The whisky festival season is already well under way, and we are only half way through January. 2016 is looking good so far, I would say!

Arktisk whiskyfestival, Tromsø, Norway

On January 9 I was in Tromsø, Norway, for the Arctic whisky festival (Arktisk whiskyfestival). I was working at this festival, as I sometimes do. This time I was mainly representing Det Norske Brenneri from Norway and Box Whisky from Sweden. They both have new products out, and I was fun to chat with the visitors at the festival about these two distilleries, and also about Nordic whisky in general (yeah, that quickly became the subject).

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Erlend and I enjoyed the warm weather during a break in Tromsø. It was a mere -4 C and hardly snowing at all (Photo: Whisky Saga).

In Tromsø I finally got to chat with the guys behind Aurora Spirit. They have recently started building a new distillery in Lyngen, Norway. This will truly be an arctic distillery, and by far the northernmost distillery in the world. I will be back with a more detailed report on Aurora Spirit shortly.

The Arctic whiskyfestival venue was at the Scandic Ishavshotel, and it was perfectly suited for a festival of this size. It is centrally located in downtown Tromsø, and I got to stay at the same hotel – very practical. The festival itself saw about the same attendance as last year, just 20 people less than in 2015, which meant about 350 all in all (as far as I know). The festival was also held in 2014 and 2015, but this year was the first under the new name.

The attendees were in general curious, keen and friendly. It was a very nice festival, I think. Too bad I didn’t get to see more of the city, but I hope to be back next year, so I’ll get another chance then.

Cinderella Whisky Fair 2016, Stockholm & the Baltic Sea

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Wolfburn Distillery were present with ‘almost’ whisky. (Photo: Whisky Saga)

January 14.-17. saw the three consecutive whisky cruises out of Stockholm, the Cinderella Whisky Fair 2016. I attended this weird and wonderful festival / cruise in both 2014 and 2015, both time doing two cruises. This year settled for just one cruise, and stayed an extra night in Stockholm instead. This trip was all fun, no work.

The whisky fair was great fun, as always, and luckily the weather was fine. I have no sea legs whatsoever, so this was important!

My focus on the cruise was primarily Nordic whisky, again! Yeah, it is becoming something of an obsession. I got to catch up with Morgan Svensson at Nordmarkens Destilleri AB, a new Swedish distillery planned in Årjäng, close to the Norwegian border. More on this later! Next up was Norrtelje Brenneri, as they now have their second whisky for sale. I visited this little distillery back in 2013. A review of their W whisky is of course coming up shortly as well.

Teerenpeli distillery in Finland had four new whiskies to show at the festival. These were tasted, and samples brought back home. Again reviews will be coming up. The whiskies were a 10 YO, which will replace the 8 YO, a Moscatel finish, a Madeira finish, and finally a Porter-wood matured whisky (yes, Porter, not Port!).

The Helsinki Distilling Co. was there with various samples, in particular an exciting 1 YO rye whisky.

Box Whisky released a new Archipelago bottling, exclusive for the whisky fair. Great attention was paid to the logistics around the release, to avoid the chaos (and fighting) from last year. Everything went very smoothly, and the 300+ bottles (same for each of the three cruises) were sold out within about 8 minutes. I managed to secure a bottle for myself and one for a pal of mine. Unfortunately there are more and more people just hoarding these releases just to sell them online for a quick buck, taking advantage of the ones that were not queueing early or not attending the fair themselves. This whole ‘business’ is starting to piss me off a bit, but that’s a topic for another day.

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I attended a Glenfarclas Decades tasting hosted by Master Distiller Callum Fraser. (Photo: Whisky Saga)

I tried a few other great drams on the cruise that will have their reviews too. A couple of highlights were the Macallan Rare Cask Black, and the new Bruichladdich 2006 Sherry from Svenska Eldvatten.

So what’s next?

Well, in less than four weeks there is the Bergen International Whisky & Beer Festival 2016, February 11.-13. I will mainly be working at this festival, but on the Thursday there’s no work, just play. Do drop by for a chat if plan on attending the festival.

Sláinte!
– Thomas

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