Back in 2015, Bremen’s Bottle Market was the first-ever whisk(e)y fair I attended. Since then I continued to go there four more times, not missing a single instalment. It is safe to say: Bottle Market is one of my favorite dramming events of the year. Whenever I am there, I get to explore a broad variety of whiskies from all over the world. Distillery bottlings or independent releases, well-known classics or insider’s tips: Bottle Market’s got ’em all! This year there were almost 150 different exhibitors at the fair. Whisk(e)y was most prominently featured, but wine and gin had their own areas as well. Rum, korn and other spirits complemented the selection.
Despite the incredible variety, I knew exactly where to go first: every year, I have my kick-off dram at the booth of Bremer Spirituosen Contor, the German importer of Douglas Laing, Paul John, Säntis Malt and many other renowned brands. During our conversation, BSC’s Brand Development Manager Timo recommended me a 16-year-old Benrinnes from the Old Particular range. It was launched exclusively in Germany under the new-found label “Time for Whisky Adventures”. The dark spirit was drawn from a single sherry butt and bottled at overproof strength of 56.9 per cent. I liked it so much that I bought a bottle straight away. Weirdly enough, this richly sherried Speysider only set me back 70 bucks! After seeing and tasting it, I would have expected the price to be at least 20 Euro higher. But hey, I won’t complain.
Next came Prineus GmbH. From the dozen or so Compass Box bottles they had on offer, I knew all but one: The Circle. So my choice was clear. The company’s owner Gerd, whose “Myths & Legends” tasting I had just visited earlier this month, described The Circle as “sunshine in the glas”. One sip was all I needed to wholeheartedly agree with him. While trying this summerly dram, I smelled and tasted all kinds of sunny tangerines, mangos, peaches and pineapple chunks.
A few meters around the corner from Prineus resided The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, who were represented by Brand Ambassador Thom and PR Manager Claudia. I had not met Claudia in over a year, so we had a lot to talk about. As we spoke about all that happened in the meantime, I drank a vigorous, medical Glen Scotia with the cool name “West coast warlock”. Later, I returned for a sturdy Glenturret 9yo called “Cozy contentment”. Other stops that put a big, joyful smile onto my face were Claxton’s (cheers for that super versatile Ben Nevis 23yo, Adrian), Mosgaard (your first peated whisky is really beautiful, Jes) and St. Kilian (where I sipped a fruity and leathery expression from a Spätburgunder cask). And not to forget Schlumberger! Among others, the latter had an incredibly good Benromach 9yo 1st Fill Sherry and an equally amazing Penderyn 6yo Tawny Port available – both of which were selected exclusively for Germany. Since Penderyn’s Brand Ambassador Bastian slipped me samples of the Tawny Port plus two other new releases, you will read more about the Welsh distillery’s latest masterstrokes on BarleyMania soon.
The last booth at which I spent a good amount of time was that of Vibrant Stills, the craft spirit portfolio of Alba Import. This year, Corinna, Didi and Sven got backed up at the booth by Mark from Wolfburn and Clémence from Armorik. In the course of the nice talks I had with them, Mark and Clémence brought me up to speed about the latest developments at the Scottish and the French distilleries they represented. Dram-wise, I had an autumnly Wolfburn 4yo from a PX cask (a very flavorsome dram) and the new Kilchoman 9yo Vintage 2010 (a real stunner) at the Vibrant Stills booth. Afterwards, Mark also poured me a glass of Wolfburn’s new make. The clean and fruity liquid showed me why the whiskies from the northernmost unit on the Caledonian mainland are THAT good. If you put such a well-made spirit into quality wood, the result has to be top-league!
Another cool encounter: This year, I finally got to meet Anja from the organizational team in person. We have been in contact via Facebook for quite a while, but we have never spoken face to face. As in the years before, she and her colleagues did a fantastic job with the fair! Though I had to leave a bit earlier than usual this time, I still had an absolute blast at Bottle Market 2019. And, as you see from my report, I also got to explore a fair share of very special whiskies. To sum my visit to Bremen up: The slogan printed on the this year’s nosing glasses – “Good times with good people! – rang absolutely true. See you all in 2020!
*** I got a free ticket to the fair from Prineus GmbH. ***