At the centre of Denmark’s ability to cope with a somewhat challenging climate and a high cost of living is a sense of community and equality that contribute to the country’s identity.
For Thomas Korsgaard, SMWS manager and brand ambassador in Denmark, that identity finds its expression perfectly in the country’s approach to whisky.
“We Danes like to think of ourselves as all the same, and it doesn’t matter about where you were educated or where you live or anything else like that,” he says. “We have a distrust of snobbery or a sense of exclusivity, and that was one of the reasons why I fell in love with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society back in 2005. It wasn’t only the quality of the whisky, I loved the idea of bringing people together over a dram, and no matter where in society you came from you could get people to be friends over whisky.”
It’s only relatively recently, however, that the Danes have been able to come together in a hygge-type way with a drop of their own whisky. Since the mid-2000s a growing number of distilleries have been set up, with Stauning an example of the growth in the whisky world. Stauning was set up in an abattoir on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula with the goal of creating a smoky Islay-style malt. Since then it’s grown from running two small pot stills to operating out of a new distillery with 24 stills, thanks to investment from Diageo’s small business investment vehicle Distill Ventures.
Now, Denmark is home to 23 distilleries, fuelling ever more demand for whisky in a country that’s traditionally been more associated with snaps, or akvavit – the caraway-flavoured spirit which is usually brought out at celebrations and downed in one go with your eyes screwed shut. Thomas can understand why his compatriots are turning to whisky as an alternative.
“I wouldn’t say snaps is particularly enjoyable to drink, even though everyone in Denmark does it!” he says. “But people are discovering whisky as a more complex and pleasant spirit to take your time over, whether that’s Scotch or from Denmark itself now.”
The Society has even bottled its first Danish whisky, Cask No. 141.1: Dramlet: the Dark Prince of Denmark! exclusively for members there, a 6-year-old bottling from a first fill oloroso hogshead. Judging by the positive reaction, there will be more to come from Denmark’s distillers. One more reason for the country to reclaim its position at the top of the World Happiness Report.