The only way to enjoy a good whisky is to be encased by American walnut. Brass feet help greatly too.
The art of premium single malt whisky appreciation has recently got a lot easier.
Stauning, the award-winning Danish distillery from the West Jutland, has launched its most expensive bottle. Only 250 bottles have been made, and the price is £11,500. In return, the bottle comes with one of Finn Juhl’s newly relaunched Whisky Chairs.
The relaunched Whisky Chair from 1948 is now in production for the first time by House of Finn Juhl, based in Ringkobing in Demark, to complement the limited edition smoked peat whisky which also comes with a special hand-blown whisky glass by Danish glassblower Mikkel Yerst.
Alex Munch, co-founder of Stauning Whisky, says:
“It’s no secret that we love everything related to whisky. When we were given the opportunity to develop and produce a whisky for a whisky chair, we could not possibly say no.”
In 1948, Finn Juhl designed the Whisky Chair – created for sipping whisky – complete with a small foldout table. The chair was perceived as too extravagant and subsequently did not come into production.
To relaunch the chair, the company had to borrow one of the original and very rare 80-year-old chairs from Japanese professor and furniture collector Noritsugu Oda.
The Danes aren’t the only north European whisky pioneers. Berry Bros & Rudd has just launched the second batch of releases in its Nordic Cask whisky range. The inaugural collection, launched last August, included whiskies from Norway’s Myken, Sweden’s High Coast, Finland’s Kyrö and Fary Lochan in Denmark.
According to the producer, the new bottlings added to the series include the world’s first cross-Nordic blend according to the producer. Made from five casks from Nordic distilleries, Vondõga Blended Nordic Malt Whisky (59% ABV) is vatted from ex-Sherry-matured casks.
The remaining whiskies include Stauning 2017 Cask (58.9% ABV), from Denmark; Teerenpeli 2013 Cask (59.9% ABV), from Finland; Thy 2017 Cask (57.6% ABV), from Denmark; and Smӧgen (60% ABV), from Sweden.
The bottles were selected by Jonny McMillan, Berry Bros & Rudd reserve whisky manager, who said:
“We’ve found Nordic distillers to be deeply respectful of whisky’s rich and proud heritage. Often drawing inspiration from their projects from Scotland and Japan, they show willingness to inject their spirit of locality.
“Be it using local grains, indigenous materials for smoking or simply producing a distillate with a sense of place. Berry Bros & Rudd is proud to include in this release the first cross-Nordic blended malt, Vindӧga.
“Blended with input from each of the distillers and our good friend Thomas Øhrbom from Whisky Saga whom we worked with to create the final vatting, we hope the release further grows the region’s collaboration and inevitable global attention.”
Experts are beginning to sing the praises of Scandinavian spirits and now Norwegian composer Alexander Aaroen Pederson has written a 45-minute symphony inspired by the world’s most northerly distillery.
Aurora Spirit opened 600 kilometres north of the Artic Circle in 2016 and under the brand name “Bivrost” meaning Shaking Path, and produces award-winning whisky, gin (ideally served with four raspberries and six blueberries), aquavits and “BLOT” (meaning, sacrifice) Arctic herbal liqueur.
Shaking Path is the route heroic dead Vikings took to Valhalla and the afterlife. The bridge to the next world leads through the curtain of the Northern Lights.
The state-of-the-art distillery at Aroybukt at the foot of north Norway’s Lygen Alps is the creation of a doctor, a hairdresser, a scuba diver, a German still called Gerd and two Scotsman. Born in Oban and now based in Inverness, Colin Houston is co-founder and cask manager as well as MD of Aurora Spirit UK Ltd.
“I first met Dr Hans Olav Holterman Eriksen in Scotland. He ran an adventure company near Tromso in north Norway. We found the site. CEO Tor Petter Christensen and his wife Anne-Lise are the other founders. There is nothing better than being in the hot tub at the distillery in the middle of the Arctic winter with dram in hand, the Northern Lights dancing overhead and the music playing!
“The symphony captures the tranquillity, romance and solitude as well as the struggles and hardships of Arctic life and atmosphere of Norse mythology”.
Houston owned an independent wine and spirits business in Edinburgh before joining VisitScotland. His great-great grandfather was chairman of Bulloch Lade Distillery which owned Caol Ila. As cask manager, he is in charge of the purchase, maturation and finishing roles, balancing stock for future productions and exclusive cask releases. On the team is Neil Cameron, former head distiller at Glenturret, who advises Aurora’s distiller and ex-brewer, Gjermund Stensrud. Casks come from the Speyside cooperage, Craigellachie.
“The whisky is fruity with elements of the Lowlands, Highlands and Speyside but distinctly Arctic! There is a purity to the ice and snow which imparts into the whisky through cask storage less than ten metres from Arctic Sea and the use of glacial meltwater – Rottenvik-breen. The Pilsner malt is made from Planet and Popino Nordic barley. All hand-crafted under the glow of the Northen Lights.”
The distillery has some of the most advanced technology in the world. But the casks are kept in tunnels under the former Cold War NATO base. The wash comes from the world’s most northerly brewery, Mack, 50 miles away. It’s also brewed on site with Arctic barley.
Aurora launched its first whisky, “Bivrost Niflheim” (meaning ‘world of fog’) last May, with the first 20 bottles being sold on auction. The first bottle was sold for 8000 EUR, making it the most expensive Norwegian produced alcohol drink ever. The distillery, which also offers fjord-side cabin and a tasting-room with grandstand views of the Aurora Borealis and takes part in Tromso’s annual January Arctic Whisky Festival. It is now triple-distilled malt and included into its “Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology” series.
Bivrost Nidavellir (the dark place among the golden halls) was released in November 2020, Muspelheom (land of the five giants) and Jotunheim in 2021 and Asgard this May. Bivrost Helheim comes out at the end of November.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.