. A 4-storey mall specializing in whisky, wine and other alcoholic beverages, it is nothing short of a malt lover’s El Dorado. When I first saw pictures of its generously stacked shelves on the internet, I knew that I had to visit this mythical place one day or another. And what better occasion to do so than the BorderShop’s bi-annual Whisky Festival, whose latest edition took place from Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30? The entrance fee of 13 Euro not only got me and my friends access to the event itself, but we also received a branded glencairn and five tasting coins. To give you an impression of what that means: A dram of Bruichladdich Black Art or Glenfarclas 25yo cost three coins at the respective distilleries’ booths! Depending on the amount you purchased, additional chips could be obtained between EUR 1.20 and EUR 1.50 per piece. An absolute bargain!
The fair took place on the fifth floor of the BorderShop, which was open throughout the entire time of the event and had almost all exhibited whisk(e)y brands and bottlings for sale. A total of 31 booths spread across five rooms of different sizes. While the bulk of the products on display where indeed whiskies, there was no shortage of other spirits such as rum, cognac or vodka either.
Two steps inside the first room, I already bumped into one of my favorite whisky companies, namely Glasgow-based independent bottler and blender Douglas Laing. Their Global Malt Ambassador Jan Beckers turned out to be one helluva nice guy, who shared a wealth of insights into the Remarkable Malts range he presented that weekend. Besides the regular versions of the Scallywag, Timorous Beastie and Rock Oyster, he also brought along the Explorer’s Edition of the Big Peat, which is a bit stronger than the standard bottling. When I told Jan that my girlfriend had a Timorous Beastie tattoo, he remembered the motif from the snapshots I had shared with his company and poured us a free glass of said Highland blend, which Douglas Laing themselves call their “breakfast dram” due to its light, fruity character. In the course of the evening, we returned to Jan several times for more drams and stories.
The booth of Sweden’s Box Distilleri was another fun place to visit. They had just released an exceptional quartet of single malt whiskies, aged up to four years and ranging from fruity to peaty. When the guy operating the booth saw my Kilchoman shirt, he told me that Box Distilleri visited Islay for a 2-week “crash course” in distillery management at said farm distillery before they started making their own whisky. He recommended me to check out the First Release of their 2nd Step Collection, which is the peatiest malt Box Distilleri has produced so far. However, in the case of this young but very well-balanced dram, the peat did not hit me like a hammer. Instead, it subtly filled my mouth in a similar style as a Lagavulin does.
For reasons of brevity, I will not go into detail on every other booth I visited. Spending a full seven hours from the opening at 10 to the closing at 17 at the festival, I had a fair share of amazing drams and quite a lot of interesting conversations. Besides the ones mentioned above, I particularly enjoyed my visits at the booths of Østjysk Vinforsyning (whose 75 per cent rum was the strongest drink I had so far), Bruichladdich (how can you not love someone who sells you Octomores and Black Arts for less than EUR 4 per dram), Glengoyne (who also introduced a kick-ass, cinnamon-infused spirit drink called Rocket Cat), Diageo (who patiently taught me the correct pronunciation of Craigellachie) and Mackmyra (who still had a limited contingent of the otherwise sold-out Sweden Rock 16 and the Special 10 for sale).
All in all, this was easily one of the best whisky fairs I ever attended. The location was incredible, the organization smooth, the line-up great and the prices out-of-this-world. I will definitely return in 2017 and so should you – at least if Puttgarden is halfway easy to reach from where you live.