Awards & Events

Record breakers

Marcin Miller particpates in setting a whisky record in Sweden's beautiful capital Stockholm
By Marcin Miller
Well, rather than being broken, a record was established for the biggest ever whisky tasting on 24th November 2001 at The World Trade Centre, Stockholm. A staggering 1210 people tasted five whiskies: three Islays, an Orkney and an Irish whiskey.The tasting was the brainchild of Angela Forsgren d’Orazio, Alan Watson and Christer Hedwall. Angela, Queen of the Scandinavian whisky scene, is the driving force behind Bar Akkurat, and organises the bar’s weekly whisky tastings. The idea for the tasting came at the end of an evening drinking good whisky with friends and reminiscing about tastings they had organised and attended. They were confident that Stockholm could be the venue for the world’s biggest whisky tasting. According to Angela: “It was a question of getting into the record books and also putting Sweden firmly on the whisky map of the world. If it’s about whisky it is fun and putting together the idea of ‘whisky’ and ‘world record’ is fantastically entertaining.” Commenting on the selection of whiskies for the tasting, Angela stated that “The Irish whiskey we tried was a very tasty Irish whiskey. Swedish people love Islay and Highland Park is a perfectly balanced whisky.” The record attempt began with a small whisky festival featuring many of the main producers plus a rum stall and a Cuban cigar stand. At 1.30pm the doors opened to allow the tasters in. 1500 tickets were sold prior to the event (although only 1210 people turned up) at 290 kronor to non-whisky club members and 245 kronor to members of the Akkurat whisky club. The tasting itself only took about 15 minutes: Polystyrene trays with six plastic tumblers arranged on a tasting mat were distributed: five drams and a tumbler of water. Bushmills 16-year-old was presented by Christer, Highland Park 12-year-old was introduced by singer-songwriter Robin Laing, Andrew Scott from Bowmore showed Darkest, Alan Watson of Oxen’s Bar shared his impressions of Laphroaig 10-year-old and Angela finished with Ardbeg 10-year-old.Bowmore got involved, according to Andrew Scott, because; “Sweden is one of the fastest-growing malt whisky markets in the world. We are very pleased to be here.” The selection of whiskies available for tasting worked on a first-come, first-served basis: according to Alan Watson, “We took the first five sponsors who approached us. There were people who wanted to get involved later on but we decided to take the first five. Islay whiskies are firmly anchored in Sweden with the flavour and the palate. Swedes are not particularly fickle when it comes to whisky, they like what they like and they continue to buy it.” Mika Partannen was one of many Whisky Magazine subscribers at the event; “My favourite was the Ardbeg. I love it – it’s been my favourite since I started drinking malt whiskies 10 years ago. I came here today as a member of the Akkurat Whisky Club. It’s great to see so many people here today for one thing: good whisky. I’m enjoying a Bowmore from 1968 at the moment – not something I have at home very often!” Hans-Ake Lilja of the Whisky Academy of Scandinavia enjoyed the Ardbeg most, but not because he is an ardent Ardbeg fan. “I enjoyed it because it shows signs of being a typical Islay and at the same time it is rather smooth and gentle.”Thomas Kuuttanen of Symposium imports and distributes many independent bottlers. He is forceful in his view of Swedish whisky tastes: “Not a sophisticated palate; Swedes like the peatier whiskies; the peatier the better. It’s a question of habit and what food you eat. It’s a reaction against what they used to drink – neutral vodka.” Jerry Lindahl, whose business card carries the title ‘connoisseur’ on it told me; “I really enjoy the smokiness of Islay whiskies. Islay whiskies appeal to the Viking in me. The organisation of today has been great – we didn’t even drop a tray between us.” Fittingly, the last word should go to Angela Forsgren d’Orazio. When asked if there were plans to repeat the event, especially if the record was broken, Angela’s response was emphatic: “Of course, why not? But we’d like some other country to beat us first, before we’ll break another record!”