Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Nowhere else do people know, or think they know, so much about whisky"

The Växjö Malt Whisky Society tasting

Hasse Nilsson, chairman of the Växjö Malt Whisky Society, agreed to contribute an account of a very well attended tasting hosted by his club on November 11. I found it a fascinating read. Not only does he give us some bang up-to-date impressions of the "Newborn" bottlings from the Chichibu distillery but he also offers some interesting insights into the thriving whisky scene in Sweden. The observations about Sweden`s likely status as the world`s most knowledgeable whisky drinking population are, by the way, entirely backed up by my own site`s visitor stats.

By Hasse Nilsson

In an odd way, Sweden is one of the world`s leading whisky nations. I am not thinking of Mackmyra or the handful of other Swedish distilleries, but of the extent of interest in whisky in the country. Nowhere else is this interest so widely spread. Nowhere else do people know, or think they know, so much about whisky. When Ichiro Akuto recently visited Sweden to lead a tasting in the small town of Växjö, about 200 people joined the flight.

Sweden is a country of whisky clubs. There are more than 1,000 clubs, from frozen enthusiasts in the far North to Malmö`s fans in the balmy South. One of the most active clubs is the Växjö Malt Whisky Society. We arrange tastings at least once a month and the 200 members are really devoted whisky buffs (or nerds, as we like to refer to themselves).

When we heard that Ichiro Akuto was in Oslo at the whisky festival there, we asked the Swedish agent if they could take a day to do a session in Växjö. We knew that our members were really into Japanese whiskies. We always taste our drams blind and, when we've had Japanese malts in the line up, there have often been plenty of arms up in the air voting for the Japanese dram. Almost all of the 200 members came to listen to Ichiro Akuto and to seize the opportunity to try some new "Card" bottlings. Of course, there was also the major draw of the newborns from Chichibu.

I don't know if there's been a bigger Japanese tasting anywhere in the world. Ther probably has but definitely not in Sweden. We are proud to have been the hosts.

Ichiro Akuto guided the audience through the tasting and talked about the history of his distilleries, as well as the art involved in making Hanyu and Chichibu whiskies. Marcin Miller from Number One Drinks Company [1] also took a leading role. The tasting session started with Chichibu Newborn, a quite extraordinary dram, so rich and so soft at such a young age! What will the future bring? Next in line were the last bottles in Europe of the Mizunara Wood, a vatting from a number of Japanese distilleries. Finally, the cards where dealt: the Five of Hearts, the Eight of Spades, the Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Clubs.

All of them were very interesting. Especially the newborn. To me, the Eight of Diamonds was too extreme and overly cherried, but my tasting neighbors loved it. The Jack and Queen face cards were of outstanding quality. I would judge them both 90+ whiskies. Both of these whiskies achieved the top prices at the auction afterwards.

Ichiro Akuto (right) addresses the society and Växjö's map location

The images of the meeting were taken by Roger Melander
. The map is taken from NordNordWest's contribution to Wikipedia and is subject to this Creative Commons license.

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