1st Berner Whiskymesse, Bern; Switzerland, 30-31 October 2015


The first edition of the Berner Whiskymesse took place on October 30-31 at the Kursaal in Bern, conveniently located at 20 min walking distance from the main train station.

In absence of any external signs, I ventured into the building, which also contained Hotel, Restaurant and a Casino. Some external signs would have been appreciated, since the signs inside were of A4 size and the path to the room was somewhat of a treasure hunt. The room was of fair size with a smaller selection of exhibitors than the other Swiss Whisky fairs such as the Whisky Schiffs in Lucerne and Zürich, or Whiskyandmore at Lausanne.

Note: As always, the tasting notes below are impressions made during the fair and they will be all re-tasted in my standard tasting conditions over the weeks or months to come.

My first stop was at The Stillman’s, where I tasted recently several of their latest products. I went for the Dunville PX finish, a fine, and smooth, slightly spicy Irish whisky with a replicate label of the long gone Belfast distillery. The PX contributed to nice round flavours, as well as some sweet and dry fruits influence. From Cooper’s Choice, the 1984 Cask Strength Invergordon was mellow, smooth, and rather complex, with a nice balance and diverse fruity notes.

At Paul Ullrich, I started also with an Irish whisk(e)y,  the Limerick Slanley 23 YO bottled exclusively for Paul Ullrich. A very good Irish whisky, very smooth, complex, with subtle and elegant sweet fruity flavours, fruits from the orchards, dried fruits and some tangerine. The combination of sherry and a smooth Irish single malt worked very well here. The Glen Garioch 1993 22 YO Cask 775 from Adelphi was a sherry cask, as the previously bottled cask 776. The nose was pleasant, round, on cocoa, treacle, aromatic flavours and a light smokiness, however it was slightly bitter on the palate, with aromas of hops.

The new Yoichi or Miyagikyo were not yet available, but I took the opportunity of tasting the older 10 YO of Myagikyo, a very good malt, thick, spicy, smoky, complex, floral, on humus, and some exotic wood. Very pleasant.

At House of Single Malts,  my first dram was a 1992 Tormore  22 YO Refill sherry from Warehouse 8. A very smooth and gentle whisky, with rich fruity notes and a slight smokiness. Not the most complex whisky, but smooth and easy to drink.

I tasted there my first whisky from the Rest & Be collection made by an independent bottler unknown to me. The Bruichaddich 12 YO was a vatting from a bourbon and sherry cask and resulted in a very oaky, intense and spicy Bruichladdich. The wild side of Bruichladdich that probably deserves to be tasted in better conditions and probably with some water.  The next one was a curiosity: The Thursky 12 YO 52%. Distilled at Thurgau and bottled at the age of 12 YO in 2013, this was the final edition of the distillery that closed in 2013. Matured in Oloroso sherry cask, this single malt was surprisingly good, extremely smooth, complex, well balanced, on fruits from the orchards, dried fruits, tangerine and orange, and a slightly aromatic and spicy finish, that you might find in some Rye whiskies. As part of the rarities, there was a 1972 Tomintoul labelled as The Day of Pearly Spencer. The whisky was extremely smooth, but monolithic and slightly thin. The Dallas Dhu Cask Strength 24 YO bottled by Historic Scotland was livelier, more intense, on a thick and chewy sherry influence, malty, but slightly bitter, tannic and rubbery on the finish. As a curiosity, I tasted a Rum from the Diamond distillery bottled by Warehouse 8 (10 YO distilled in 2003), but the flavours profile was rather special. I will need to taste it again, since this was my first Rum from this distillery and my experience with Rums is very limited.

Orma (www.orma-swiss-whisky.ch) is a Swiss Single Malt from the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland made by two enthusiasts, who are planning to build their own distillery in Engadin. The production is very limited and sold mainly to Hongkong, Taiwan and Singapore. The youngest whisky available was a 3 YO double matured in a wine cask, with the whisky matured initially a wine cask and re-racked in a second wine cask from the same wine. The result is a smooth, very malty and sweet whisky, easy drinking, with a nice and surprisingly discreet wine influence. Although it is 3 years old, I could not taste the new make whisky flavours that you might expect from such a young whisky. The Port version is a 5 YO whisky, more complex and spicier than the 3 YO, with a slightly drier and sweeter influence, on nice malty flavours. Well matured for its age, without an overwhelming Port influence. The 4 YO was a heavily peated one, and described to me as the “iron tracks of a railway” and I can only agree with this description. A very metallic peaty influence, rather dry, malty, on aromatic peat smoke and  ore. A whisky with a rather unique flavour profile.

Next to Orma were the Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky, distilled at Interlaken, one of the most touristic place of Switzerland. The Classic is a 5 YO single malt matured in Oloroso sherry cask. The whisky was malty, very smooth, with an elegant, smooth and sweet sherry influence, while the Fourty-Three was exclusively matured in bourbon casks and one year ago. It was spicier, with more vanilla, but also less matured, sweeter, with a slight new-make like flavour profile. The Ice Label is a cask strength version from this distillery, matured for 4 years at Interlaken before undergoing a final maturation of 3 years in the Swiss Alps, on the Jungfrauhoch. The result is a well matured, complex, spicy, malty and rather intense whisky.

At World of Whisky, I tasted the new Octomore 7.3, a very good, dry, maritime, complex, heavily peated and tarry whisky,  much more matured and complex than the smoother and sweeter Ocotmore 7.1, which tasted much younger that the 7.3.  The Bruichladdich 2007 Islay Barley Rockside Farm was very smooth, light, maritime, slightly young and malty, with some sea spray. Although it is a slightly old bottle, I tasted the Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary: a smooth, floral, slightly spicy Glenfiddich. The smoothness is very pleasant, but it is rather mono-dimensional.  The Bladnoch 12 YO Sherry matured OB was nice malty, fresh, slightly fragrant and sweet whisky, with a touch of smoke and nice sweet and juicy fruits.

At Anne McKenzie’s Whisky Boutique, I already had the opportunity of tasting almost all the whiskies on display, with the exception of the Springbank 12 YO Green, the organic version of Springbank matured exclusively in Bourbon casks. A very smooth, slightly salty and maritime Springbank with a light smokiness. The second and my last one of the fair was the Springbank 10 YO commemorative bottle for the HMS Campbeltown. A very good old-style Campbletown whisky, rather salty, smoky, with some mineral smoke, humus, coconuts and surprisingly intense aromas of Wallnuts. Very pleasant and well matured.

At Alexander Weine & Distillate, I only had a quick look at it, since I visited at the beginning of the month at Whiskyandmore.

I had a very pleasant stay at Bern and really enjoy the opportunity of taking the time to taste to the whisky and the whisky exhibitors.

With the exception of indicators to improve the signalisation, the Berner Whiskymesse was a pleasant whisky fair, well organised and in a very pleasant atmosphere. Hopefully, there will be a second edition next year!

Patrick B.