Whisky does not have to be confined to the United Kingdom and Ireland; we’ve established that already with glowing reviews of Amrut, Jack Daniels and Mackmyra. It’s quite surprising that, despite the quality of the latter, countries within Scandinavia don’t produce more whisky, considering they use approximately 40 per cent of arable land sewing cereals including rye. One brand taking advantage of wind, the sea, the fields, the heather and the peat is Stauning distillery in the West of Denmark.
Stauning is a relatively new, humble and idyllic distillery which was developed by the aspirations of people who admittedly knew nothing about whisky. But as the majority of readers will know, all it requires is a unique passion, a burning curiosity and the will to experiment and create throughout the process. The distillery itself reminds me of a cross between Killowen, Belgrove and something much more conventional given their new sleek set up. There’s a romantic “use what you can find” aura about their production. For example, when the distillery first started production in 2005, they used peat to dry and smoke grains and the use of an old meat mincer to conduct milling.
It took until the ‘Jim Murray taste test’ when the realisation soon set in that the guys who made Stauning were not just hobbyists aspiring to create something different, these were architects of a spirit which could easily stand up to a scotch, punching well above their weight. Given the Stauning squad were advised to open a bakery instead of a distillery, it’s a good thing they declined what could typically be the chosen path for a Scandinavian entrepreneur. With that, one bank granted them their wish which allowed them to turn a small farmhouse into a fitting distillery.
Key for the distillery was sticking to their roots, and honestly not a lot changed. Locally grown rye and barley was the norm, floor malting was still routine and small copper pots remained (albeit significantly multiplied to ensure yield) to ensure that there was a distinctive character of their new Nordic terroir whisky. With demand soon far outstripping supply, a move was required to a new modern and purpose-built distillery in 2018 which allowed them to upscale production. But again, significantly, the principles remained the same; character, homegrown and tradition. The new distillery holds 24 stills, which, whilst small in stature, allow Stauning’s habits to endure and ensure that the flavour of the whisky is not impacted; the Milliard reaction (remember Brendan stated the importance of it) working its burnt, caramelly like magic.
Their range is not what you might expect. Alongside what may be perceived as the common stuff, the blended, peated single malt and rye whiskies, is their ‘research’ series which includes ‘Bastard’; a rye whisky aged in old mezcal casks from Mexican Oro de Oaxaca, and ‘Clásico’; another rye whisky aged in vermouth casks. What seems to be a staple within their series, rye, is exactly the one I want to review. On a personal note, I love their bottles too, each capturing the process of whisky making, like a Viking tapestry to whisky supremacy. These bottles are becoming harder to come by now due to supply issues, but to overcome that, the distillery has release blank bottles which you can sticker you own design… not sure how that will catch on.
Their core rye release is as fascinating as it is popular. It’s a combination of malted rye and barley and pot still distillation, with no indication of ratios. It is double distilled and matured in new American oak casks for 3-4 years
Price: £59.44 (from Master of Malt)
Nose: a very nice, subtle spiciness with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg comes through, the rye is abundant enough to know it’s coming for you on the palate. There’s also a softness too with some spiced vanilla custard and a sprinkling of pepper.
Palate: liquid rye bread on the palate is an unerring description; it’s truly full of spiciness goodness. The cinnamon comes through again but in sweet lozenge form; certainly not overpowering. The nutmeg and some peppermint are also quite prevalent with a lingering of yet more black pepper. Some slight sweetness too though with hints of citrus peel.
Finish: some wasabi peans with a long-lasting measure of black pepper give it a medium length finish.
Admittedly, on their own bottle, they suggest the main characteristic of the whisky is liquid rye bread, and it’s not hard to distinguish. The note is fantastic, and whilst it’s an often-distinctive note of a rye whisky, the danish origin ensures this is like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. The balance appears to be extremely calculated, there’s the right level of spice, sweetness and beautiful heat which genuinely dances on the palate. The pepper just sits at every stage and gives it a glorious depth that generates a lasting heat throughout.
For me, this is probably one of, if not then the nicest rye I’ve tried to date. Everything just seems to be in proportion. What’s not to like about this brand? Looking beyond the whisky, the guys who make Stauning just seem to be so likeable, so pure and so enthusiastic about making whisky to make their country proud; I am all for it. In terms of price, I’d say this is fairly priced, possibly a little more for a rye whisky but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
“Denmark is like a secret little place with its own special language”, and this whisky certainly speaks its own language. I am massively looking forward to trying more of the Stauning range and visiting them…and to sticker my own bottle!
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