Obsessive is not the first word that comes to mind when talking about the Scandinavians. High taxes, economic stability, oil, Volvo, flatpack furniture, summer cottages, long summer nights and cold dark winters seem more likely. However, now we are talking whisky, and back to my choice of 'obsessive'. One thing which I have discovered during my time in Scandinavia is that whatever hobby or fascination one has, it is followed through to the extreme with an intrinsic motivation!
Whisky pilgrimages to Scotland are a frequent occurrence and every other day I see a status update of someone I know heading over to visit distilleries, or even friends from the trade heading here to yet another whisky festival. I've come to the conclusion that not all these trips are fun weekends away with the lads and lasses, these are research or even espionage, hidden under the guise of tourists buying loads of products not yet available back home!
For now the time has come for the next phase of the obsessive Scandinavian whisky enthusiast - Let's make our own whisky! Hang on a minute, this isn't make your own model kit car or home brew beer, we're talking. It's full on distilleries producing quality spirit. It's not one or two either, at present there are over 25 distilleries making whisky spirit at different stages of production.
The best way to try these whiskies would be to visit one of the main festivals throughout Scandinavia, as this will allow you time to sample the local environment as well as local product. The largest festival is in Stockholm held over two weekends Thursday-Saturday at the end of September beginning of October. The Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival has over 36,000 visitors with many familiar faces taking the trip across to hold masterclasses. Not to be outshone by big brother, Gothenburg attracts 16,000 visitors over one weekend in April to their festival and with festivals in Örebro (7,500 visitors), Linköping (4,000 visitors), Malmö (5,500 visitors) and with several others in Sweden, one is spoilt for choice!
In Norway the main festivals are in Oslo and Bergen, which are run under very strict guidelines from the state controlled alcohol authorities. The organizers do a fantastic job in promoting whisky knowledge to the consumers. Uisge Festival in Helsinki has been running for three years and a new festival will open later this year. Whiskymessen in Fredericia, Denmark is the only festival where visitors can purchase bottles at the stand because at all other festivals it's samples only. One of the most popular is the Whisky fair held onboard the Viking Line Ferry Cinderella, with a maximum of 2,000 visitors per 20 hours cruise (Three cruises). Tax-free shopping, including travel retail exclusives, whisky ambassadors galore, an exclusive whisky bar, three course whisky inspired dinner, masterclasses and a bed for the night. With spectacular views of the Swedish archipelago, you can't go wrong. They also hold six mini fairs throughout the year with guest speakers from Scotland.
As mentioned there are over 25 active distilleries spread throughout Scandinavia with some further down the line than others and some easier to reach for a visit. When planning a tour of these distilleries, as when visiting
Scotland, it's best to choose which region to visit. Like all good whisky trips there is a fair amount of milage to cover and what better way to see the local scenery than by car with friends.
Currently most distilleries offer both peated and non peated styles. The Scandinavian landmass is almost 17 times greater than Scotland so naturally there's a lot of ground to cover. To make things easy there are three trips featured, which will offer a good overview of the whisky scene. Direct flights are available to all Scandinavian capital cities from main UK airports with BA, SAS and Norwegian.
Fly to Stockholm (Arlanda) and rent a car. Head North on the E4 and you have Mackmyra, and Box Whisky. These are the two main distilleries to visit.
Founded in 1999, launched the Preludium Series three years later. With a wide range of cask finishes and batches Mackmyra has grown into an international brand.
Have just launched their first whisky from their Early Days Collection, The Pioneer. Box also have their own annual festival, which takes place on 28 June this year. Sweden's only master cooper Johan Thorslund will be present alongside a selection of whisky importers. A great opportunity to enjoy the midnight sun!
Heading back down towards Stockholm a stop at Norrtelje Distillery would be a welcome break. They will be releasing their first whisky this year.
Here you can find whisky bars such as Akkurat, The Ardbeg Embassy and The Bishops Arms.
Fly in, rent a car and head west.
Braunstein Brewery & Distillery
The first stop. Founded by two brothers Claus and Michael Braunstein in 2007, they have released 16 whiskies to date.
Koge and Fary Lochan Distillery
Founded in 2009 in Farre, by Jens-Erik Jorgenssen. The first whisky released was in 2013, Fary Lochan Autumn. Jens-Erik uses a local tradition dating back hundreds of years with burning nettles to smoke his barley. Previously this would have been used to smoke fish and meats.
Founded in 2005, on the west coast of Denmark by nine friends. Currently producing three whiskies, traditional unpeated malt whisky, peated - one for the Islay style fans and rye, malted rye to deliver something different. They also have several limited editions and earlier releases. When travelling back take the opportunity to cross the bridge to Sweden and a short drive and a ferry from Landskrona to...
Distilling whisky spirit since 2008 the first release was a three year old Urania and has been followed by three more variants. Situated on the Island of Hven off the south coast this distillery also produces gin and aquavit.
Fly in, rent a car and head onto the E6 and then to Nittedal. If time visit 'The Whisky Bar' for a great selection of drams.
While technically a generic spirits distillery producing company, they have dabbled in the whisky segment. They hold educational tours and currently have two whiskies available, a bourbon cask at 47% ABV, and a sherry cask also at 47% ABV. For both whiskies they combine pale ale malt, pale wheat malt and smoked malt.
In Sweden (3hr drive) or Agder (4hr drive) in the Norwegian coastal town of Grimstad. Both distilleries have recently released three year old whiskies and need to be booked in advance to visit. The journey between these two is only 5 hours as you can take a 15 minute ferry between Moss and Horten.
Box Whisky, Gammelstilla Whisky, Gotland Whisky - Isle of Lime, Gute Vingård, Lappland distillery (under construction), Mackmyra Svensk Whisky, Norrtelje Branneri, Smögen Whisky, Spirit of Hven, Tevsjö Distillery, Wannborga Whisky. Grytthyten has been moved to Orkney but stock remains in Sweden to mature.
Braunstein, Limfjorden, Fary Lochan, Stauning, Trolden, Lille Gadegård - Bornholm Whisky, Nordisk Braendari.