Amiably referred to as Helgoheiner by drammers from all over Germany and beyond, Heiner’s Duty-Free-Shop is one of the most well-regarded whisky institutions on Helgoland, Germany’s only island in the open sea. Specializing in single cask bottlings and offerings from smaller distilleries, it is the place to go to if you want to bring a not-so-common bottle back to the mainland after your stay on the isle. In addition to the day-to-day business at his store, Heiner also organizes a weekly whisky tasting every Thursday. Yesterday, I attended said event for the first time.
In proper style for a whisky gathering taking place on a small patch of land surrounded by the raging North Sea, it was raining cats and dogs when Aaron, myself and our better halves arrived at Heiner’s store. But that did not prevent us and the round about 20 other attendants from having one helluva time! As he lead us through the evening’s six-course programme, Heiner displayed an impressive knowledge of the whisk(e)y world and shared really well-composed tasting notes. He did not simply present his own perception of the six drams though, but involved the whole group, always encouraging us to chime in and add the notes and nuances we found in our drams. In between each round of whisky, we were served delicious chocolate, vegan chips and still mineral water to readjust our palates.
The first whisky Heiner had picked for us was a sherry-finished Tullibardine 500. Light, summery and easy-to-drink, it marked a nice opener. It was followed by a bottling I was already familiar with, namely Wolfburn’s outstanding Aurora that Aaron had already reviewed for BarleyMania before. The spirit we tried came from the second batch, which Heiner found to be even more refined and “complete” than the first batch. From there, we hopped over to the Isle of Arran and tasted a young single cask whisky bottled exclusively for The Whisky Fair Limburg. Somewhat edgy and with a surprisingly high peatiness of 50ppm, this was not an easy whisky to get into. Once you got to know it though, it was all the more rewarding. At the end of the tasting, the Arran Private Cask – Limburg was voted “Best Whisky” by the attendees, receiving approximately 1/3 of the votes.
Having started with three Scotch whiskies, we then took a detour to Ireland and – lo and behold – Austria. While the 11 years old Teeling from a single Madeira cask turned out to be a prime example of Irish distilling, the Pfanner Single Barrel surprised us with an unexpected complexity both in the nose and in the mouth. After this little excursion, we returned to Scotland, where we made the acquaintance of a heavily peated Highlands sip courtesy of Ardmore Distillery. Although this powerful whisky was the final pour of the official tasting line-up, it was not the last spirit we were served. As an encore, Heiner also let us try the new make of three celebrated newcomers, namely Kilchoman from Islay, Wolfburn from the Highlands and Kingsbarns from the Lowlands. The perfect way to end a fantastic 2,5-hour dramming session!
Tullibardine 500 – Sherry Finish (NAS/ Single Malt / Highlands/ 43% / ~28 Euro)
Wolfburn Aurora (NAS / Single Malt / Highlands / 46% / ~43 Euro)
Arran Private Cask – Limburg (5yo / Single Malt /Islands / 52.8% / ~70 Euro)
Teeling Single Cask – Madeira (11yo / Single Malt / Ireland / 57.5% / ~60 Euro)
Pfanner Single Barrel (5yo / Single Malt / Austria / 56.2% / ~50 Euro)
Ardmore Heavily Peated (5yo / Single Malt / Highlands / 58.5% / ~60 Euro)
Helgoheiner’s website: http://helgoheiner.eshop.t-online.de/
Helgoheiner on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Helgoheiner-378334562266142/
The Pfanner Single Barrel is new to me and certainly sounds worth tracking down!
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It had a pretty peculiar taste that reminded some of the attendees of the tasting of herb liquor while others found it to be close to fruit schnapps – both of which are flavour profiles that I often discovered in whiskies from the GAS countries. As I wrote in the blog post, the Pfanner was surprisingly complex and there was definitely a lot to discover in it! An unusual whisky, but also a really good one!