Germany’s Stork Single Malt 43%

There I was in Neumark in der Oberpfalz, having spent a wonderful day exploring… from Schloss Rosenburg, Ruine Rabenstein, Burg Prunn, Wellenburger Kloster to the Danube… True it was cold and snowy. True, everything was shut, so we could only tromp around the outside… but it was still such an invigorating distraction after weeks of being shut in.

That’s one of the remarkable things about the area I now live in Germany – castles and fortresses, ruins and monuments… oh my! There is so much history and such variety in relatively close proximity.

So too is the whisky industry… there are apparently now over 200 whisky distilleries in Germany. Without the guidelines / limitations of the Scottish Whisky Association, quite a bit of experimentation takes place…. often in quite small / micro distilleries.

And on that particular evening in Nuemark, I was introduced to one such new player – Stork Club Whisky from Spreewood Distillers, 60 KM south of Berlin.

So what’s their story? Steffen Lohr, Bastian Heuser and Sebastian Brack apparently were on a road trip in 2015 to buy a barrel of whisky… and found themselves inspired to take over Spreewood Distillers. Dedicated to Rye Whiskey, focusing on small batch, triple cask aged – ex bourbon, ex sherry and ex white wine – using two distillates – malted and unmalted Rye, primarily from the Brandenburg region.

What did we find from this distillery primarily dedicated to Rye?

Stork Single Malt 43%

  • Nose – Chestnut, a bit of varnish then settled down, becoming sweeter and sweeter,  fruitier, beeswax, honey, almond, a bit of green grapes – the white wine cask influence perhaps?
  • Palate – Fresh, fruity, surprisingly creamy, a dash of cinnamon spice… it was a very ‘drinkable dram’ with no harsh notes

We found it was a terrific ‘sipping whisky’…. friendly and easy going yet had enough character that you knew it would also make a great cocktail base.

Talk turned to quintessential “Lufthansa cocktails” famous in the 50s and 60s… pre-mixed and bottled yet served with a certain panache and style. Speculation that this Stork whisky     would be terrific in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan… perhaps someone should suggest this to the folks behind reviving these cocktails?

What do the gents behind The Stork have to say about their Single Malt?

  • Flavour Profile: Fresh Hay, Honey, Tropical Fruits
  • Cask: Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Sherry, Ex-White Wine Cask
  • Occassion: One for every evening
  • Raw Ingredient: Barley malt
  • Beer Accompaniment: Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Pale Beer

Now outside of Germany or perhaps parts of the US fond of a “boilermaker”, listing a ‘beer accompaniment’ for a whisky may frankly seem a little strange. But in a land known for its beer and more recently whisky, why not?

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Vita Dulcis 24 – Sweden’s Mackmyra 5 year Rök 46.3%

Unbelievable but true! I have managed to taste all 24 minis within one month. Something I have never imagined I would accomplish. Now… admittedly, I wasn’t tasting every day. Nor was I even completing each mini. Instead I grouped them in trios and quartets, settling into  a sniff, swish and consideration… mostly on weekends. Curious to know more? You can read about all of the minis here.

As for my penultimate dram? Fittingly, it closed on Europe with a single cask of a Swedish peaty Mackmyra, bottled specifically for Vita Dulcis.

Sweden – Mackmyra 5 year Rök Oloroso Cask Finish 46.3% Exclusive single cask bottling for Vita Dulcis

  • Nose – A bit dusty, then smokey, a dash of honey, fresh and woodsy, a dash of caramel, cinnamon, then shifted into maple chased by vanilla, cured meats
  • Palate – OK now we have peat, delicious, peaking behind was fruits, then baked goods
  • Finish – Bitter sweetness, cinnamon, nicely lingers…

I must say, the more I sipped, the more I enjoyed it. Even after finishing the last drop, came back to my empty glass just to enjoy the aromas. A nice way to wind things up…

As a single cask, I wasn’t able to find specific tasting notes, however I checked out my previously experience with Svensk Rök 46.1%. I’d agree it is certainly in the same vein.

You may also find other encounters with Mackmyra of interest:

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Vita Dulcis 6 – Swiss Säntis Malt Himmelberg Edition 43%

From Beer to Whisky, Säntis Distillery started experimenting in 2002. Säntis Himmelberg is the distillery’s fourth standard bottling. After beer barrel maturation, the malt was matured in a wide variety of wine barrels such as port, sherry and merlot.

So what did I find with the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar mini?

Switzerland – Säntis Malt Himmelberg Edition 43%

  • Nose – Its starts off like wine, then pears yet a bit on the sour not sweet side, and something roasted, a bit sharp and smells a bit like you’ve wandered into a brewery
  • Palate – Even on the palate it has a distinctly beer and lemon element, throw into the mix some ginger, spice
  • Finish – Short, dry and lightly spiced with more ginger

Don’t laugh, but I couldn’t get a Radler out of my mind – a refreshing combination of lemonade and beer found in Bavaria. Except this wasn’t really a Radler… and there was something just… well… different. It is hardly like a whisky at all… more and more it reminded me of sipping on a wine shandy or… yup… back to that Radler!

Distillery official tasting notes?

As with all of our whiskeys, the spring water for our Säntis malt “Edition Himmelberg” comes from the Alpstein. Julia Nourney characterizes it as follows: “Light and fruity, which shows its true face on the palate with spicy and woody aromas.” The secret lies in the transfer of the beer barrel into different wine barrels.

Other encounters with Swiss whiskies:

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Vita Dulcis 1 – India’s Amrut Fusion 50%

What a way to kick things off! With a dram from my much missed home – India!!

Over the years, I’ve sampled many an Amrut Fusion… however it has been some time since I ‘properly’ sat down with one – particularly the international version that helped catapult Amrut to global attention.

My first taste was in 2010? (I think!) at a spirits exhibition in Mumbai with father and son Neelakanta Rao Jagdale and Rakshit Jagdale. I was impressed by their passion and commitment to bring Indian whisky to the world – by establishing their credibility outside India. At the time, I found the concept of “Fusion” interesting but was personally more drawn to their “Two Continents” – yep that was the 1st edition.

After that, I had a mixed experience with the Fusion version which became available in India – with a very clear caveat that the conditions under which these bottles are stored likely varied considerably.

The most memorable was an evening in 2015 with N R Jagdale and Jim Murray.

I next properly sampled Fusion 50% at Singapore airport and went – huh?! This was NOT the same Fusion available in India. True – the alcohol percentage is different as Amrut must abide by the state regulations on strength for domestically produced alcohol. But it was more than that…

So what did I find with the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar mini?

India – Amrut Fusion 50%

  • Nose – Hmm… is that a hint of bacon? Shifts into toffee apples, oatmeal, cream and honey with a light peat chaser
  • Palate – Full warming spice, some oak, tannins, definitely more spice, chocolate
  • Finish – A nice cinnamon spice, slightly bitter
  • Water? Nope! Not a drop…

Well? Thumbs up or down?

This version, this day… its a yes. Particularly the way the cinnamon spice interplayed with the sweet subtle peat.

And Amrut’s official tasting notes?

  • Nose : Heavy, thickly oaked and complex: some curious barley-sugar notes here shrouded in soft smoke. Big, but seductively gentle, too
  • Taste : The delivery, though controlled at first, is massive! Then more like con-fusion as that smoke on the nose turns into warming, full blown peat, but it far from gets its own way as a vague sherry trifle note (curious, seeing how there are no sherry butts involved) – the custard presumably is oaky vanilla – hammers home that barley – fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all; but for extra food measure the flavours develop into a really intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate
  • Finish : A slight struggle here as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy here with the dry peat and oak; enough molassed sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. Above all the spices, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, rise up and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit

What about some of my other encounters with Amrut?

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Chorlton – Mackmyra 12 years 50.2%

I don’t know why, but I struggled to prepare this post… My tasting notes from a virtual tasting evening with our European chapter of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai were weak. So it took sitting down for a solo tasting to tease out a bit more. If some of the impressions seem contradictory, this would be why!

First off – we are no strangers to Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery offerings.We’ve quite enjoyed a few over the years… and been disappointed too.

And now, without further ado… here is what we discovered!

Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% 278 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, cherry wood, sweet honey, one dimensional, caraway seed
  • Palate – Cork or wood, juniper?
  • Finish – Bitter cinnamon bark
  • Water – We had a bit of a debate on this – some thought it nicer with water, others thought it killed its character
  • Return – We set it aside and returned after some time… it opened up to reveal some lightly floral notes and balsam wood

Well this was a curious one… certainly not complex or flamboyant. Above all, it needed time to open up.

Did we like it? Let’s say there was a mixed response. In particular our Swedish lady was… underwhelmed by this Mackmyra.

And yet, when I came back to it a few weeks later, I found there was an inviting ‘freshness’ to its approach – clean, straight forward and quite pleasant. I found a subtle citrus fruitiness – more grapefruit than orange. With water, I also discovered tasty baked goods – more like lemon curd wickeltorte or poppyseed grapefruit gugelhupf.

It is distinctly different and while it wouldn’t be the 1st dram I would gravitate to relax and unwind, it was utterly delightful one evening when I came in from a brisk chilly walk. Clearly that is the right context for quite a cheerful dram.

What does David have to say?

My first foray into the world of whisky outside of Scotland is a rare chance to try a non-finished single cask from Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery.

The nose is super-clean and foresty (very Scandi!), with rye, caraway, lemon sponge and hints of apricot. The palate continues the theme with gingerbread, spiced cookies, juniper and a zingy orange/grapefruit fruitiness in the finish. Really interesting stuff, and a profile quite unlike any Scotch.

This bourbon barrel was fully matured in an abandoned mine under the Swedish forest.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £70 plus shipping.

Here is are the other two in this Chorlton trio:

As for other brushes with Mackmyra? There have been many! With nearly all sampled together with our Swedish Whisky Lady:

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An aptly named Mackmyra Äppleblom

I goofed up a bit here… after the delightful Brenne, I intended to continue with the Mackmyra Äppleblom. But mixed up my minis and we cracked open and started tasting the Vintergold instead – oops!

Why I wanted to follow the Cognac finished Brenne with the Calvados finished Äppleblom was an expectation of sweet progression before getting into the curious combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine finishes with the Vinterglöd.

However my tasting companion and I were able to ‘roll with it’… here is what we found…

Mackmyra Äppelblom 46.1%

  • Nose – Lots of white orchard fruits, joyous pears, apples, delicate, toffee, vanilla cream, tangy citrus edge, wood shavings, banana nuts, fruity, apple blossoms
  • Palate – Started a bit softly then the flavours blossomed all around the palate, quite fruity yet also a bit peppery, then a touch of tobacco leaf?
  • Finish – Nicely lingers, anise, orchard fruit

We found the nose much bigger than the palate on this one… when sampled after the Vinterglöd… but when we set aside and returned to resample in the intended tasting order – wow! This one really had a delightful sprightly character that nicely built on the Brenne aperatif.

Based on this experience, I would be curious to try more Calvados influenced whiskies. And would say this ‘apple bloom’ is rather aptly named!

How much would it set you back? EUR 60.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Äppelblom is an elegant single malt that was distilled in Mackmyra Bruk. Finally, the whiskey was stored in oak barrels, which were previously saturated with Calvados from Christian Drouin.

Its spicy balance is made up of the light apple tones in the Mackmyra distillate, the stronger and rounder apple aromas of the Calvados and a generous amount that the barrel contributes. The result is a whiskey with a hint of apple and a hint of ripe pears, citrus fruits, almond caramel and cedarwood.

  • Nose: Fruity, light floral aroma, gentle tones from bourbon and new American oak barrels with a little vanilla. Rounded off with caramel, oak and cedar, along with some toasted bread. Complemented by fruity nuances of apples, pears and lemons. 
  • Taste: Fruity, spicy aromas of apples, ripe pears and citrus fruits. A hint of vanilla, to which cedarwood, anise, white pepper and ginger are added. An impression of caramel-laden vanilla rounds off this slightly oily textured whiskey. 
  • Finish: Fruity and spicy notes emerge, accompanied by a hint of oak and soft apples.  

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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A Christmas ode with Swedish Mulled Wine – Mackmyra Vinterglöd

I will admit to having a mixed response to some more experimental wine maturation combinations. Not all are a smashing success, in my humble opinion. However how are unique gems discovered without someone taking a crazy idea or playing around? So I entered into this particular tasting with an open mind. Thinking of how much I enjoy the tart tasty mulled crabapple and red wine of my Canadian youth and have adapted to the sweeter avatar I find here in Germany.

Intended to come after the Mackmyra Äppleblom, the Mackmyra Vinterglöd is uniquely finished in a combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine casks.

Mackmyra Vinterglöd 46.1%

  • Nose – Initially a whiff of agave, then spicy cinnamon, light Christmasy notes dancing about, then sour plum, Chinese sour cherry, a touch of pine or balsam fir, then some chocolate – yum! More Christmas oranges and cloves, ginger snap cookies
  • Palate – Ginger, sour cherries… the Christmas orange and cloves on the aromas followed through beautifully on the palate, caramelized ginger peel
  • Finish – Dry spice kick, a bit bitter, sweet leather and licorice, cinnamon spice,

Distinctive and even more so when we returned after some time. Really quite interesting… it reminded me of orange bitters, herbaceous and deliciously sweet… like a Ricola swiss herbal lozenge.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Vinterglöd (winter glow) is…inspired by the Swedish winter tradition of drinking mulled wine during the colder months of the year.

Vinterglöd carries notes of orange, candied fruit and almond, together with oak and a ginger-like spiciness. The aromatic profile of the whisky comes from its aging in casks that previously held Swedish mulled wine and Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

Vinterglöd is a collaboration with Saturnus Glögg.

  • NOSE – Spicy with berries, fruits and light oily notes. Toasted notes of vanilla, oak and caramel fudge. A light warm and oaky spiciness with a hint of tar and mineralities. Sweet notes of raisin, marzipan, citrus and pear drop. Blackcurrant notes of older whisky are found together with spicy and herbal notes of aniseed, ginger and tobacco leaves.
  • TASTE – Spicy with a nice balance between fruits, berries, oils and oak. Blackcurrant, pear fudge and grapefruit. Pleasant spicy oak with hints of tar and tobacco leaves. The texture has a light oiliness.
  • AFTERTASTE – Oily and spicy with berries and a light dryness towards the end.

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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A delightful desert whisky – Brenne Cuvée Spéciale 40%

We wanted to start our Tasting with something lighter, summery, sweetly satisfying…  delightful desert dram influenced by maturation in a Cognac cask.

I shared with my fellow tasting companion Alison Parc‘s story – from ballet to booze, America to Europe (with an ex desi connect too). With her focus on terroir with barley, use of French Limosine Oak and ex Cognac casks, she’s pulled off a distinctively feminine style… I remembered how much the Whisky Ladies enjoyed the Brenne Estate Cask, which lead me to be confident this would be a terrific start to our tasting.

Brenne Cuvée Spéciale 40%

  • Nose – Initially greeted with apple blossoms, overripe bananas, a touch of cinnamon spice, then the banana became even more prominent – inviting us to indulge in banana cream pie… we kept returning to find shifting deserts and sweets… from bannoffee pie to a banana strawberry smoothie to candied fruit to lightly salted taffy popcorn, creme brûlée
  • Palate – So silky smooth, pure liquid desert in a glass, banana toffee, pineapple, milky Parsi toffees, french pastries… was that a hint of coconut? Light coco? Whatever the different elements, it is simply delicious!
  • Finish – Drying yet delightful… softly sweet tail…

We came back for a 2nd round with the last drops of our sample and delighted in the bubblegum… yes bubblegum! In this case, it is more than just a childhood flashback, it somehow manages to be playful and elegant at the same time. Frothy but not completely frivolous. Certainly not classically Scottish yet still very classy.

To be honest I’m not sure if the Cuvée Spéciale is simply a different branding in the UK for what was available as Estate Cask in the US. When we compared our experience with the Whisky Ladies in 2017, it could have been the same – just with much more banana in our tasting than found earlier. This could be due to Brenne’s approach to bottle from a single cask or be a ‘sister’ expression.

Our mini came as part of the Master of Malt 2019 Advent Calendar and was tasted one fine weekend in Dunkerton, Somerset. And while I can’t speak for its availability in all parts of the world, it seems to be relatively accessible in the UK, Europe and USA – in the range of GBP 55 or so.

The chaps at Master of Malt have this to say… and I’m inclined to agree:

  • Nose: Vanilla flowers arrive on the nose first, paired with pear drops and dried mango.
  • Palate: Brandied cherry and red rope liquorice. More vanilla, a hint of cinnamon spiciness and Nutella.
  • Finish: Chocolate raisins, pineapple and coconut ice.

A lovely start to a most civilized evening of exploring a few drams in Dunkerton.

What other French drams have made their way to our collective tasting adventures?

France

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Whisky Tales – Sild “Crannog” 3 Year Single Malt 48%

On one of many trips to Munich, I wandered into Tara Whisky Shop on a mission to find something distinctive – preferably at least one whisky from Germany.

When the Sild “Crannog” edition single malt was suggested, it had the hallmark of a gimmick… new make spirit from Slyrs, matured in barrels stored on a clipper “Angel’s Share”, but would it actually be any good?

And that’s when I was given a sample and was surprised… not bad… not bad at all. And so impulsively I picked it up and have no regrets!

In this case, the story has a few layers…  According to their website, 60 years ago, Rainer Heiliger, a wine dealer, purchased the production site of the Holsten-Brewery in Westerland, Bötticher Street 7 on Sylt to store his fine wines. Then along came Alexander Sievers, son-in-law and current owner of the Heiliger wine shop, is a passionate whiskey connoisseur. An encounter with Floria Stetter, founder of the Slyrs distillery, joined by Anton Stetter, co-owner of Slyrs, and Hans Kemenater, a master distiller from Bavaria led to the creation of the SILD brand.

It turns out that storage space for the whiskey casks was expensive on the island. The solution? As Alexander Sievers shared If we can’t store it on land, we’ll just have to store them on the water. We need a ship where we can store our whiskey on”.
The historic cutter “The Angel’s Share” was acquired, restored and made seaworthy, anchored in List, with its cargo of whisky.

Stories aside, what did we think of the whisky?

Sild “Crannog” 3 year Single Malt 48%

  • Colour – Dark honey
  • Nose – Caramel sweet and salty popcorn, havan smoke, cherries, plums, simply delicious, a hint of tobacco leaves
  • Palate – Spice, initially sharp, some brine, a bit oily, sweet spice, had real substance and terrific character, growing more enjoyable sip by sip
  • Finish – Definitely there, smooth, sweet with the warmth remaining, ending with a bit of copper or metallic note
  • Water – We wouldn’t recommend… while it makes it fruitier, spicier it somehow loses something too

Overall we were rather impressed. For many, this was the favourite of the evening. It reminded us of settling into a comfortable leather chair… or a shipwreck whisky, washed ashore…

Another thought it channeled the spirit of “Ernest Hemingway” with his iceberg style, understated yet adventurous.

We set it aside and revisited to discover a delicious banana split parfait, loads of fruits… yum!

There was no doubt this was a whisky worth trying, kicking back to enjoy!

And what do the folks over at Sild have to say?

An absolute rarity, the CRANNOG edition from the SILD distillery is the only whiskey worldwide that is stored at sea on board of a ship – “The Angel’s Share”. 2700 entire bottles will be produced. It’s a sought-after collector’s item for international whiskey enthusiasts.

But why store it at sea? For the simple reason that it gives the whiskey a unique taste. SILD Crannog undergoes an incomparable ageing process like no other whiskey. The natural course of the tides, the continuous and gentle rocking of the waves, but also the brute force of the swell during storms, shape the taste of the SILD Crannog. Even inside the port, the sea can get so rough during strong east winds that not even experienced captains will head into port during a storm. Add to that the salty sea air and the varying temperature conditions over the course of three years. Such development gives the Crannog an enormous range in flavor: strong, peppery, and pleasantly salty with a full-bodied taste of malt. In the glass, it shines like dark amber and has a spicy, sweetish and slightly smoky aroma.

  • Appearance: deep amber
  • Aroma: smoky – leathery, light vanilla notes, malty, cool – salty, iodine, seaweed, white pepper, appears light in the nose and yet complex
  • Taste: creamy soft and round, salty in the mouth, iodine and a sea breeze, distinct malt character, interesting play of sweetness, saltiness and spicy
  • Finish: in the finish very long and complex

I purchased this whisky at Tara Whisky Store, Munich in December 2018 for EUR 90 plus tax, however can now only find it on auction sites for EUR 170.

What else did we sample in our evening of Whisky Tales?

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Bavarian Bounty – Slyrs, SILD, Aureum, Finch

Normally you would only hear about a whisky from me AFTER it has been tasted. However  with my recent jaunts to Munich, I’ve gathered a few German whiskies yet confess I know very little about the industry there…

What surprised me most in this recent Munich visit was just how many German brands putting out “single malts”. Even more remarkable to learn there are approx 23 distilleries producing some variation of “whisky”… No wonder I saw distilleries like “Stork”, St Kilian, Höhler, Hammerschmiede with The Glen Els as just a few vying for space with Slyrs.

So decided to do a little “Pre-Cursor” post to explore a bit more about the whiskies I did pick up… call it an appetizer before the tastings to come…

Slyrs is the best known Bavarian single malt. While the first whisky was distilled using stills from the traditional Lantenhammer distillery in 1999, by 2007 Slyrs whisky had a new home at a newly erected distillery in Neuhaus. From there I have sitting in my cupboard 3 whiskies:

What else did I pick up?

  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing in Chestnut barrels, guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels.
  • And from Finch, their Finch Classic 40% which is matured for 5-6 years in ex Bourbon then  wine casks.

We’ve had quite a few European whiskies over the years, here are a few German ones we’ve managed to sample:

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