For several years now, I have been a regular visitor to Whisky Weeks at Alsterhaus. In case you have not heard of it before, Whisky Weeks is the annual in-house dramming show of one of the most glamorous shopping centers in my home town of Hamburg. The multi-day event is always well worth attending: It is fun, it is easygoing, and it is free – there is neither an entrance fee nor a price tag attached to any of the drams! Thus, Whisky Weeks marks an excellent opportunity to meet with friends, talk to folks from the drinks industry, and either discover or revisit all kinds of good pours.
This year, however, I had almost missed out on it. The simple reason for this: I had not seen it advertised anywhere and hence did not know that another round of Whisky Weeks was due. Thankfully, my friend Aaron, who runs the Drams United blog, was better informed than me. Midway through the week, he wrote me a message asking if my wife Dini and I would also swing by at Alsterhaus on Saturday. Since we did not have any other plans, we blocked the date and showed up for a wee bit of day drinking … just as the years before, we were up for a great time with lovely company and tasty drops!
As usual I frequented the booth of Pernod Ricard first. Due to its central location, it is an obvious choice of a starting point. This year, the company put its Scotch distilleries The Glenlivet and Aberlour on display alongside its Irish whiskey brands Redbreast and Jameson. I went for two drams from the Emerald Isle, starting with Redbreast 15 Years Old and following up with Jameson 18 Years Old “Bow Street”. The first was a delicately fruity tongue pleaser with lots of strawberry, raspberry, and redcurrant coated in cocoa powder; the latter presented itself rich, creamy, caramelly, fruity, and well-aged all together. As it slid over my tongue, Jameson 18 Years Old “Bow Street” provided lots of sherry, oak, and fudge before it climaxed in a finger-licking good finish brimming with dried fruits, confectionary, and leather. In between, this beautiful cask strength Irish whiskey also produced some brighter fruit notes time and again. These included lemon, peach, and pineapple, just to name a few. Delish, very delish!
At the stand of Schlumberger, manned by spirits expert Ulrich Wetzel, one could choose from a total of seven international bottles. In detail the selection included three expressions by Benromach in Scotland, two releases by Penderyn in Wales, and another two drops by Kavalan in Taiwan. I picked Benromach 15 Years Old and Benromach Contrasts: Peat Smoke. Typical of Benromach, both drams impressed me with a complex interplay of soft garden fruits, crumbled toffee, and billowing smoke. In the 15 Years Old, I found the fumes to be ember-like and BBQ-styled; in Contrasts: Peat Smoke, I registered them as oily and puffy. Looking back I could not say which one I preferred – if anyone would ask me for my fave, I would simply say: both!
Only a few meters to the right was the table of William Grant & Sons. There, I had a nice conversation with Business Development Executive Heiko Tagawa, whom I have met at many tastings and fairs over the years. At Alsterhaus he poured me and my friends some really nice drams by neighbouring Speyside units Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. Enjoying Heiko’s company for a while, I tried no less than four out of the seven available expressions. My drams of choice were: Glenfiddich Orchard Experiment (immensely juicy, fruity, and summerly), Glenfiddich 18 Years Old (very lean and elegant), The Balvenie 14 Years Old “Carribean Cask” (a tropical fruit bomb), and The Balvenie 14 Years Old “Week of Peat” (pretty heavy, oily, and fumy). These drams reminded me once more than not only the fan favorites by The Balvenie, but also the mega-sellers by Glenfiddich – which I was fortunate to visit on site in 2018, by the way – are absolute delights!
I ended my visit to Whisky Weeks at Alsterhaus with a sip of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey; or two to be precise. As recommended by Heiko, I drank the Single Barrel Whiskey both neat and mixed with cola. It cut a fine figure either way and brought a fun afternoon to a good close. Speaking of which, here is one more piece of information before I bring this article to a close, too: If you are in the Hamburg area and think to yourself now: “Oh my, I wish I had attended Whisky Weeks, too,” I have good news for you: Round two of Whisky Weeks is right around the corner, starting this Thursday (13 October 2022) and lasting till Saturday (15 October 2022). Since the featured companies and distilleries will be completely different from the ones present in the first week, I will surely go there again to conduct another wee whisky expedition. If you also plan on going there, let me know. Maybe we can meet and share a dram!