Whenever you travel to Helgoland, you should definitely try to be there on a late Thursday afternoon as this is the time of Helgoheiner’s weekly whisky tasting. I already attended several of these gatherings and really enjoy the fact that they always offer six very nice drams, many of which come from independent bottlers or are available in travel retail only. Heiner does not only have a well-sorted shop that is worth a visit, but he is also a charming host who presents his own tasting notes in a pleasant dialogue with his guests. So the last time I visited my favorite island, there was only one place for me to be at 4:30 pm and that was Heiner’s terrace.
We started with the more or less exotic Pfanner Red Wood from Austria. Pfanner is well known for its juices and ice teas, which you find in pretty much every supermarket throughout Germany and Austria. But only few people know that they also produce whisky. Matured in red wine casks, the Red Wood offers notes of strawberries, cherries, wood and caramel. I am very curious about their future bottlings that have spent a little more time in the cask. We then went on to a blended malt from independent bottler Adelphi. The Glenborrodale Batch 4 contains whisky from Bunnahabhain, Glenrothes, Macallan and Highland Park. It is very complex with notes of pears, apples, cherries and a little bit of smoke in the nose. When drinking it, the dram becomes less fruity and notes of salt and herbs come through. Some time ago Adelphi also built their own distillery called Ardnamurchan. They did so after their plans of buying an existing distillery failed. If they manage to reach the same level of quality with their single malts as they did with this blend, we can expect great bottlings from them in the future.
Another very complex whisky was the new release by Highlands distillery Wolfburn called Batch 128. Limited to only 6,000 bottles this whisky gives you a handful of directions it might develop into. While having dried plums, slight smoke, bread and sweetness on the first sip, you might find chocolate and pepper in the next. In the finish, the smokiness finally comes through a lot more distinctly. After this, Heiner did not only present us the oldest whisky of the afternoon but also the winner of the concluding attendee voting: a 23-year-old Glen Spey bottled by The Maltman. Matured in ex-bourbon casks it shows a lot of sweetness from caramel, vanilla, apples and grapes at the first moment. After some time the sweetness steps more and more into the background and notes of herbs and mint come forth. Only 244 bottles exist of this cask strength whisky.
Though I enjoyed the Glen Spey a lot, my favorite dram of the afternoon was still to come. The Invergordon 9yo by The Grainman bottled at a powerful ABV of 58.7% totally hit the bull’s eye in my opinion. Its finish in PX casks makes this whisky an absolute chocolate bomb. While it is full of milk chocolate combined with honey and caramel at first, the chocolate gets darker and darker the longer you keep the whisky in your glass and the more you warm it with your hands. Besides this, it also offers freshly picked berries from the woods in combination with the popular chocolate bar Bounty. Heiner described this young grain whisky as “like licking on a nuclear fusion” and there was no way I could leave his shop without buying a full bottle of it. The last dram of the afternoon was an exclusive bottling for Germany by Kilchoman. Two sherry casks filled at the same day were combined to form a very powerful whisky with an ABV of 56.6%. Nose-wise, the Islay malt is full of smoke and sherry. It also has a very slight medical note. When I took my first sip, the whisky surprised me with a lot more sweetness than expected. Besides sweetness and fruitiness, there are also notes of bacon and nuts to be found. It reminded me of a barbecue with my friends on a nice summer day, where someone brought along a fruit salad peppered with nuts.
Unfortunately, winter is coming and it thus it will be rather hard to travel to Helgoland in the next few months. But as soon as the first sunrays of spring appear, I will definitely return to this beautiful island in the open North Sea and pay a visit to Heiner.
Pfanner Red Wood (Austrian Single Malt Whisky / NAS / 43% / ~45.00 Euro)
Adelphi’s Glenborrodale Batch 4 (Blended Malt Scotch Whisky / 7yo / 46% / ~60.00 Euro)
Wolfburn Batch 128 (Single Malt Scotch Whisky / NAS / 46% / ~70.00 Euro)
The Maltman Glen Spey 1993/2017 (Single Malt Scotch Whisky / 23yo / 49.2% / ~120.00 Euro)
The Grainman Invergordon 2007/2017 (Single Grain Scotch Whisky / 9yo / 58.7% / ~60.00 Euro)
Kilchoman Small Batch For Germany 2017 (Single Malt Scotch Whisky / 8yo / 56.6% / ~90.00 Euro)
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