It’s been a few days since the conclusion of Oslo Whiskyfestival 2015. The impressions have had it’s chance to sink in. Here is my summary of this weekend. And yes, it’s time to use the finest superlatives!
Don’t forget to read our summary of day 1.
There were many highlights this weekend! We can congratulate Chris Maile and his team with a great festival. We can also congratulate them with a great turnout! The organiser himself says there were 1600 people throughout the weekend! That’s very good since whisky is something social and the interchange of opinions and experiences should be a hallmark of it all. Whiskyworld.no had a total of four people in their group of friends over these two days. And through the festival’s two days we could to talk to many more – both old and new friends!
Among others the head of the Norwegian Federation of Whisky Societies, Bjørn Rasen, we got to have a very nice discussion with during/after Martin Markvardsens’s Highland Park-seminar. For all of you with informal or formal whisky clubs around Norway, a free membership here is really something to consider. They had their annual meeting during the weekend, and they elected a new board who really seem keen to advance whisky around Norway! We can at the same time congratulate the Federation with the award for “Best in Festval – Scotch whisky 12 years or younger” for their own GlenDronach 2003. It seems like the Federation knows what it’s doing!
A festival is really the place where the industry can showcase themselves. And winning one of these awards is quite an honour and a real showcase considering the competition. OWF’s advantage in this connection, according to Chris Maile that is, is that it has always been the audience who has decided the winners. The model where the “experts” retire to a room to evaluate and come up with the “answers” on their own, is to me not great. Those who read the welcoming post understands why. We prefer OWF because all gets to share their opinion!
But here follows the exclusive list!
1. Scotch Single Malt 12 years old and under: GLENDRONACH 2003
2. Scotch Single Malt over 12 years: GLENFARCLAS 21 YEARS OLD
3. Scotch Single Malt NAS : GLENGOYNE CASK STRENGTH
4. Blended whisky : NIKKA FROM THE BARREL
5. Whisky/Whiskey from other countries: KAVALAN SOLIST SHERRY CASK
We have already congratulated the Norwegian Whisky Federation and GlenDronach, but all really deserve congratulations. Some have won before here. But to see Kavalan on the list with such a solid whisky, is something where I can only concur and applaud.
Before the OWF I expressed the possibility to enter the Norwegian Championship in nosing. Did I? Unfortunately not. I knew my nose wasn’t working optimally this weekend, and frankly, I was rather nervous. But Fredrik Thomter did a great effort and became the champion for the second year running!
The Pot Still award went to Arnt Steffensen and Lars Helge Eklund. They have undoubtedly contributed much to the advancement of whisky in Norway. A secure and solid award here!
Seminars – from rather acceptable to completely marvellous
When we gave our summary of day 1 we gave Nick Ravenhall a less than stellar feedback. There were many things that contributed to this. Nick is a good, but “ruff-around-the-edges” kind of guy. But this tasting didn’t quite go too well for our part.
But the day after we got a really wonderful experience! A real highlight of the festival! Martin Markvardsen, Senior Brand Ambassador for Highland Park, started his very interesting tasting with “there are no new jokes!” Already there he got most of us hooked. And I don’t know about the rest, but for me the jokes were still great!
And what a whisky lineup good old Martin could show us:
12 year old – Dark Originis – 18 year old – 21 year old – 25 year old
Together with a great lesson on Highland Park’s production and history this was really impressive! Martin’s jokes came for example when he explained that as many other whiskies in Scotland Highland Park has a “less than noble” background with illegal distiling and one of the “founding fathers” was caught in 1798 and the distillery had to go legal. Or as it says on the bottle: Established 1798. Well, I laughed anways!
Martin was also refreshingly honest about why on earth they to a large degree have left the customary age notes on the bottles. As readers of this page know we have discussed earlier, that higher age on the bottle is not the same as a better whisky, is only one of the reasons. When Martin asked whether age automatically means a better whisky, there were several on the back row that was overly certain that this is the case, and was rather condescending towards us who thought it was not. Martin thrilled us we a nice, personal story from Highland Park to show that this is actually not the case. Reason no. 2 he gave, I really want to return to during the next few days. So, please look for updates!
Well, back to the whiskies. It was really exciting to see the difference in these six whiskies. But right here you could, on my account anyways, throw the above mentioned thought that higher age is not the same as a better whisky out the window! Highland Park is in any case a lovely whisky, but when we got to the 25 year old…. WOW! It was a different world! Lovely sherry casks, a lovely nose of caramel, dried fruits, and, what is common for all of these Orkney-whiskies, flowery smoke. The last is an interesting and nice contrast to Islay whiskies which I am a fan of.
An amazing selection!
But there was more that inspired a whisky enthusiast would be impressed by during this festival! And one thing was especially how the industry supported this! There were whiskies from every corner of the world. Even some bourbon. Not my favourite really, but you who like this, should just continue to buy it! There is plenty of good whisky coming out of old bourbon casks…
I have already conveyed my joy over the day 1 pit stop! Day 2 also had some highlights in this area. Mortlach 18 year old sporting green apples heading over into more sweet notes on the nose was the first. The second was Jon Bertelsen’s “Månelyst” (Norwegian pun: “Moonlight”, also in the sense “det blir månelyst” – “there will be trouble”). Funnily enough, there was “Månelyst” as in the Norwegian pun, “there will be trouble”, when we wanted to take a picture of the slightly homemade-looking label. The one serving us was willing enough to let us do it, but his colleugue grabbed it and hid it away. What secrets was stored in that label, I wonder? We can but speculate. A strange and funny situation in any case. I wish I could share something about the whisky after this, but I really can’t
And then a little tip for you who are together with a lady quite new to whisky and perhaps you are uncertain if even a soft Glenmorangie or such will do the trick to convince her: The Canadian whisky Black Velvet. If you ask for a toasted caramel version you will get someting quite close to a liqueur. And if you go for the cinnamon version your taste buds are destroyed for the next half hour (don’t ask!). But in any case: Gentlemen, if you like heavily peated whiskies, just remember it’s often not the way to your lady’s whisky heart. Though I would start with the afore mentioned Glenmorangie myself.
And the visit at the stand of my favourite distillery – Ardbeg? Not quite what I hoped for. I had looked forward to tasting the Perpetuum. Friday there was a nice and polite young lady informing me that that it was empty. Saturday there was not so nice and polite David Francis just looking oddly at me when I came over, but it was obviously still empty. Even the bottle fastened down by “chains” was empty – that’s a very expensive empty bottle. But asking him, he could serve up a very nice Glenmorangie 25 years old from the other end of his table. So all his forgiven, Mr. Francis! But we do recommend a smiling class..
All in all?
Oslo Whiskyfestival is probably the highlight of the year for whisky lovers in Norway. This year was no exception. There was plenty new to see, smell, taste and learn. Let’s be real tabloid-like and give this year’s festival and organizer Chris and his team 5 out of 6 possible. Somewhat for the minor problems we mentioned here and during day 1. But mostly so they don’t rest on their laurels for next year!
And we do look forward to next year! 4th to 5th of November 2016 is already marked off in our calendar! And how about you?
See you in Oslo 5th – 5th of November 2016, dear whisky friends!
But what’s your opinions on OWF 2015? The comments area is waiting for you! We give feedbacks as we go! 🙂