The whole experience

Last weekend I visited the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival 2015. I have been to this enormous festival several times before, and I have a somewhat ambivalent feeling towards it. On one hand it is fantastic, with the enormous amount of whisky, beer and other sorts of spirits available to try. There’s also a lot of great masterclasses, and a ton of friends to meet up with.

On the other hand it is too big, there is too much to choose from. Even over three days you cannot cover it all – well you might come close if you have a plan and you prioritize (which I try to do), but over three days fatigue also sets in. This is a festival that demands a lot of both visitors and exhibitors. 11 hours on Thursday, 12 hours on Friday and 13 hours on Saturday! I must admit I had had my fill by 7 pm on Saturday.

Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival 2015 - Jan
Jan Beckers from Douglas Laing presenting the Big Peat Christmas 2015 (Photo: Whisky Saga).

Over the past few years I seem to see a shift towards more focus on beer and other spirits, and less focus on whisky. A few very noticeable players have chosen not to participate; this year they included significant companies like Clydesdale and Diageo. Other companies are evaluating what they will do next year.

Speaking to a lot of the exhibitors I heard that many felt the number of visitors was lower this year than last year, especially on the first weekend. The big exception was Saturday last week. It was packed! At times I was stuck in queue for 20 minutes, no movement at all, and all I was trying to do was move from one of the halls to another. I felt they had let in too many people.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great festival, and the fact that it felt like less people at the whisky stands on Thursday and Friday was only a positive thing for me. It gave me a better chance to chat and spend time with both the whiskies and the people serving the drams.

Stockholm Beer and Whisky festival 2015 - Gordon
Gordon Stevenson from International Beverage presenting the old Pulteney 35 YO (Photo: Whisky Saga).

Highlights

I did get to try a lot of great drams, of course, and here are a few of the highlights for me:

  • Nikka Rita 30 YO Apple Brandy (Magical!)
  • Old Pulteney 35 YO (see review)
  • Laphroaig 32 YO (see review)
  • Old Pulteney 1997 Single Cask for Sweden (review coming)
  • anCnoc 1975 / 2014 (review coming)
  • Port Ellen 1982 31 YO Mackillop’s Choice
  • Springbank 21 YO (review coming)
  • Springbank 12 YO Cask Strength (review coming)

I was delighted to spend well over an hour with Christian Drouin from Calvados-Drouin, getting a very educational and fun introduction to the world of Calvados. I will be back with an article dedicated to this meeting, as I want to share some of what I learned.

Great fun to meet up with Tevsjö Destilleri from Sweden. A small distillery that is making bourbon! I had a great talk with Jonas Larsson, the distiller and the main force behind the distillery – together with his wife. More on Tevsjö soon!

I attended only two masterclasses this time around, but they were both great. Sayumi Oyama Chavrier presented Nikka – the history, the philosophy, the dedication and the drams. Jonas Tonell presented whisky from Springbank, a whisky that is always interesting and almost always great.

Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival 2015 - Sayumi
Sayumi Oyama Chavrier gave a great masterclass presenting Nikka whisky (Photo: Whisky Saga).

There was time to try a few beers as well, and the best brews I came across this time were:

  • The Chocolate Manifesto – Triple Chocolate Milk Stout by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
  • City And Colour Imperial Maple Wheat by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
  • Taara Avita! by Põhjala – a rum cask matured stout
  • Acoustic Porter by Malmö Brewing
  • Fegefeuer Kaiser Stout by Monks Cafe & Brewery
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival 2015 - Manifesto
The best beer I had at the festival (Photo: Whisky Saga).

Have a look here if you want to know who won the various whisky awards at the festival.

All in all a great experience in Stockholm. I will most likely be back next year. See you there?

Sláinte!
– Thomas

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