Don’t let the header image fool you: While it reads “Whisky Festival 2018” on the glass, the photo was taken just a few days ago. Cause in early November 2021, the bi-annual dramming event at the iconic BorderShop in Puttgarden returned after a pandemic-caused break of almost two years. Since the unsteady Corona situation did not allow for a long announcement period upfront, the organizers did not get to produce branded glassware for this particular date; but luckily they still had lots of Glencairns from the previous gigs – one of which you see above (with a generous pour of Bain’s 21yo Double Cask inside). But now, let’s get straight to the event …
After my arrival on site, one of my first stops was the Edrington booth. There, I had a nice chat with Jonas Gram, The Macallan’s Brand Ambassador for the Nordics. As we spoke, I sipped a 2cl pour of the first bottling in The Macallan’s recently released The Harmony Collection. It bears the moniker “Rich Cocoa” for a reason! After all, it was created in close collaboration with pastry genius Jordi Roca, who already helped The Macallan make the esteemed Edition No. 2 together with his brothers Joan and Josep. This time, the highly decorated chocolatier and the world-famous Speyside distillery produced a finger-licking good whisky of extraordinary smoothness, creaminess, and balance. Flavor-wise, it takes you straight to chocolate dreamland, offering well-orchestrated notes of fine cocoa powder, runny nougat crème, dark mousse aux chocolat, and roasted hazelnuts – enriched with vanilla, oak, and spice.
Just a few steps left of Edrington resided Distell, whose whisky roster includes Deanston, Tobermory, and Bunnahabhain in Scotland as well as James Sedgwick Distillery in South-Africa. From the latter, I tried a brand-new expression that just hit the retail shelves a few days ago, namely Bain’s 21 Years Old Double Cask. This premium grain whisky comes with a special cask formula: After 15 years in different American oak barrels, it received a 6 year finish in Amontillado and Manzanilla sherry casks. It was poured to me by Distell’s General Manager Americas, Matthew Scott-Fairweather, who also brought me up to speed about the whisky’s origin story and special features. During the degustation, two things amazed me in particular: First, the high level of complexity and second, the long finish (both of which are not exactly typical of grain whisky). But somehow, the mastermind behind the 21 Years Old, Andy “The Whisky Maker” Watts, pulled it off here! In the multi-layered flavor profile, the grain remained in the back, whereas the casks moved upfront. I made out lots of juicy fruits and berries in the spirit, but also dry notes of wood and spice. Plus an underlying sulphuric sensation, which reminded me of extinguished matches and sparklers. The striking aftertaste felt light and creamy at first with an abundance of strawberry-flavored toffee. At one point, however, it became darker as chimney wood and sweet licorice joined in, too. I loved Bain’s 21 Years Old Double Cask so much that I bought a full bottle of it; expect more detailed tasting notes to go live on BarleyMania soon!
Every time I am at BorderShop Whisky & Rom Festival, I head over to the Bruichladdich stand at one point or another. Since I went there rather late this year, I figured I might take the opportunity to raise the peat level a little. So I ordered a glass of Octomore 10.1 Dialogos. It wasmatured in ex-American oak casks for 5 years and made from local barley peated to 107 PPM. Nosing and drinking this massive 60-per-center felt like walking straight into a golden barley field on fire! Next to the Octomore, I drank two more Islay malts that day. The first was Bowmore 21 Years Old PX (utterly amazing in every regard) and the second was Port Askaig 28 Years Old (super lemony and mildly smoked). In good ol’ BorderShop tradition, the prices for these as well as all other drams were quite incredible. I paid 3.60 Euro for the Octomore and the Port Askaig and 7.20 Euro for the Bowmore!
If you have followed my whisky adventures on my blog and social media more closely, you will already know that I am currently very fascinated by the Danish distilling scene. Thus, I was very eager to try a whisky from our northern neighbors, which I had not had before: Ardor Danish Single Malt Whisky by Nyborg Distillery. From the two different expressions available, I picked the one that was matured in Danish oak. This young pour was really well made, winning me over with its clearness, full-bodiedness, and flavorfulness. It offered sweet cereals, mild fruits, creamy vanilla, pureed apple, and buttered popcorn. These delish aromas culminated in a big finish with a peppery tickle.
I ended the fair with a somewhat unusual dram, namely The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 7. I have called it unusual in this context because it is probably not a logical follow-up to a Bowmore, a Port Askaig, and especially an Octomore. However, I was curious to try it and time was running, so I went for it anyway. With its sturdy body and high-strength ABV of 52.4 per cent, it did indeed manage to stand its ground after the adore-mentioned smoke bombs. First and foremost, I found lots of toffee and sherry in this top-class get-out dram as well as heavy cake, splintered almond, burnt raisin, and aromatic honey. At a later point, a woody spiciness kicked in, too. With this rich and voluminous Speysider still warming my belly from inside, I left the Autumn 2021 edition of the Whisky & Rom Festival very satisfied, very content, and maybe also a wee bit tipsy.
*** I got the tickets for the event for free from the organizer. Thank you. ***