Located at Hall 7 of Messe Bremen, Bottle Market is one of Northern Germany’s biggest whisky and spirits fairs. And at least in my humble opinion it is also one of the absolute best! The three-day event is centrally located in direct vicinity of Bremen’s main train station. It is frequented by fabulous brands and folks (both behind the booths and in front of them). And it is run by very passionate people, who always put on a highly enjoyable and well organized show. When Bottle Market returned from its two-year corona break on 18 to 21 November 2021, I knew straight way: I had to be there! Since my pals Christoph (Zucker und Zeste), Michael (WhiskyNews), and Andy (Whisky_Captain) had similar plans, we boarded the 9:15 a.m. train from Hamburg to Bremen together. Roughly one and a half hours later, we passed the gate to Bottle Market. And thus our dramming adventure began …
My first stop was the stand of Vibrant Stills, where I met Managing Director Dietmar Schulz over a glass of Clydeside Stobcross. Ever since I visited the Glasgow-based distillery on site three years ago, I was really curious about their first fully matured whisky. Now that I tried it, I can say with full conviction: The A. D. Rattray-owned production site is doing a fantastic job! Despite its youth, Stobcross was beautifully mellow, rounded, smooth, and creamy. It pleased the tongue with bright notes of vanilla, pear, cream, and white chocolate. Towards the end, it also produced a bit of a ginger spark that rendered the whisky even more colorful and exciting.
Over at the Sansibar Whisky stand, I then added over 40 (!) years to the age of the tasted dram. My buddy Basti (WhiskyGermany) dug deep into the treasure chest and unearthed an incredible pour: a single cask Glenburgie 45yo by North Star Spirits (which is represented on the German market by Sansibar Whisky). Whereas Stobcross proved how great a whisky can already be at a juvenile age, this jaw-dropping whisky showed how decades of unhurried slumber can shape and refine a malt. During the degustation I registered, among others, millionaire’s shortbread, vanilla sauce, lemon jelly, cornflakes, violet drops, and cherry-flavored lollipops – all interwoven with each other in a most harmonious and satisfying way. But the Glenburgie was not the only highlight of my visit to the Sansibar Whisky stand. At one point, a guy walked up to me and said “hi”. Though I had never seen him before, it did not take long until I found out his identity. It was Sebastian Becker from DeinWhisky.de, one of my favorite mailorders out there. We have been in contact for years, but we had never met in person before. It was great to finally be able to connect a face to the name; and – of course – to chat face to face rather than via the Facebook Messenger.
When I visited the Loch Lomond stand, I finally got to give another guy, whom I had previously only known online, a long overdue fist-bump (due to the ongoing pandemic, we skipped the hugs n’ handshakes this year): Sebastian “The Spirit Alchemist” Büssing. He was at Bottle Market in his capacity as Brand Ambassador of Loch Lomond, promoting a wide range of bottlings including a new Inchmurrin 13yo labeled “The Brand Ambassador’s Choice”. Finished in a 1st fill Pineau des Charentes hogshead, this formidable single cask release was creamy, voluminous, and very complex. It provided lots of apple puree, strawberry crème, vanilla crescents, and all sorts of spices. Throughout the finish, the spirit turned a little salty as well. This was seriously great stuff; and thus I happily took a full bottle off Sebastian’s hands.
From all German importers, Kirsch Whisky has one of the biggest and most diverse portfolios. At Bottle Market, they operated one main booth plus several brand-specific stalls. I focused on two of their Nordic whiskies this time, namely Stauning and Floki. From Stauning I drank a red-as-blood cask sample drawn from a very small Danish cherry wine cask. It completely ruled; but unfortunately I will most likely not be able to re-visit it anytime soon. Since the vessel will only give birth to a tiny number of bottles, this unique expression will most likely be released as a strictly limited “Distillery only” bottling in the future. If any of you guys happen to be at the right place at the right time: Go and grab it! At the Floki stand, I derived from my usual whisky fair routine of only trying drops that I have not had before. The reason: In a recent online tasting with Distillery Manager Eva María Sigurbjörnsdóttir, I already got to sip every expression they had on offer at Bottle Market. Since I am a big fan of Floki, I wanted to visit their booth anyway and greet Eva personally. As we talked about the small Icelandic distillery’s current and upcoming releases, I drank a delicious glass of Floki Sherry Cask Finish. It was thick, sweet, and almost gooey with lots of berries, cherries, caramel, and wild honey.
Whenever I am at a whisky fair, I make sure I to stop by at the presence of Bremer Spirituosen Contor, the German importer of Douglas Laing & Co.’s first-class Scotch whiskies. They always have lots and lots of great bottles to try. This time, I picked a superbly sherried Glenrothes 16yo Old Particular from a new mini-series called “Spirit Animals”. Rich, fruity, and mouth-coating, it produced a wealth of amazing flavors: sugared red currants, squashed brambles, burnt brittle, thick honey, and fluffy mint crème. In the course of the long aftertaste, the whisky’s characteristic sherry sweetness contrasted nicely with a pleasant grapefruit peel bitterness. My conclusion: Both thumbs up for this wow-wow-wonderful Speysider!
During the seven hours I spent at the fair, I only tried one drink that was not a whisky, namely Saint Ginger. This organically produced ginger liqueur is the brand and brainchild of my old pal Alban Qoku, who ran a rock club in my hometown of Hamburg several years ago. Back in the day, we saw each other regularly at the killer concerts he organized (Dead Lord, Greenleaf, King Dude, Blood Ceremony, and many others). Who would have thought that years later we would catch up at a spirits fair, where Alban showcased a classy drink he had conceived and created himself?
From the exciting roster of Prineus GmbH, I examined two up-and-coming Scotch brands more closely: Lindores Abbey Distillery (represented by Export Sales Manager Tim Foster) and Fable Whisky (introduced by International Sales Director Kevin Griffin). With Lindores Abbey I had already spent some quality time before when I took part in a virtual deconstruction tasting of their debut release. Since we only tried the differing ingredients but not the final product during that event, I now caught up on that. My quick verdict: excellent stuff! As opposed to Lindores Abbey, I had never tasted anything from Fable Whisky prior to my visit to their stand. At Bottle Market, I took a nip of no less than four different single cask releases by them, all of which were fully matured in refill ex-bourbon casks. “Our releases have elaborate packages and back stories,” Kevin said in that regard, “but the spirit inside is authentic and pure. We want people to be able to recognize the distillery character. And for that, refill ex-bourbon is the best kind of maturation.” I was so impressed by Fable Whisky’s releases that I took home one of them: a Dailuaine 11yo monikered “Moon”. Its superb box and label are decorated with a Tim Burton-esque black-and-white artwork of a crow spreading its wings in front of the full moon – an absolute stunner!
As the company name tells you right away, Irish Whiskeys specializes in importing and distributing spirits from the Green Isle. Their stand was manned by an old friend of mine, Thorsten Frahling. We initially got to know each other way back when he was the singer and guitarist of the old-school doom metal band Tortured Spirit. In Bremen, Thorsten had Daithi O’Connell from go-getting Irish indie bottler W. D. O’Connell by his side. I had nice chats with both of them. As we talked, I sipped a dram of W. D. O’Connell’s Single Grain Irish Whiskey 10yo, sourced from Cooley Distillery. It was a really nice, easy-sipping pour with a soft mouthfeel and a sweet, creamy character. Somewhat unusual for a grain, this small batch release was composed partly from traditional ex-bourbon casks and partly from experimental ex-rye casks. The latter added another layer to dram, instilling in it a mild, underlying spiciness in the well-balanced liquid.
Before Christoph, Michael, Andy, and I hurried back to the train station, I paid two more companies a visit. First, I popped in on Spirit of Rum, where I got an introduction to the only whiskey brand in their portfolio: High West Distillery from Park City, UT in the United States. From the four expressions they had on offer, I picked one called Rendezvous Rye. It is a liaison of different sorts of American rye whiskey, all of which have a particularly high percentage of rye in the mash bill. Even though my palate was already pretty exhausted at that time, this complex pour still managed to leave a strong impression on me. Its sweet and spicy flavor profile was jam-packed with strawberry, mirabelle, vanilla, toffee, cinnamon, and black pepper. Half way between the Spirit of Rum booth and the exit resided my last stop of the day, namely the Schlumberger stand. Normally, I would have spent more time there, but the clock was ticking … so I went straight to the Penderyn section, where I was welcomed by the Welsh distillery’s Brand Ambassador for Germany, Bastian Denkler. He poured me a young but very well developed single cask release from an ex-Madeira cask, which offered a great mix between Penderyn’s fruity distillery character and the juicy wine-soaked wood. Without thinking twice, I asked Bastian for a full bottle of it. On top, I also got a free dram of another new single cask whisky by Penderyn drawn from a cognac cask. I was very happy for this delish drop to keep me warm during the short walk from the fair to the platform …
Bottle Market @ Web: http://www.bottle-market.de/
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Bottle Market @ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bottlemarket_bremen/
Messe Bremen @ Web: http://www.messe-bremen.de/
*** I got a free ticket to the fair from the Bottle Market team. ***