I love discovering new countries and new distillates, so when I heard about the idea of going to the same latitude as Scotland but on the eastern shore of the North Sea, in Denmark, I said yes and jumped in Brad Peat and went on an adventure.


Today she will take us to a distillery which was not born yesterday (18 years ago), but which is more and more talked about.


Let's discover STAUNING and taste two of their references: KAOS and EL CLASICO.




The roadmap that ARNAUD (@stauningwhisky_france) gave me was very confusing. He told me to go to the shores of the Ringkobing Fjord in Denmark, in the small village of Stauning (until then, to discover a Danish distillery, it seems normal)! But, on the spot, he told me to look for a certain Mogens Vesterby, a butcher !


That's all!


I thought I was going to discover a distillery, but I was wondering if I wouldn't rather go and see how Danish Frikaddelers are made.


But I was going to trust Arnaud and you know me, would it take much more for me to take my pilgrim's taste of peat wine and jump in my van?



So I headed for the centre west of Denmark.


I arrived near the beautiful little village of Stauning with its red brick houses, its harbour, its mill and its aviation museum.


South of the village, I passed the STAUNING distillery sign, and God knows I didn't want to stop! But the roadmap told me to go into the village in search of Mogens. And it is near the Stauning Kirke that I finally met him.


Of course, once the introductions were made, I asked him why the meeting was here and not at the distillery? He started to tell me the atypical and so unique story of the creation of the first Danish whisky.


He wished to take me to the butchery because this is where it all started!



Once in the small room, still in its juice and even still ready to make dumplings, he told me that it was here, in 2005, that the genesis of Stauning was found.


Together with his friends, a school teacher, a pilot, a chef, a doctor and engineers, all of whom love good things, they had the crazy idea of producing whisky!


The problem was that on this side of the North Sea, when you had such an idea (unlike your distant neighbours in Scotland), you could be taken for a fool!


However, the Danes are not so crazy and like their Celtic cousins, they have grain, water, heather and peat!


That was all it took for Mogens to make his butcher's shop available so that he and his 8 friends could embark on the adventure at a lower cost!



In no time at all, the floor tiles in the cold room became a mini malting room, the meat grinder became a barley grinder, the meat smoker became a kiln, and we found some space to fit a still! With a bit of ingenuity they had them all on hand.


Mogen wouldn't tell me if the first distillate released in 2006 tasted like meat! We'll stay here on the mystery of a Nordic legend. 


He explained to me that the Stauning machine, which was "peacefully" producing 400 litres of whisky per year, quickly got out of control due to a combination of circumstances (intended or not, but here too we remain in the Scandinavian legend).



He tells me that a glass of new make of the precious liquid ended up in the hands of a certain Jim Murray who was passing through the region (you know who he is if you like whisky! For the others, we'll summarize by "the one who has been making the rain and the sun shine in his annual whisky bible since the 90's").


It so happens that this Jim had a revelation when he tasted this Danish elixir, believing for a moment that he had flown to Islay with this clearly quality liquid (again, no one is saying if this is related to a taste of meat!!! 😊).


The fact is that news of a quality distillate being produced in Denmark has been spreading like wildfire. From being a local curiosity, it quickly spread beyond the Jutland region and even beyond the borders of Denmark.


So, from 2007 onwards, it was time to think bigger!



I then went to a farm south of the village with Mogens and now Hans Martin (the former Ikea school teacher!) who had joined us and with whom I was to continue the visit.


Hans explained to me that Stauning's production here was still clearly artisanal, but that, like Vikings wanting to conquer the world, the friends had faith in their production. They also knew that they had in hand something to join the small team of renowned Scandinavian whiskies (like the neighbours of Mackmyra in Sweden).


In this old building, the growing adventure of Stauning continued. The 9 partners, like 18th century pioneers, moved their small stills and cobbled together a mash-tun that looked more like a washing machine than a fermenter.


The "farm distillery" had everything needed to make whisky from scratch.


Pure water, peat, heather, barley and rye supplied by a neighbouring farmer! The friends were even pioneers in terms of short and controlled circuits (remember that we are in the year 2010)!


In addition, Stauning had a floor malting area, fermentation vats and open flame stills and produced about 100,000 litres of quality whisky or rye per year.



The farm was much more spacious, but again with the growing success, it quickly became too small, and it was necessary to think even bigger.


We are in 2016-2017 and the 9 partners are going to think bigger. Next to the farm, they built a distillery, worthy of the name and to make the whisky industry pale in comparison.


In 2018, they inaugurated the new distillery made of steel and glass, a mix of modernity and local architecture! The challenge was great but it seems to have been met. To keep the philosophy of the first "stauneurs" by continuing to produce as in the beginning and without denaturing the juices, but in larger quantities to meet the demand.



Hans led me through the many storage buildings housing numerous oak and bourbon casks. I also saw barrels of Cognac and Calvados from home, vermouth and even barrels of Japanese Mizunara oak. But I'm sure there are still other nuggets hidden away.



We then continued the visit by a rather singular building all in length. It housed 4 corridors separated by low walls and equipped with a kind of harvester arm mounted on a rail! On the ground barley was peacefully germinating!


Hans explained to me that this device was "endemic" and that it had been invented by the group's engineers. Its role was "simple" (although you had to think about it). It allowed the barley (or rye) to be turned over by spraying it to make it germinate! The initial principle of Stauning to germinate cereals on the ground was kept but in an XXL version!



In the next building, I discovered the distillery's drying room, because indeed, if you malt on the spot, you also dry. Hans explained me that the distillery uses local resources to do so. Wood of course, but also peat (which is usable in these northern countries).


I also learnt that once a year the drying process is done by burning (and especially smoking) heather from the neighbouring moors!



We continue on to the third building, built in 2018, which houses the fermentation tanks, which are now more in line with the "habits and customs" of whisky making (and where the beer rests for 4 days before being heated).



But, as he must be used to it, Hans spared no effort by accompanying me to the 4th building, the heart of the distillery: the still room!


When he opened the door, I discovered a room closer to a cathedral behind its glass walls, than a simple heating room where the miracle of chemistry takes place!


The partners had decided to raise the industrial tools to the level of an architectural work. 


Indeed, even if the equipment had to be equal to the ambitions of the Danish distillery, they had seen it big and beautiful! No less than 24 stocky stills lined up to get their plump butts heated by the flame! 


Thinking big without distorting what made the success! Hans and his friends had not hesitated to plant a large number of stills but to keep them to a reasonable size. Of course, they were a little bigger than those of the early days, but they were human-sized (in the true sense of the word) so that there was no difference between the distillates of the farm and those of the "cathedral"!



A bit further in the room, on the spirit safe, the two bottles of the day.


While taking them, Hans takes the opportunity to introduce me to the wide range produced by the distillery.


He starts by telling me about the experiments carried out for the great pleasure of malt adventurers! the "Research" range:

       - The very young "CURIOUS" is nothing less than the "new make" of rye. Peated and smoked with heather to perfection and bottled as soon as it leaves the still! Beware of Viking distillates!

       - The "BASTARD", which is none other than its little brother in rye, but which has been sent for 3 years in Mexican Mezcal barrels from the house of Oro de Oaxaca;

     - "EL CLASICO", the Spanish one of the lot, which we will taste a little further on, finished in a Spanish vermouth cask.


He then tells me about the standard range, which is currently undergoing design changes due to a lack of packaging:

     - STAUNING RYE made from rye and barley both malted with the curious machine and aged for 3 or 4 years in new oak casks;

    - STAUNING SMOKE made from local barley, malted on the ground of course, but especially smoked with peat and heather! The 5 or 6 year old distillate bottled is a delicious blend of bourbon, Madeira, Jamaican rum and virgin oak casks! 

      - STAUNING KAOS (which we will taste below) is a sweet blend of rye whisky and smoked malt.



As he uncorks the first expression, he tells me that the bottling is a real moment of sharing since a good part of the citizens participate! STAUNING is a real philosophy!


But let's stop chatting and discover our two distillates.




Hans starts this tasting with an experiment. From the RESEARCH range (3rd of the name) which allows the distillery's creators to let their imagination run free and to propose completely endemic and unique distillates.


EL CLASICO is a good example. It is made from a mixture of rye and barley aged in American oak barrels and then in old Spanish vermouth barrels.


The distillery has played the transparency card here, as the bottle clearly shows the copper-brown colour of the distillate.


So is this distillate the beast engraved on the bottle by the tattoo artist Thit Hansgaard (half bull, half demon)?



On the nose, it is immediately very fruity and warm. One will detect a rather subtle mixture of ripe apples and especially oranges ready to release their juice. It is very sweet in appearance and marries well the two initial ingredients. The barley brings freshness to the softness of the rye.


On the second pass, one will discover sweet spices that tickle the nose and more woody notes of a toasted cask. One can also detect notes of roasted barley.


On the third pass, the spices become more pronounced and are now accompanied by fire-baked caramel.


In the palm of the hand we find a certain freshness but above all the smell of cereals.


Arnaud and Hans

On the palate, it is very mellow and sweet (almost a cooked wine) and warm with marked red fruit notes. However, it quickly reveals woody notes that quickly turn into spices. They rise in the mouth and develop there. Keeping spikes here and there, the distillate becomes rounder and more honeyed. One could almost detect the fresh notes of vermouth and then more woody notes.


It calms down before going down the throat. But it is at this point that it will release slightly bitter and fresh notes of aniseed, almost mentholated, reminding us of the vermouth in the cask of its finish. These notes remain in the throat for quite a long time.


The empty glass retains pleasant orange and woody aromas.




For this second tasting my host uncorks a bottle containing a liquid with a lighter golden colour than the previous one.


He tells me that it is made from a clever blend of smoked and unsmoked malted barley and malted rye (so you can expect a melting pot of flavours)! He tells me that the three blended distillates are then slipped partly into virgin American oak casks that have been through the flames of hell and partly into first fill Makers Mark bourbon casks!


While serving me, Hans also tells me the origin of its curious name! KAOS is a tribute to Thorvald Stauning (the country's prime minister in the 30s and 40s) who said that if he wasn't elected, the country would sink into chaos (Kaos in Danish -NDLR-) and had the electoral slogan "Stauning or chaos" (in Danish "Stauning eller Kaos"). Handy when everyone is called Stauning!


So is it chaos in my glass?


Not so much, it even shows a certain mastery.


On the nose, it's going to be quite soft and without violence with notes of orchard fruits and the freshness of pear, but above all, from the beginning, a rather present peatiness (with tarry effluvia that arrives little by little).


In the second passage, peppery spices take over with nevertheless a background of campfire and roasted barley which gives it a camphorated air.


On the third pass, we detect a smell of caramel lurking behind the freshness of the spices.


In the palm of the hand, the smell of peat is undeniable as we like it. A sweet smell of smoke in the morning!



On the palate, it is quite soft and sweet on entry with apple. It then becomes more dynamic with spices and smoky notes. It nevertheless remains quite sweet on its notes of orchard fruits. We can then detect notes of liquorice and a few hints of hazelnut but it keeps its spicy and smoky notes throughout the tasting.


On the way down, it will release a delicious taste of chocolate and hazelnut spread over a medium length of time.


The empty glass retains the aromas of an old peat-fired farmhouse with its barley background and wisps of smoke.



I now understand that these atypical distillates have turned the heads of the greatest. I'm not even mentioning the numerous medals that have been won since Stauning was founded.


Unfortunately, I have to leave my host to go on new peaty adventures. But I still went to taste the mysterious Danish pellets to complete the circle!


If you wish to discover the different distillates of STAUNING, go to the DUGAS CLUB EXPERT website or directly to your wine will not be disappointed and above all you will be disoriented by tasting them!