A whisky with no secrets
TEXT: SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTOS © STAUNING WHISKY
In Denmark, Stauning Whisky is already iconic. Why? It is not just because it is a single malt whisky made in Denmark, though to be honest, that might have been reason enough. No, it is because it is a Danish whisky made by nine guys with no previous experience of whisky making, who today, with the backing of Diageo and Distill Ventures, produce 900,000 litres of whisky per year. This spring, the company’s new distillery opens up for visitors and shares the secrets of its success.
Located right next to its new award-winning distillery, opened last winter, Stauning Whisky’s old distillery has been turned into a visitor centre. Combined, the two sites offer guests not just a peek, but full disclosure of the secrets behind what could, in the words of whisky legend Jim Murray, “go on to be one of the best smoked whiskies in the world”. Murray tasted the whisky in 2006, shortly after the nine friends behind Stauning Whisky had tapped their first batch. “At that point, we had actually put the production on pause. We had made our first batch, proved that we could do it, and we were quite happy to leave it at that,” explains Alex Munch, one of the nine founders and CMO of Stauning Whisky. “If it hadn’t been for our meeting with Jim Murray, I’m not sure Stauning Whisky would have existed today.”
However, Murray’s enthusiastic response when tasting their whisky convinced the nine friends that their whisky distillery might have the potential to become more than a hobby.
Taking the old craft to new levels
When the founders of Stauning Whisky first decided to try out their skills with whisky making, it was simply a quest to see if it was possible to produce a whisky in Denmark at all. Never had the nine friends, none of whom had any experience with more than drinking whisky, imagined that their hobby project would become a world export. So, what is it about Stauning Whisky that has enabled the distillery to achieve this iconic status in such a short time? It is, thinks Munch, the same playful and daring revival of old methods and ingredients that has also driven the success of the New Nordic Cuisine movement. “We have revived the old traditional craft and twisted and pushed it to its limits – the same way the New Nordic kitchen is doing with food,” he says. “To do that, the way we have done from the beginning, we have ensured that our new distillery has the same quality and production methods as the old one. It’s very different from most other distilleries, because everything is done the way it was done in Scotland in the old days: all the different processes take place in-house.”
Some of the distinct characteristics preserved from the distillery’s humble start-up in an old abattoir in Stauning are the open-fire pots, the floor malted grain, and the use of local grain and peat from the old Klosterlund Museum. At Klosterlund, peat is produced the same way it has been since the Iron Age, explains Munch. “The history and the revival of the old production methods are very important to us, and that has been preserved in the new distillery, which has 24 small pots heated by open fire to create a more intense taste.”
Come inside the distillery
As Stauning Whisky waits for the 900,000-litre batch produced at its new distillery to reach the age for sale (this will take three years), the currently produced bottles are snapped up as soon as they are released. Among the distillery’s larger customers are three of Denmark’s Michelin restaurants, including the world-famous Noma.
Meanwhile, guided tours will give visitors a thorough understanding of the production process behind the eagerly awaited new batches. “You’ll be able to experience one of the world’s most iconic distilleries and get up close with every step of the whisky making,” says Munch, and rounds off: “That’s something you won’t see in a lot of places. Once you’ve been here, you’ll actually understand whisky production.”
Stauning Whisky’s new distillery opens to visitors at the beginning of April. The centre is located just outside Stauning, about an hour’s drive from Billund Airport.