Stauning Danish Whisky – Rye, Kaos, Peat

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Stauning is a distillery in the western part of Jutland. Founded in May 2005 by a group of whisky enthusiasts, it is the oldest whisky distillery in the Kingdom of Denmark. The distillery began life as a hobby project for nine friends – a doctor, a butcher, a baker, a teacher, a helicopter pilot and four engineers – but soon developed into something much bigger.

Choosing to do every aspect of the production themselves, they sourced grain from a local farm and set to work in an old slaughterhouse, malting the barley on the tile floor of the Butcher’s cold room. Inspired by the charismatic whisky of Islay they wanted to experiment with peat but that would prove rather difficult. Denmark has an abundance of peat, but complicated farming laws make it difficult to obtain. Owning land, literally means owning the top couple of feet, and digging any deeper requires a special mining license from the government. Incredibly, the team were able to acquire a supply of peat from a museum in Klosterlund, ensuring that at least a proportion of the spirit would carry the desired smoky character.

Things were plodding along nicely until a chance meeting with once-influential whisky writer and self-proclaimed mad shagger, Jim Murray. Jim encouraged them to increase their production, so impressed was he with the quality of their new make spirit. Whilst the days of anyone listening to what Mr Murray has to say may well be in the past, it turns out on this occasion he gave sound advice, and farmland had soon been bought, 1.5km south of the village of Stauning upon which to build a new distillery that could handle a dramatic increase in output.

The new distillery went into production in 2009 and spirit has been filled into casks ever since. Today their range focusses on three main products: Rye, Peat and Kaos.

*Full disclosure: I was sent these samples free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.

Rye

Made with a combination of local rye and malted barley before maturing in virgin American oak barrels. Bottled at 48% and retails for £56.95.

Smell: Caramel and lots of aromatic spice. Rye bread with cherry tomatoes. Furniture polish. Oak. Dark chocolate and pepper. There are some interesting wee top notes of raspberry and strawberry that come through after water is added.

Taste: Caramel fudge. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pepper. Orange. Ginger beer. More rye bread. Oak. As with the nose, some lighter fruity notes come through with water. Warm, spicy finish.

Value for money: Lots of flavour on offer for a reasonable price.

Score: 84

The rye character is very different from malt and probably won’t be for everyone but there’s an impressive complexity to this spirit that may surprise some. A promising introduction to Stauning.

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Kaos

Made with a mix of grains and takes its name from the slogan of Denmark’s first social-democratic Prime Minister. “Stauning Eller Kaos” – choose Stauning or choose chaos. It is a combination of both rye and malt whiskies, bottled at 46% and retailing at £60.95.

Smell: The rye character from the previous dram is still noticeable but this time it mingles with perfumed smoke. There’s woody spice and grain. Vanilla fudge and wood varnish. More rye bread and after a while, that raspberry top note again.

Taste: The smoke really brings something extra to the party and works in surprising balance with the spicy rye. There’s good weight on the palate too. Breakfast cereal with Highland toffee. Peppery oak with dry aromatic spices.

Value for money: A little step up in price but nothing drastic. For me it’s worth it for that fascinating interplay of smoke and spice.

Score: 86

I feel like this shouldn’t work but it really does. The peated malt and rye play well together and create a really interesting whisky that feels unlike anything else I’ve come across. Which is kind of the point really. When a new distillery pops up in a country that isn’t really known for whisky my only fear is that they will produce a Scotch clone, without stamping their own identity on the spirit. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem where Stauning are concerned.

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Peat

Made with peat sourced from Klosterlund museum and aged in ex-bourbon casks from Maker’s Mark.

Smell: Packed nose… Creosote. Fresh bread. Lemon. Custard creams. Biscuit. Breadcrumbs. Baking spices. Honey. Dusty, musty smoke.

Taste: Peppery smoke with vanilla fudge and honey. Lemon biscuits and punchy orange citrus notes. Salted caramel. Liquorice. Woody finish with wisps of smoke that linger.

Value for money: At £80 this one seems a little steeper than the two previous drams. In fairness, the difficulty in sourcing peat may well contribute to higher production costs. Fortunately I don’t have any issues with the quality of the whisky – it’s actually very good – but given the choice I suspect I would rather pay £20 less for a bottle of Kaos.

Score: 85

This is a really solid whisky. The spirit has good body and the peat smoke weaves through the malt without ever overpowering the palate. The price may put some off, which is a shame, but those that do fork out for a bottle will get a very decent dram for their money.

This was an impressive introduction to Stauning. Each dram offered something different whilst retaining a similar level of quality. Kaos wins the day for me, but I wouldn’t say no to any of them and I’ll be paying close to attention to future releases.

If any of the whiskies reviewed in this article have caught your eye, you can buy from Master of Malt at the links below. Other retailers are available.

Stauning Rye buy here

Stauning Kaos buy here

Stauning Peat buy here

Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a commission on any purchases you make.

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For more on Stauning visit their website here

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