The Bottle Market in Bremen is always worth a visit! Located a mere five minutes by foot from the city’s central train station, it is super-easy to reach. And filled to the brim with the lavishly equipped tables of all kinds of indie bottlers, importers, distilleries and other spirit companies, it has a ton to offer for drammers of every liking or interest. Also, the fair hall in which the event takes place is spacious and the supporting programme diverse. Among others, you can book masterclasses, listen to live music or stroll the neighbouring Christmas and kids exhibitions (both of which you can enter with your Bottle Market ticket). This year, they also ran a wine show in the same hall as the spirit fair. So if you fancied a sip with less than 40 per cent ABV in between, you had a richness of fine bottles to choose from.
Of the many booths I checked out during my seven-hour stint at the fair, the one I spent the most time at was that of Bremer Spirituosen Contor. Yeah, I know. It is not the first time that I wrote this in one of my blog posts. But I just cannot help it… the girls and guys of BSC are always really cool to hang out with and the whiskies they got on offer are very special. One dram that left a particularly strong impression on me was the new Jura 40yo from Douglas Laing’s XOP range. Almost black-brown in color and kingly in flavor, it was one of these pours you do not get to savour any day. Four decades in a refill barrel have not only added aloof-yet-alluring notes of spices, tobacco and leather to the liquid, but also given the distillate a somewhat darkish fruitiness characterized by blueberries, oranges and plums. Besides this awe-inspiring islander, I also had my nosing glass filled with the new The Gauldrons by Remarkable Malts and the upcoming Kanya by Paul John – two very enjoyable drops! However, when it came to picking an expression to take home, my choice fell on Masterson’s 10yo Straight Rye. I first tried it a tasting with BSC’s Head of Marketing Timo Lambrecht in September and had such good memories of it that I could not help but buy a full bottle.
Another highlight of this year’s Bottle Market was the Amrut masterclass by Pascal Penderak from the Indian distillery’s importer Kirsch Whisky. If you had attended the 1.5-hour presentation, you would never have guessed that Pascal only stepped in as speaker on short notice and that this was the first-ever tasting he moderated! On the one hand, he shared with us tons of interesting (yet slightly unsettling) insights into the drinking habits of India – a country in which liquor is widely regarded as little more than a means to get hammered. And on the other hand, he also gave us a detailed introduction to the portfolio of Amrut Distillery – a company, whose bottlings are considered prestige objects among Indian drammers. What I found particularly impressive about the whiskies in the line-up was the fact that they all were of exceptional quality. As was to be expected, the premium bottlings like the high-strength Portonova or the rare Double Cask were instant winners. But the regular editions like the entry-level Raj Igala or the iconic Fusion were just as good! No matter what they are aiming at, the talented whisky makers at Amrut Distillery never miss the bull’s eye!
Some of my other stops included McWhisky (where I had a powerful Auchentoshan 24yo from Blackadder’s Raw Cask line), Vibrant Stills (where I got to try the very old Excalibur blend) and Whisky Experience (whose prices were so fair that the 5 bucks I paid for a dram of Laphroaig Lore included a generous tip). While I already knew all of the aforementioned companies before, Maltbarn was a new discovery for me. They were recommended to me by a friend, who spoke very highly of their talent for picking outstanding casks. Of the many great whiskies the Northern German bottler had on offer, I decided to go for the Paragon. At its heart lies a very old Scotch cask, whose content fell below 40 per cent ABV over the decades. As the liquid was full of flavor nonetheless, it got married with stronger whiskies to form a sublime blended malt with an exciting backstory. Before me and my friends left to catch the 7.30pm train back to Hamburg, I stopped by at PRINEUS GmbH and traded my last coins for a sip of Compass Box’s new Phenomenology. Admittedly, pronouncing that mysterious whisky’s name after several hours of drinking was not the easiest of tasks. But I somehow managed to get the message across and thus I excited the hall with a smile on my face and a top-notch parting dram in my glass.
The line-up of the Amrut masterclass:
Amrut Raj Igala (Single Malt / India/ NAS / 40% / ~33.00 Euro)
Amrut Fusion (Single Malt / India / NAS / 50% / ~43.00 Euro)
Amrut Portonova (Single Malt / India / NAS / 62.1% / ~75.00 Euro)
Amrut Double Cask (PX or Peated) (Single Malt / India / NAS / 46% / ~150.00 Euro)
Amrut Indian Single Malt (Unpeated or Peated) (Single Malt / India / NAS / 46% / ~40.00 Euro)
Amrut Greedy Angels (Single Malt / India / 8yo / 50% / ~270.00 Euro)