In Hamburg, we have a strong whisky scene with lots of great bars, shops, events, and people. Still, I am always psyched when another dramming attraction comes to my home turf. These days, we were fortunate to welcome a new fair in town: Just Whisky Hamburg. It took place in the historic “Speicher am Kaufhauskanal” in Hamburg-Harburg on 26 and 27 August 2022. Going there on Saturday, I had a wonderful time. The professional organization was smooth, the rustic location was stylish, the diverse line-up was exciting, the asked-for prices were alright, and the overall atmosphere was easy-going. Apparently, temperature in the venue was almost sauna-like on the first day (especially on the top floor right underneath the roof). However, when I got there on the second day, the weather had cooled down and all was nice and pleasant; the stage was set for a good day!
Before the fair started at 2 p.m., I already had the pleasure of attending a most excellent pre-show event, namely an exclusive Lindores Abbey tasting. It was organized by Prineus GmbH and held at the high-class Vietnamese restaurant Hoi An. Everything about this culinary extravaganza was absolutely brilliant. To give it the appreciation it deserves, I will therefore not sum it up here, but dedicate a full blog post to it at a later point. So, on to Just Whisky Hamburg ’22! My first stop was at the stand of Irish Whiskeys, where I caught up with my old pal Thorsten (Ball of Malt Tastings) over a few drams from the Emerald Isle. For starters, he poured me a peated expression by Two Stacks with a pretty crazy cask formula. Among others, it spent some time in vessels that previously held Imperial Stout and honey-flavored Bourbon Liqueur! The offered aromas centered around bright fruits, sweet honey, cherry-flavored lolipops, and citrus zests – all enshrouded in grey smoke.
Also at the booth of Irish Whiskeys, I had a lengthy chat with John Power, the founder of Beara Distillery (named after the peninsula on which the small production unit resides). As we talked, I sipped two of the three permanent expressions: Single Grain Whiskey (matured in heavily charred virgin oak) and Black Cask Blend (a harmonized marriage of grain and malt). To ensure consistency across the core range, Beara Distillery sources the distillates for these releases from Great Northern Distillery – the site’s own output would simply be too small for this. I really enjoyed the talk as well as the whiskey; so before I moved on, I produced 36 quid from my wallet and bought a full bottle of the sweet, fruity, and savory Black Cask Blend.
Right across the room from Irish Whiskeys, there was Mackmyra. Especially for Just Whisky Hamburg, Brand Ambassador Malte (who also runs the Malt Talks Malts blog) and his colleagues had produced and prepared an exclusive 30 liter virgin oak cask from their Northern German storage depot at Gut Basthorst. The unpeated Swedish single malt whisky was four years old and 60.1 per cent strong. It provided a lovely mix of bright fruits, crunchy nuts, fresh wood, and sweet licorice. Once I had emptied my glass with pleasure, I journeyed on from Sweden to Switzerland.
At the booth of Bremer Spirituosen Contor, Detlef of Säntis Malt treated me to a dram of Dreifaltigkeit Unchained. The super-strong, beer-cask-matured single malt (64.9 per cent) had a most peculiar smokiness: The nose was all about bonfire-roasted ham; on the palate, the meaty notes were then accompanied by apple, grapefruit, herb, coal, and licorice. After swallowing, this uncompromising powerhouse echoed long and strong. So I took the opportunity for a little lunch break afterwards, grabbing a bite and drinking a palate-rinsing beer before I continued dramming …
Prior to the show, I had only pre-identified three releases that I wanted to try at any cost: the new Germany Exclusives from Loch Lomond. When he selected this trio, Brand Ambassador Sebastian (AKA The Spirits Alchemist) had shown great knowledge and talent … once again! The bourbon-matured 7 Years Old produced on a straight neck still was fresh and fizzy with icing sugar, tangerines, and other citrus fruits. The bourbon-kept 11 Years Old made on a swan neck still was full-bodied and creamy with coconut flakes, banana squash, and aromatized tobacco. And the 11 Years Old from an Oloroso sherry cask was fruity and memorable with raspberry sorbet, cherry yoghurt, and lemon squeeze. While the whole trio was well worth getting, my personal choice fell on the Swan Neck Edition. I very much look forward to crack my bottle open soon and revisit this finger-licking good drop at home.
Though the fair was called Just Whisky Hamburg, other beverages were to be found at the stands as well. One “malternative” I had was a barrel-aged tequila by El Mayor – a brand owned by Luxco and distributed here in Germany via Prineus GmbH. It was recommended to me by Sales Manager Igor, who came over to Hamburg to introduce Luxco’s ryes and bourbons as well as its tequilas. I liked how the wood contact had given the liquid a very nice creaminess. El Mayor Anejo was earthy, veggie, caramelly, and chocolatey all together; and it fitted in nicely with the whiskies I savored before and after. Also from Prineus, I had an Ardmore 23 Years Old by Single Cask Nation, a Caol Ila 12 Years Old by FABLE Whisky, and a two-year-old cask sample from Lindores Abbey that was drawn from a bourbon barrel. They all rocked, too!
Two more drams I would like to mention are the independently bottled Laphroaig 16 Years Old from 1988 that I got for 8 Euro from Die Altstadtkneipe (gooseberry, citrus, nougat, marzipan, butter cookie, and – of course – peat smoke) and the cask strength Wolfburn Langskip I ordered from Vibrant Stills (pear, grape, lime, honey melon, and whipped cream). Both whiskies marked great additions to the long list of fist-class spirits I tried at Just Whisky Hamburg ’22. Considering how much fun I had, I can already say with certainty: When the fair returns next year, I will go there again! But that is still a long way down the road. For now, I am just very happy that I made it to the first installment and had an amazing time there!
*** I visited the event as a regular guest. I paid for the ticket and
for some drams myself, but got some freebies, too. ***