Three’s a crowd, five’s a handful and eight’s a festival. Although the Whisky Week at Alsterhaus – one of Hamburg’s most uptown shopping malls – was not officially announced as a whisky fair, it certainly felt like one. At a total of eight different booths, the guests could try several dozen drams, ranging from NAS to 21yo and everything in between. And the best: The event was completely free of charge. You neither had to buy a ticket nor did you have to pay for the whiskies you drank. You even got free refills of whatever poison you desired, be it an entry range bottling or a luxury pour!
My girlfriend Nadine and I started our tasting tour at the only non-whisky stall in the line-up. Lustau is a bodega in Jerez that has been producing top-quality sherry since 1896. From their vast range, we got to sip a dry Fino, a medium Cream and a sweet Amontillado. As we did so, the friendly lady representing the company told us how these wines were produced and what food they harmonized with best. Our next stop was Bushmills, where Spirits Ambassador Adam Dittrich poured us an “abysmal” whiskey. Thankfully, this tongue-in-the-cheek term had nothing to do with The Sexton’s quality, but with the fact that it was matured in the catacombs below Bushmills Distillery. Four years in sherry casks (most of which were 1st fill) plenished this darkish youngster with fruits, spices and sweetness. Although it still had some edges, it was surprisingly round and savory for such a juvenile pour. Once we had emptied our glasses, we continued with a dram of Bushmills 21yo. Cause when you have the chance to try such a gem for free, you better not skip it! While the €200 price tag seemed a bit hefty at first, I quickly came to learn that this insanely good Irish whiskey was worth every cent of it! Its contents were kept in Oloroso sherry butts and ex-bourbon barrels for 19 years and then married in Madeira casks for another two years. The result is mind-boggling! Sweet toffee, juicy oranges and worn leather dominate the nose, whereas dried fruits, dark chocolate and an abundance of sherry rule the palate. The finish is long and fulfilling with purple winegums, dried tobacco and a somewhat violet-y note. Wow… just wow!
After our stint with Bushmills, we remained on the Emerald Isle and went over to Redbreast. The opulent booth of the Pernod Ricard-owned brand, which is one of Ireland’s most esteemed whiskey treasures, was manned by their German Brand Ambassador Eyck Thormann. Since he had been to Bar Convent Berlin earlier this month, he still had all kinds of gadgets in his pockets. Among others, we got to nibble malted barley from Midleton Distillery, touch copper from a pot still, eye differing cask samples and learn a lot about Irish whiskey in general as well as Redbreast in particular. And of course, we got to taste truly exceptional whiskey! During our lengthy stay at his booth, Eyck was happy to pour Nadine and me generous drams from the Redbreast range. Each of the four expressions we tried – the 12yo, 12yo CS, 15yo and 21yo – was smooth, complex, rewarding and helluva good. No wonder, the Irish are so very proud of this drop!
My curiosity to dive deeper into the world of rye and bourbon was stilled at the stands of Beam Suntory and The Sazerac Company, while my craving for Canadian whiskey and Scotch was nurtured by the fine folks of Diageo and Borco-Marken-Import. At these booths, Nadine and I not only had nice talks with presenters and visitors alike, but we also got to try all kinds of top-notch drops. Jim Beam Single Barrel, Sazerac Straight Rye, Pike Creek 10yo, Talisker Distillery Edition… the list goes on. Since my growing insobriety kept me from taking proper notes at some point, I will not go much further than name-dropping these expressions. But when I get the chance to revisit them, I will try my best to introduce them to the trusty BarleyMania readership in more detail. So what did Dini and I do when we recognized that three hours of free dramming at Whisky Week were enough for us? We ended the event in the best way we could think of. Thus, we visited the only booth we had not yet been to and asked for Moet Hennesy’s legendary “Beauty & The Beast” pairing – the elegant Glenmorangie 10yo on the left and the brutal Ardbeg Ten on the right!
Alsterhaus @ Web: https://www.alsterhaus.de/ (Location)
Wait a second… you drank Irish and Bourbon and they didn’t name it Whiskey week?
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The name is kinda tricky. Since this was not an official fair, I did not see “Whisky Week” written down anywhere, but only heard the exhibitors say it. With one half of the offered drams being whiskey from Ireland and the US & the other half being whisky from Canada and Scotland, both versions would be correct. I picked the one without an “e” because I thought it would be a stronger keyword in the headline. ;)
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