For the first time ever I was able to attend this legendary whisky festival this year, albeit for one day only. Having arrived on Friday afternoon there was enough time to meet for supper with fellow Maniacs Keith, Konstantin and Martin. A bunch of mainly Skandinavian maltheads happened to have chosen the same location for their pre-festival warm-up, so our plans to keep the evening liver-friendly were soon washed away by some fabulous drams they had brought with them. Since the landlady didn’t have any complaints about drinking own whisky on the premises, the evening turned into a very nice tasting session. Drams included but were not limited to a few Port Ellens, a cracking old Tomatin and a fabulous old bottling of Miltonduff 12.
As the proper festival was beginning at 11 am the next day, there was enough time to stroll around the beatutiful old town of Limburg in the morning, the glorious weather was even allowing to have a coffee outside. It was not long after 10 o’clock when I noticed that there was already a long queue forming in front of the Stadthalle. The long waiting time was kept bearable by chatting to some German whisky friends who I had met before.
When the doors finally opened I had to notice that a very long queue already had formed leading to the upstairs counter offering tickets for the masterclasses. Originally I had planned to book Charlie MacLean’s Adelphi Tasting, but I honestly wasn’t in the mood for waiting in line for another half an hour or so, especially since this was the only day I had for the festival. Wiping away my tears I entered the big main hall where most of the stands were located.
Compared to other festivals, Limburg is the undisputed top pilgrimage place for whisky anoraks. While Whisky Live events or Malt Advocate’s WhiskyFests are the prime showcases for brands and distilleries, Limburg is dominated by independent bottlers and dealers. Some distilleries are present here under the umbrella of their Gemman importers but the focus definitely is elsewhere.
What makes Limburg so special is not only the large number of independent bottlers but also the staggering displays of old and collectable bottles from many dealers. And these are not only for display, most bottles are open and waiting to be poured. Helped by the liberal German alcohol laws, Limburg is a ‘pay per dram’ festival. Entrance fee is only 10 Euros including a Bugatti nosing glass, and visitors are can taste any drams on offer by paying for them, the serving size being 20 ml.
My own festival strategy was twofold. Since all dealers and bottlers are happy to fill sample bottles I did some serious sample shopping of recent bottlings that caught my eyes. For dramming along I enjoyed the luxury of sipping those old-time bottlings that you usually don’t come across without buying a bottle from a specialized shop or meeting a friend with a big collection. I did not take tasting notes for these, let alone scoring them, I simply enjoyed these rare drams. Even though the true rarities can be quite expensive even by the dram, there are more than enough opportunities to taste older bottlings for very affordable prices as well.
Some nice drams I had were the Talisker 10 with the old map label, and old Linkwood 12 yo, a Macallan 7 yo to name a few. Star of the show for me was the Bowmore 21 in the picture, a 1971 vintage. Very mild, a little watery but full of flavour.
One of the two drawbacks I experienced was the fact that the festival was extremley crowded on Saturday. The constant pushing around took away some of the fun, I have to say. It is supposed to be quieter on Sundays, hopefully next year I will be able to check this out. Then some of the stands were located in a tent connected to the main building. The heat in there was hardly bearable, so after just a quick look around I decided to escape, depriving the poor people suffering from the heat behind their tables of potential business with me. The restaurant of the Stadthalle offered a short special menu for the festival which even included proper Scottish haggis! I am not only a malt but also a haggis maniac, so I just had to give this a try. The haggis was indeed tasty and original, serving it with a jacket potato and sour cream was a bit unusual yet still acceptable. But spreading the sour cream on top of the haggis should warrant a penalty ticket from the haggis police.
Needless to say that these glitches won’t keep me from returning to to Limburg next year for the 2013 edition of this amazing whisky fair.