We have already learned about distilleries that were created by a group of friends with a shared passion, and our next stop on The Journey is another one but takes us back to some of the earliest new world whisky pioneers. What sounds like the start of an epic joke; a doctor, a chef, a butcher, a teacher, a helicopter pilot and 4 engineers, is actually the group of 9 friends that had a vision, backed up by very little knowledge out the outset, to produce the first Danish whisky. Aiming to capture their surroundings, they use local produce, created their own techniques, and ultimately produced whisky that could compete on the world whisky stage…
SOMETIMES, THE BEST THINGS COME OUT OF NOWHERE
It was back in 2005, when the 9 friends set out on their journey of discovery. The remote village of Stauning on the West Coast of Denmark provided them with the perfect location, with access to fantastic local produce and some of Denmark’s finest water. They acquired a small Copper Pot still and an old butchery, and although they had a serious lack of whisky-making experience, they shared a passion and were driven on by curiosity and an experimental mindset.
They got barley from a local farmer, used the butchery cold room floor for malting, peat was found in a local museum and an old meat mincer was used for milling. The small fire-heated pot still was, and still is, the secret behind the distinctive character of their whisky. In 2006, the first drops of the second distillation came through and from the outset they knew they had something very special that could turn a passion project into something exceptional. The first commercial bottles were released in 2011, to rave reviews from top critics, and due to demand, they secured funding and were able to open their new and modern, purpose-built distillery in 2018.
This has all been a catalyst for positive change in the local region with an increase in tourism and a boost to local commerce. The local community even comes together to help bottle their whiskies… Friends, family, and locals, all chatting, laughing, and enjoying a dram or two at the end.
“All great whiskies take something from their surroundings…”
If you set sail from the Scottish East coast and head due East across the North Sea and the Ringkøbing Fjord, you would find the small village of Stauning, located in the region of Jutland in Denmark. Offering a similar climate to one of the original whisky pioneers, it seemed to be the perfect setting for one of the early new world pioneers. They wanted to ensure they used 100% locally sourced produce, so all the grain they use (Barley and Rye) is sourced from farms that are a bike ride away (very Danish), which deepens the connection between land and distillery. They use local water for the whole process, which is some of the purest and best tasting water in the whole of Denmark. The peat and heather used for drying the grain and imparting the smoky notes, are also sourced from within the Jutland region, and they steep, peat/smoke, malt, mill, distil and mature on-site, to ensure the spirit captures the very essence of the local surroundings.
Rye is synonymous with Denmark and the Jutland region and even though it is tiresome to malt, with consistency hard to achieve and challenging to Mash, it was clear that it would set Stauning apart.
Although the grain they harvest has changed over the years, continuously working with the farmers, and testing different varieties, they settled on four types of spirit that they use to make from grain to bottle: Malted Barley, Smoked Malted Barley, Malted Rye and Smoked Malted Rye.
Sitting on the West coast of Denmark, the village is far removed from the capital and this isolation meant they didn’t have anyone else to lean on during their early stages, apart from one of the early iterations of Google. This isolation meant they were unconstrained, adapting traditional methods through necessity, innovating, and solving problems in creative ways and developing their own unique techniques with one very clear goal: to produce uncompromised, traditionally handcrafted whisky of the finest quality!
Malting - All grain used at the distillery is floor malted. Although, they originally used traditional shovels to hand turn the malt, this was always ‘a pain in the ass,’ so they attacked it with their usual curiosity and managed to develop the ‘Stauning Malt Turner.’ A large, automated cylinder that has a large number of paddles mounted on it, which runs over the malt in channels. Small amounts of water are also added to steep the malt at the same time, allowing for a reduction in the water traditionally used at this stage.
Drying & Smoking - They use local peat and heather to dry and smoke the barley and rye, imparting very unique local characters into the spirit, including notes of earthiness, cacao, and sweetness.
Mashing - A part of the process that is also done differently, using a large washing machine style drum, and running the ground-up grain (Grist) and water along the length of the drum, which allows more solids to end up in the very cloudy wort that drains off. They found this method provides a nutty note to the spirit.
Fermenting - Although you can’t make too many changes to adding yeast to liquid, Stauning’s idiosyncrasies of fermenting for around 96 hours and using a continually refined powdered form of yeast, provides fruitier notes.
Distillation - The original still was a small, direct fired copper pot still, which created the unique, slightly sweeter nature to the spirit. As they grew, they decided to continue working with smaller stills, but just more of them… Currently they have 24!
By not fully filling on each run, they allow more copper contact, and this also brings the liquid closer to the direct fire, producing a bright, rich, fruity and floral new make.
Maturation - ‘Fresh is best’ is the Stauning mentality, only using First Fill or Virgin Oak, which provides the perfect balance for the bold nature of their spirits. Most malt goes in to first-fill American Bourbon casks and the Rye goes in to charred Virgin Oak, however some of the malt goes into the rye casks… So, a first-fill rye cask. They also have over 100 experiments resting in the warehouse, that blend tradition with rebellion, including Mezcal, Calvados, Vermouth and Cognac.
The New Distillery
In 2018, due to increasing demands, Stauning opened Denmark’s first purpose-built Distillery. The overall design represents Danish aesthetics and architecture, whilst the burnt timber and shape represents the roof line of the small fishing huts in the local area. With their own design, also comes the ability to change the environmental impact of the distillery, with a set up that recycles all the energy from distilling across the whole production process. But inside this beautiful, sustainable new distillery, the Stauningers (as they like to be known) are still using the Butchery Methodology; the Small pot stills, open floor malting and direct fire heating. Even though all the methods they utilise are hard work and more time consuming, they are sticking with these techniques, not because they are stubborn, but because they insist on doing things their own way… The Stauning Way; Creating a truly Danish Whisky, not simply whisky made in Denmark.
The Whisky - Bold, Fruity and honest Danish Whisky!
The Core range captures the signature flavours of Stauning Distillery…
Stauning Kaos is a Triple malt that captures everything Stauning has to offer in one bottle, with a mashup of single malt, smoked single malt and rye whisky that all combines to make a wonderfully weird whisky, with notes of citrus fruits, smoke, chocolate, pepper and apple.
Stauning Rye - liquid rye bread… Distinctively Danish Rye whisky, which is bold with notes of smooth Rye, vanilla, citrus, spice, pepper, and even a touch of mint.
Stauning Smoke - The original release is gently smoked and a celebration of the Danish West Coast terroir.
The Research Series - Includes Bastard, which is their Rye finished in Mezcal casks, and El Clasico that finishes their Rye in Vermouth casks. There is also Curious, which is a smoked Rye New Make, which gives you a chance to try the unaged heart of their spirit.
There is also the Limited Series that are released to celebrate occasions and milestones and the Single Casks that capture specific grains, styles and cask types. This is honest Danish Whisky, so they do not chill-filter or add any caramel colouring to any of their whiskies… Jubel!
Our members will be enjoying 100ml of Stauning Kaos in April and then 100ml of Stauning Rye in May, which we feel will provide a great understanding of what the distillery has to offer. There will also be a live tasting with one of the Founders plus some delicious serving and pairing suggestions…
Join us now on The Journey for your chance to enjoy 100ml of these wonderful whiskies from under £17.00 per month, or head to The Shop if you would prefer to buy a single 100ml or full-size bottle.