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With a bright sun, clear sky and more than 30°C, difficult to believe we are already in September. After the success of last year, the organizers decided to reconvene their first whisky fair in Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
|View over the river Aar/Aare, with the Kursaal on the top left.|
The surface remained the same as last year, with new exhibitors, such as Acla da Fans and the Single Malt Shop, but some disappeared such the Swiss distillery at Interlaken. The entry price remained the same, 15 CHF and you had to pay per glass, with most whiskies between 2 and 8 CHF per cl.
In addition to new products, such as the Wolfburn Aurora, many Swiss exclusive products, including the new Springbank 21 YO for the Swiss importer Lateltin, but also private bottlings, such as the two Irish single malts for Acla Da Fans were available for tasting.
The opening of the Berner Whisky Messe started with a diplomat from the British Embassy, to highlight the importance of Switzerland as a market for UK, with a 28% increased of exportation to Switzerland over the last five years, second to China. The sales of whisky in Switzerland follow the same growth and allow to partially compensating for the decline of the oil price.
|The official British diplomatic opening of the Berner Whisky Messe|
After this inaugural speech, I could move to Acla da Fans and try first the two new Irish Single Malts, the Special Edition 2 “Somewhere in Ireland” 1991 Acla selection. A well matured, round, malty and fruity Irish single malt, with some blackcurrant. Flawless. The Special Edition 3 “In the North of Ireland” was older (1989) and apparently matured (or finished ?) in a Rhum cask. It was more woody and drier than the younger one.
|Some of the newest releases from Acla selection, with the two new Irish single Malts and the fino Speyside. The Royal Brackla 21 YO was a positive surprise and good value malt.|
The Acla Selection Somewhere in Speyside 1974 41 YO matured in fino cask one was excellent: round, very mellow, balanced, complex and rich, slightly mineral and without any woodiness. Lovely. A very good surprise was the new Royal Brackla 21 YO OB 40%. It was a nice, rich, smooth, fruity, floral and slightly spicy, with nice mild spices and a pleasant sherry influence retailing only for 129 CHF. Good quality and good value. The Craigellachie 19 YO for Travel Retail was very good, very floral, rich, with various spices, light grassy and fruity flavours. However, the new Balvenie 21 YO madeira cask was rather disappointed. It was very smooth, winey, on sultanas and spices, but rather thin. It probably suffered from a reduction to only 40%. I wish Wm Grant & Sons were bottling their products at a higher strength.
|A pretty huge selection of whiskies at Acla Da Fans, with many Acla Selection bottlings|
At Anne McKenzie, I could not resist tasting the new Springbank 21 YO Single Cask for Lateltin Switzerland. A maritime, salty, spicy Springbank, intense and with nice sweet juicy and light sherry influence, complemented by a light smokiness. The Springbank 13 YO Green was rounder, with a more intense sherry influence, red berries and more sultanas. The new BenRiach quarter casks and cask strength were also available. I will certainly taste them later this month at another whisky event.
|The stand of Anne MacKenzie with the new Springbank 21 YO Single Cask for Lateltin, the new Springbank 13 YO Green, as well as the latest BenRiach products.|
Alexander Weine had the brand new Wolfburn Aurora matured in sherry oak. It was slightly more complex, but noticeably rounder, thanks to the added light sweet influence for the sherry casks. Better than the Bourbon matured version. Very good for its age. Discussing about The Bottlers, two new whiskies have been recently bottled, a 13 YO Port Charlotte and a 22 YO Springbank. As the price was too high, they will unfortunately not be imported to Switzerland. From the Ultimate Van Wees, I opted for the Tamdhu 2006 Cask Strength: a very intense, rich, spicy and rubbery whisky. Too much rubber for me. Sorry.
|The new Aurora from Wolfburn, matured in sherry casks.|
|The Ultimate/ Van Wees whisky selection at Alexander Weine|
The Stillman’s received a fair number of Cooper’s Choice whiskies. The Cameronbrige 1995 was a very good grain whisky, on banana, cereals, peach and marshmallow. A very good and nicely balanced grain whisky. Tasting highly recommended. The Croftengea 2006 was only nose on site and it will be tasted later on. However, the nose of this whisky distilled at Loch Lomond was very pleasant, heavily peated, dry and tarry. The Ardmore carried no age statement. It was less heavily peated than the Croftengea, with a nice sweet and mild peat smoke and on vanilla. The profile was close to the Ardmore Traditional cask. The Pittyvaich 1988 was on nice round, grassy and spicy flavours, and with some honey. Bottled at cask strength, it was nicely intense and very good. It becomes increasingly rare to taste the whisky of this short-lived distillery in Dufftown. The Glen Grant 1996 was another smooth, round, floral and softly spiced whisky, with less fragrance and bitterness than most of the recently bottled Glen Grant. The profile of the Deanston 2006 Sherry Cask finish was close to the Glen Grant, but rougher, spicier and more oaky. Less to my liking. Daniel Kissling, the man behind The Stillman’s is also founder member of the newly founded The Whisky Cask Company (TWCC). The Clynelish 1997 was a nice, round, intense and smooth waxy sweet sherried malt, while the Ledaig 1999 was intensely peated, maritime, tarry and lots of seaweeds. A cracking dram that definitely worth a try, if you like dry peaty whiskies (e.g., Islay peated malts).
|The selection of the products of the new The Whisky Cask Collection (TWCC)|
|A very large selection of Cooper's Choice, with many new releases at The Stillman's|
At Charles Hofer, I could try the new Kilkerran 12 YO, a nice waxy-oily Campbletown malt, on sea brine, vanilla, vanilla custard and spices. The Tomatin Cu Bochan 1988 Cask Strength was a mellow, slightly thin Tomatin, with a mild peaty influence.
|Charles Hofer with the new Kilkerran 12 YO, Glengoyne, Tomatin, Glenrothes malts|
I focused mainly on the Signatory bottled for World of Whisky and Waldhaus am See on the stand of World of Whisky. The Glenlivet 1974 41 YO with surprisingly fresh, on sweet and juicy influence, a light peat smoke, tangerine, orange, dried fruits and light mineral flavours. Very good. The Balmenach 1988 27 YO was round, bold, floral, well balanced and with a good body. Very enjoyable. The Auchentoshan 1992 23 YO was less to my liking at the oaky flavours were dominating the whisky too much. The Imperial 1995 20 YO from Signatory was rich, intense, complex, spicy, aromatic and with various flavours. Very, very good! The Ledaig 2005 10 YO from a first fill sherry cask was very peaty and tarry, with a strong sherry influence and some toffee, with a rather dry finish.
|Bottlings exclusive to World of Whisky / Waldhaus am See|
|The selection of Signatory vintages at World of Whisky, with many exclusives to this Swiss shop based in St Moritz|
Le Trésor du chai from Lausanne was proposing several “French –influenced” whiskies, starting with a nice round, smooth, sweet-sugary-winey floral Jacoulot single malt whisky matured in Vieux Marc de Bourgogne. Original and good. The Black Moutain Whisky selection is a blended whisky matured for 7 months in Armagnac cask for the BM N°1 Excellent and for 14 months for the BM N°2 Premium. The grape influence from the Armagnac is rather dominant on the whisky and thus gives a unique flavour profile to the whisky. It is quite pleasant, but not much to my taste. Sorry.
|The Jacoulot single malt at Le Trésor du Chai, one of several products imported and/or distributed by the Lausanne's retailer|
Paul Ullrich had the new Nikka 12 YO and Yoichi, while their selection of Adelphi was limited to 4-5 bottles. They also had the new Italian single malt, as well as several malts from the Chivas group or Wild Turkey.
|The stand of Paul Ullrich, with Adelphi, Nikka, Kilchoman and Wild Turkey whiskies|
As I have tasted most of the Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bowore and Bunnahabhain, I skipped the stand of The Whisky Malt Shop.
|The Single Malt Shop, with many Islay whisky brands|
|the House of Single Malts with the Wareshouse selection, as well as the new Maltman, most of them "finished".|
|The Orma, Swiss Single Malt whisky|
After 4 hours spent in Bern, it was time to take the train home. The event was well organised and not too crowded, thus allowing to move freely between the stand and to talk to the exhibitors. My main critic is the absence of signs outside of the Kursaal or inside the lobby, which could potentially attract more visitors.