Following on from Part 1, we come to:
As we walk and talk, Alex Munch tells us about legendary cask #52, a standout cask picked out as an exemplar by no other than Diageo’s Process Development Manager Douglas Murray. After months & months of persistence, renowned Danish restaurant Noma eventually bought the cask, so trying it wouldn’t be possible – so we thought! We enter one of Stauning’s warehouses. There’s almost no smell. Por quoi? This is down to Danish fire regulations that insist warehouses containing alcohol are rigorously ventilated/partially open. Furthermore, 250 litre casks are the maximum size allowed for spirit maturation in Denmark. Stauning are fighting to change this nonsensical law. Virtually all of Stauning’s casks are currently therefore, 200 litre hoggies with the occasional use of 250 litre & quarter casks.
We are introduced to the warehouse manager who leads us through a gap in-between a two stacks of palletised casks – real platform 9 & 3/4 stuff! My jaw drops. We are some of the first people outside of the distillery to see this newly set-up secret snug. The Met Office were spot-on. The dramatic rain storm that was forecast, clatters the roof as the wind howls through the fire reg-approved open vents, adding dramatic accompaniment to this already unbelievable and unforgettable [whisky] experience.
There was so much to take in and whisky to try and to enjoy from all angles, I grabbed only snapshots of each whisky in a vain attempt to gather either an impression of a distillery profile or even just the spirit [no pun intended] of the distillery itself. I can testify that it’s all really good whisky, whether from really interesting/calculated experiments or official releases. Nothing feels fad-like. Everything is thoroughly thought through.
Curious is Stauning’s slightly peated new make spirit. A request from a Danish restaurant to have black bottles rather than the usual clear ones meant a White Dog label was produced to accommodate the darker glass. Both ‘Dogs’ have exactly the same whisky inside.
- N&T: Sweet & sour lemon & peat-smoke with an overall illusion of age.
- F: Gentian-like with a bitter-ish resinous-spicy travel, a touch butyric.
- C: It’s fair to say Stauning are making a very characterful and tasty spirit.
Stauning Young Rye 2014/2018 Ob. [Belize] rum cask finish [btl #135/800] 46.5% [50cl] WB87.33
- N: Rum influenced for sure, one that talks of soft sweet agricole vibes.
- T: Soft savoury sweet,… bananas!
- F: Though it’s the cask that’s been the most talkative, resinousness stays at bay.
- C: A good marriage, very drinkable.
Scores 82 points
We try another Belize rum cask-finished malt, one slightly younger than the previous expression.
Stauning  Un-Ob. Belize rum cask finish 61.1% [50cl]
2.5 yo spirit with a 6 month rum cask finish. Visually this is wonderfully cloudy, reminiscent of some candid distillate-led, uber-natural Chichibu I’ve tried in recent years. [NO PHOTO]
- N: With a loose resemblance to dessert wine, I also find melon juice, rubber and notes of ‘old skool’ rum.
- T: Begins resinous before offering notes of white rum and light fruits. It works for me!
- F: Cocoa is all I noted but there’s more besides.
- C: Bingo! Danish Chichibu.
Scores 86 points
Stauning Rye 2016/2019 Un.Ob Mezcal finish abv unknown [50cl]
US oak cask-matured in the main. Exact distilling/bottling dates: 17/0716 – 04/07/19.
- N: We’ve fine Danish legs on this one. The only descriptor I noted was sweet fruit jams.
- T: Resinous/spicy, fruity-armagnac-y.
- F: Spicy but the fruits are amazing.
- C: If I’d been told this was from an armagnac cask I’d have believed it no problemo. Never would I have guessed mezcal.
Stauning Young Rye 2016/2019 Un.Ob. finish cask #65 61.??% [50cl]
The Vermouth finish lasted two month. Exact distilling/bottling dates: 03/07/16 – 15/04/19
- N: Much more savoury than the fruity mezcal expression and with plenty of straight-driving vanillin.
- T&F: Soft-dry, sour-dry. Very different to anything I’ve tasted from any other whisky.
- C: A most welcoming, candid wood-cask experience.
Stauning Rye 2016/2019 Un.Ob. Vermouth Cask sample 55.??%
Valinched straight from the cask, this young rye whisky saw a 6 month Vermouth finish. The colour difference to the two month finish [above] was remarkable.
- C: Far better married & balanced than at two months.
Incredibly, there’s a chance we can have a taste from cask #52 after all, the particular cask that Douglas Murray regarded so highly when going through the warehouse looking for exception casks. Apparently Murray found a few casks that were good enough to “share with friends”. Cask #52, he said, he wouldn’t share. He’d want it all to himself. Noma wanted this cask very badly. Months went by yet Noma’s requests for this cask [for their restaurant] didn’t cease. Persistence eventually led to an agreement. This remaining bottle sample was taken from the cask when it was only five years old. It was officially bottled at 7.7 years.
Stauning Rye 2010/2015 Un-Ob. Cask #52 abv unknown [50cl]
The ‘do not use’ label wrapped around the bottle top was tricky to get past, but with determination, Alex eventually got inside. I’m told Stauning’s rye tends to peak at around 7-8 years of age as this one did at 7.7 years in virgin US oak. Amazingly it started out as burned spirit, and not in a good way. So it’s true what they say. ‘You can put good spirit into a bad cask and get bad whisky, but you can put bad spirit into a good cask and get good whisky’. So, at only five years old:
- N: This is good indeed. With an illusion of age beyond its years, this is a ‘complete’ whisky with no talk of the cask or finishes.
- T: Resinous straight-ahead, vanilla. Alex tells us it’s so simple in comparison to the fully-fledged expression.
- F: Liquorice stick, butterscotch and a faint burned note – now in a good way.
- C: Youthful and flawless. I spent time with this so will score it.
Scores 85 points
The wind and rain continue to whistle through and rattle the warehouse.
Stauning KAOS 2015-16/2019 Ob. [3112 bts] 47.1% [50cl] WB83.25
This consists of 3 parts rye, 1 part td? [idk either], 2 part peat, 1 part heather. Officially bottled in 03/19, this warehouse-only cask sample bottle is likely to have been filled a month later in April.
- N: Lot’s of action & info that includes cacao, caramac & fudge.
- T: Unique/interesting, light-yet-wide profile. Almost too much going on [with the whisky and experience].
- F: As-clear-as-day phenol-driven dentists mouthwash and more [toasted] cacao. Finishes with lovely candid smoking peat.
- C: I’d have loved more time with this, given how involved it was. Stauning are producing such varied and characterful whisky.
Stauning Peat 2014 /2019 Ob. Virgin cask [btl #348/750] 52.1% [50cl] WB90
- N: Uniquely savoury-sweet, soft smoke, light citrus and with a ‘malty backbone’ [Gareth].
- T: Smoky wash > detergent-ish and mildly butyric [as seen in the Curious]. Add water to promote that malty backbone on the palate.
- F: Citrus, candid barley smoke, chopsy/chewy beer/wash.
- C: Stauning’s uniquely characterful spirit, though firmly shaped by the cask, doesn’t hide behind cask flavouring. Bravo.
Scores 85 points
Stauning Rog 2014/2018 Ob. 49.6% [50cl] WB84
‘Rog’ is pronounced ‘Rock’ which means ‘smoke’. The barley phenol content is 25 ppm which is currently Stauning’s highest ppm setting.
- N: Smokin’ peanuts!
- T: Spicy-not-spicy, detergenty-not-detergenty sour citrus. Apparently the new make carries this citrus quality, a note which is evident amongst many of these expressions. With water comes lemon-marinated bacon.
- F: Bonfire smoke with plenty of ash at the tail.
- C: Another candid expression. Thumbs up once again.
Scores 84 points
Stauning Heather 2013-14 Ob. [btl #3166] 48.7% [50cl] WB78.27
As well as using peat, Stauning are smoking malt by burning heather. Isn’t that what the Irish referred to as crystal maltings? Sounds more like a Walter White method.
- N&T: Similar character profile base to many of the other whiskies gone before, this time with, ooh la la, more additional melon sweetness — this time sweet-smoked!
- F: Some manageable butyric < heat.
- C: I hope we see more of this melon sweetness being promoted through Stauning’s maturing stocks.
Stauning Peat Un-Ob. Quarter cask sample #666 CS% [50cl]
Very much in the style of Laphroaig’s ‘Quarter Cask’ expression. Additional casks have been ordered by Stauning for future finishing purposes.
- C: I love these quarter casks. At strength, the oils shine through with no resinousness. A beautiful beast!
And for dessert?
Stauning Kjesp 2011-13/2016 Ob. Cherry wine [btl #23/1599) 47.4% [50cl] WB78.25
Alex kindly dug this out and opened it especially on my request. I’d heard good things about Kjesp. The cherry wine casks contain no previous cherry wine. Apparently, this keeps the ethers clear/open. Further reading on ethers: LINK
- N: Big port wine vibes, reminiscent of Kilchoman’s red wine 4yo [WLP].
- T: Cherries into cherry-aid and cherry candy drops, a little marzipan and more of that [slightly fizzy] detergent-not-detergent note seen in the Rog.
- F: Fruity confectionary and vanilla.
- C: This particular expression spent 6 months in the cherry wine cask which Alex considers too long. Apparently it was amazing at around 2 months. Watch out for a new-and-improved release which will utilise ex-cognac matured spirit/whisky as a base for a shorter Kjesp cask finish. Keep it grape-based and with a cognac-sweet legacy before adding a short cherry wine bitterness. That should work a treat!
I think I died and went to heaven. I don’t want this experience to end but dinner calls. Current distillery profile I’d say: beer-savoury and sour lemon citrus coupled with a distinctly candid & controlled peat smoke character. Whilst the rye’s spiciness is kept low in the mix, the spirit is easily shaped by the various cask types Stauning are currently using. If fire-regs get changed, other bigger cask types will come into play. With many expressions available to try and buy for those in the UK and Europe, I’d recommend starting with Stauning’s two standard core expressions: the peated KAOS and Stauning Rye. The cask type used will be down to personal preference. Alternatively, visit Noma in Copenhagen and have a dram of cask #52.
We arrive at Stuen th., a stunning local restaurant that has sprung up as a direct result of the distillery’s popularity. We dine, we drink, we laugh.
After, we arrive back at our Hotel Bar hotelskjern.dk. Alex generously gives us free licence to enjoy ourselves [even more]. We try many Danish spirits including:
West Coast genever & gins [LINK], Danish rums from A.H. Riise Frogman & Fano Skibsrom and Enebar Smogen spirit 42%. What a day!
Huge thanks and gratitude to Alex and the Stauning distillery. Thanks also to Ashley Desmond for photography and editing and to Gareth for the company. ‘Rog’ on!
The next evening I Rog’ed Ronnie Scotts. Mad mad year!