Last year I visited Kiel Whisky Fair, one of Germany’s longest-running spirit exhibitions, for the first time. Since I really enjoyed the small event’s intimate atmosphere, excellent line-up and nice location in the 4-star Steigenberger Conti Hansa hotel, my girlfriend Dini and I returned to our former hometown again on May 6 for another day of dramming, dramming and… erm… even more dramming. Our first stop was the booth of Schlumberger. Over there, we not only bought our kick-off pours in the form of the elegant Penderyn Bryn Terfel (me) and the light Spey Tenne (her), but I also picked up a cool goodie from their Sales Director Andrea Caminneci: a 5cl sample of a pre-1956 bottling of the Black & White blend. Andrea managed to score a bottle with a torn label for a bargain price and split its vintage content amongst the members of a whisky group on Facebook. As I got to yell “Here, here!” in time, I am now lucky to try a whisky that was bottled decades before I was born! I have not sipped the sample yet, but I will do so very soon.
No whisky fair is complete without a lengthy stay at the booth of Bremer Spirituosen Contor. After the obligatory hugs with the company’s Managing Director Timo Lambrecht and his team, we stayed for quite a bit and drank several whiskies from their rich portfolio. Our drams of choice included the new Cask Strength edition of The Epicurean, both of Säntis Malt’s currrent special bottlings for Germany and various expressions from the celebrated Old Particular and XOP ranges. After a nice chat over many tasty drams, we took home two bottles. The first contained Douglas Laing’s aforementioned Lowlands powerhouse and the second was filled with Säntis’ 7-year-old Alpstein XIV. While all of the drams we had at the BSC’s stand were really damn good, these two made a particularly strong impression on us that day. The 30-year-old XOP from an undisclosed production site described as “Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery” was also amazing. But at ~400 Euro a bottle, it was not really within our budget. Still, savoring this lofty pour on the Steigenberger’s sunny terrace on a perfect summer’s day was one helluva whisky moment!
The stall of Prineus – the German importer of Compass Box, Elements of Islay and many other illustrious brands – is another compulsory stop for me at every fair I visit. When I popped in on them at Hanse Spirit earlier this year, I left with a bottle of The Exceptional Grain in my shopping bag. This time, I completed the trio by purchasing The Exceptional Malt and The Exceptional Blend. And while I was at it, I also tried a Daluaine 21yo from a new indie bottler called Grindlay’s. Although these guys only have a handful of whiskies out so far, I am sure that we will hear a lot of them in the future. Possessing a great network to tap into (among others, the company’s founder George Grindlay was General Manager at Tomatin for several years) and an excellent nose for outstanding casks, these guys are well prepared to take the whisky world by storm!
From Prineus we hopped over to Springbank, where we said “hi” to the wonderful Ranald Watson, whose fantastic masterclass we attended last year. After I secured the last glass of their amazing 21 Years Old, Dini and I continued to the combined booth of McNeill’s Whisky and Paul’s Prime. There, we not only met fellow whisky blogger Malte Schweia of A Dre(a)m Of Sea, but also participated in the “Three Of The Best” tasting with Andy McNeill himself. While our host welcomed more than a dozen guests to his masterclass the day before, my better half and I were the only ones to take part in the degustation on Sunday. Given how nice the weather was outside, we were not surprised that the other guests prefered the sun-filled patio to the indoor tasting room. Still, we did not regret the one-and-a-half hours we spent inside at all. On the one hand, Andy shared a lot of entertaining anecdotes and stories with us. And on the other hand, he poured us not three but four outstanding drams from the two independent bottlers he represents on the German market. From Lady Of The Glen we got a summerly Jura 19yo and an unpeated Secret Islay 14yo. And from Cooper’s Choice we enjoyed a 43 (!) years old Invergordon from a refill sherry cask and a 9 years old Tobermory with a Marsala finish. With these excellent whiskies in our bellies, we embarked on our final stroll through the fair hall, making our farewells to everybody and grabbing a parting dram to sip on our way back to the train station. Thanks for treating us amazingly well, Kiel Whisky Fair! We will be back next year!