Hanse Spirit 2023 in Hamburg – Part One (Fair)

Impressions of Hanse Spirit 2023 in Hamburg

From 26 to 28 January 2023, Hanse Spirit returned to my hometown of Hamburg. With a colorful roster of exhibitors, the popular whisky and spirits fair made a strong bounce-back from its two-year break. As compared to the last installments before the pandemic, the 2023 edition of Hanse Spirit featured one major change: Venue-wise, the event substituted the time-honored Fish Auction Hall at the harbor for a spacious Exhibititon Hall near the Dammtor train station – a location that Hanse Spirit had already occupied in its early days. Personally, I fully support the venue switch. While the Fish Auction Hall admittedly looks more stylish, the Exhibition Hall is easier to reach and wider, thus allowing for an unhindered stroll from booth to booth even during peek hours. To me, the strong benefits in terms of comfort clearly outweigh the slight step-backs in regard to atmosphere.

This year, I managed to attend two out of Hanse Spirit’s three festival days – the Thursday and the Saturday. As you can imagine, I met a lot of friendly folks and savored many tasty drams at the fair. To make sure the respective blog post will not get too long, I have decided to split it up into two parts. Part One, which you are reading now, deals with the drams I tried from the classic whisk(e)y nations Scotland, Ireland, and the United States. Part Two, which is just one click away, centers around the world whisky I discovered and explored at Hanse Spirit 2023 – such as Milk & Honey from Israel, Millstone from the Netherlands, EMILL from Germany, or Thy Whisky and Copenhagen Distillery from Denmark. Plus the “malternatives” I drank at the booths of Grupo Osborne (1866 Brandy and Carlos I Brandy from Spain) and Liquorland (MarlinSpike Rum from Belgium). But now, let’s move on and delve into the Scotch, Irish Whiskey and Bourbon I had …

Just a few steps into the hall, I began my dramming journey at the Distell Group booth, where I was happy to meet Brand Ambassadors Chantalle and Scott for a chat and a sip. From the many top-class bottles they had aligned in front of them, I drank the new Bunnahabhain 12yo Cask Strength. It comes with an ABV of 55.1 per cent and a more sherry-heavy recipe. I loved its opulent profile full of dried fruits, strong spices, rich leather, and creamy chocolate.

No more than one step to the left, I saw the next familiar face: Lindores Abbey’s Cask Castodian Elliot, who resided at the booth of the distillery’s German distributor Prineus. He treated me to a most-beautiful pour, namely a fully Bourbon-matured single cask bottling that was launched as a Germany Exclusive. It was filled to the brim with lemon curd, vanilla crescent, clotted cream, and wine grapes, as well as all kinds of grasses, herbs, and zests. This was my first Lindores Abbey sourced from a classic Bourbon barrel and I must say: I enjoyed it just as much as the stunning STR, Port, and Sherry releases I had from the distillery before!

Another Scottish production site that is always worth a shot is Loch Lomond, the super-busy Highlands giant from Alexandria north of Glasgow. At Hanse Spirit, Brand Ambassador Sebastian filled my glass with a special drop that he selected especially for the German market: the 7-year-old single cask from the Ambassador’s Choice range was made from 100 per cent malted barley but distilled on a column still. Hence, it had to be declared a grain whisky rather than a single malt. In regard to the offered flavors, this value-for-money release was like a second breakfast: It filled my mouth with delicate notes of porridge, cereals, raisins, and apples. Plus banana milk and quince jelly. If tasted blindly, I would never have taken this young Loch Lomond for a dram that only cost 49 Euro a bottle!

Speaking of bargains: Flickenschild’s recently released Caol Ila 2011 Wine Barrique was another very wallet-friendly whisky I sipped (and bought) at the show. Right from the start, I figured that I would not often find a dram with such stats (Islay, single cask, full strength, 10+ years old) for such a price (75 Euro) anymore. So I took a bottle home without thinking about it twice. Since Jannik, who worked the booth on all three fair days, slipped me an extra sample too, I will soon introduce this smoky, fumy, and fruity Islay malt on my blog in more detail (alongside its two sister bottlings Caol Ila 2011 Koval Cask and Auchroisk 2012 Wine Barrique). Stay tuned!

One particular whisky experience that I cannot leave unmentioned is the great chat my friends and I had with Ian Macleod Distillers Brand Ambassador Gordon over at the Borco stand. While he told us about the two distilleries he represented at the show – Glengoyne from the Highlands and Tamdhu from Speyside – he poured us a classy dram of each. From Glengoyne we had the elegantly sherried 21 Years Old and from Tamdhu we had the wonderfully palatable 15 Years Old. The whiskies were gorgeous! And the many insights and anecdotes that Gordon shared with us were both super-interesting and great fun!

From the broad portfolio of Kammer-Kirsch, I had a drop with a rather unconventional maturation history. After all, the Arran 17 Years Old, which I savored there, spent its entire ripening time in a Calvados cask! Sales Director Flo pitched it to me as “a mushy apple in an old leather handbag”. And quite frankly, that is exactly how this sophisticated and demanding Scotch whisky presented itself to me. Over time, it unfolded ever-more fascinating aromas and flavors that were fruity but dry, refined but robust, and lively but deep. I was not in the slightest surprised when Flo told me that all available bottles of this one-of-a-kind Islands whisky sold out quickly after launch.

At the stand of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Germany – manned by Brand Ambassador Thom, Society Member Karsten, and Matthias from the PR agency Alle Vögel Fliegen Hoch – I enjoyed another dram of significant age and exquisite make. The expression in question was an Oloroso-finished Ardmore 24 Years Old called “Clishé, but who cares?”. This rich and rare Highlander underlined once more what I have often said: There are a ton of breathtakingly awesome single cask Ardmores out there, and some of the best come from The SMWS!

As I popped in on the fine folks of Bremer Spirituosen Contor, I continued to ride the sherry wave with “The Owl”. This 14-year-old Aultmore from the “Spirit Animals” sub-line within Douglas Laing’s fan-favorite Old Particular brand was matured entirely in a sherry butt and bottled with an undiluted ABV of 60.5 per cent. I tried this honey-sweet Speysider as per recommendation of the BSC’s new Brand Ambassador Nils. While I liked it a lot, I ended up taking another bottle home, namely the brand-new Writers’ Tears Japanese Oak in cask strength. Since I bought the Mizunara-finished Irish Whiskey blindly, I cannot say much about it yet. But once I have opened it, I am sure it will not be long until you can read a full review of it on BarleyMania.

Of course, I also had an Irish Whiskey at Hanse Spirit that I can tell you a bit more about; and that one was nothing short of a masterpiece! I drank it at the Borco stall, where my pal Gearoid introduced me to Teeling’s Brand Ambassador Chris. And by some lucky coincidence, he happened to have a bottle of the Dublin-based distillery’s magnificant 30 Years Old standing nearby … of which he poured me a sip! What can I say? Teeling 30 Years Old was definitely one of my personal highlights of the fair. It was richly flavored and perfectly balanced as well as mouth-pleasing, long-lasting, and impossible-to-forget. Yet, with a four-figure price tag attached to it, this gem of a dram was a bit out of my league. Needless to say, I am extra-thankful for the rare chance of trying this kingly Irish Whiskey at least once!

So far, I filled you in on the pours I tried from Scotland and Ireland. But one classic whisk(e)y country is still missing: the United States. From across the ocean came a special release that completely blew me away! I am speaking of Heaven’s Door’s Single Barrel Bourbon (#214) from the German Selection by Schlumberger. I have been a fan of the brand ever since I tried the Double Barrel a while back – and the 7-year-old, cask strength bottling I discovered at Hanse Spirit even upped the ante in my opinion. After taking no more than one or two sips I was convinced that I needed a full bottle. So I made Heaven’s Door’s Single Barrel Bourbon (#214) my third and last purchase of the weekend. As with the other releases I bought, I will thoroughly introduce this one on my blog as soon as the cork has gone off … but now, let’s move on to the second part of my event report. After all, I had a lot of truly amazing world whisky at Hanse Spirit, too!

by Tobi

Hanse Spirit @ Web: https://www.hanse-spirit.de/
Hanse Spirit @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hansespirit

*** I attended the fair as a regular, paying customer. However,
I was invited to free drams at some of the booths. ***


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