The Limburg Whisky Fair 2015
The Limburg Whisky Fair is the ultimate happening for whisky nerds. This is probably the only place where you can find thousands of rare bottles - old and new. The festival is located in the small town Limburg in Germany, and attracts about 6-7000 people over two days (Saturday and Sunday). You will find only a few standard bottlings here, and not many stands by major brands. Instead you will find whisky shops specializing in rare bottles, importers with strange and curious whiskies, collectors selling samples and bottles from their private collections, and a huge collection independent bottlers.
This is the festival for you if you have always wanted to try that special whisky from the 1930s, or you still need to find a Ben Wyvis and have a taste to cross that off your bucket list. It is also the place to try many a strange creation from German craft distillers, or try new make from the likes of Wolfburn. How about a selection of 50+ bottlings of Laphroaig from the 60s and 70s, or heavily peated (50 ppm) new make from Arran, or a Ballantine 3o YO bottled around 1960?
First off, make sure you find the correct Limburg on your map. There's Limburg in Belgium and in The Netherlands, but you want Limburg an der Lahn in Germany, about 40 minutes drive North West of Frankfurt.
If you live in Germany, or one of the neighboring countries taking the train is a good option. There's a train station in downtown Limburg, and everything is more or less within walking distance from there. If you travel from further away, like us, then flying in to Frankfurt is the best option. From Frankfurt you can take the train, but that is either quite expensive (express train) or very slow (local train). A better option is to book a ride with Taxi-Addi. For 1-4 persons they charge 80 € one way. Very nice if you travel together.
Book your hotel early! If you do not want to live a few kilometers outside of the city you had better book your hotel at least six months before the festival.
Cash is king at the festival. You pay 10 € entrance fee per day, which also includes a nosing glass. All samples and bottles are also purchased by cash. A few stands did now accept credit cards, but those were the exceptions.
Take a break during the day and get some food. There are a number of small and nice restaurants within a short walking distance from the festival arena; Josef-Kohlmaier-Halle.
If you want to attend any of the masterclasses you have to get in line early on the Saturday. Tickets are only sold on site, and it's first come first served.
Keep an eye on your expenses. With exclusive 2 cl drams costing as much as 150 € and more, your wallet will empty very quickly. Do not despair though, there are hundreds of drams to be had at less than 5 € as well.
If you are claustrophobic or do not like crowds you are better off skipping the Saturday altogether, it gets very crowded. Very, very crowded! Like nothing you will have experienced at any other whisky festival.
This was our first time attending this festival. We had been prepared by our veteran friends, but the massive crowd on the Saturday was still somewhat of a shock. Luckily there was a balcony area where we could retreat for a breather.
The amount of choice at this festival is really overwhelming. We took our time, walked around and observed the spectacle. We kept a slow pace, and bought just a few drams the first day.
The Sunday was a lot better. Fewer people, and more time to actually talk to people, and really look closer at the whiskies on offer.
We met a lot of old friends, and made a lot of new friends. This is always a wonderful aspect of going to whisky festivals, and worth the trip in itself.
The town of Limburg was really nice, especially the old town. The oldest house here dated back to 1289!
The best treat of the whole stay was the fantastic whisky bar Villa Konthor. Wow, what a place! 700 different whiskies on the shelves. Great pub food (try the Flammkuchen!), and wonderful hosts in Robin Pitz and his wife Julia. I will be back with a thorough review of Villa Konthor in a short while.
Finally I have to mention that Villa Konthor arranges several themed whisky dinners on the Friday and Saturday. We attended a delightful whisky dinner focusing on Japanese whisky - Suntory vs Chichibu. This was heaven for us - we are rather fond of Japanese whisky after all!
Will we be back? I certainly believe so, after all it was a fantastic experience. But we might not want to go every year. Better make it a special treat every few years, I think.
Sláinte! - Thomas