Icelandic Whisky? (EH)

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edwardhancox_dlIcelanders love a drink, and yet Iceland has had a chequered past with alcohol. Things are changing though, and a brave group of Icelanders are about to brave their way into the world of whisky.

Whisky (and whiskey) is produced world wide, and I confess to getting very well acquainted with the Scottish and Irish versions, but yet no one has managed to produce Icelandic whisky. Until now.

I found out more from Birgir Már Sigurðsson, one of the Icelanders behind Þoran Whisky.

How is it going to work?

One of the main reasons why no one has managed to start a whisky distillery in Iceland is the cost. It takes a lot of startup capital to get this off the ground, and seeing as this is a product that won’t be ready until after a few years, it’s going to be a while before we see any real profits. In order to minimize the initial startup cost we decided to offer people the option of pre-ordering an entire cask. The customer will pay a small portion of the cost of the cask straight away, the cask is then stored in our warehouse where the customer is free to visit whenever he wants, sample the spirit in the cask and observe the maturation process. Then, when the customer feels that the whisky has matured enough, we bottle it for him. By purchasing a cask, you’re not just getting great whisky. You’re also helping to establish a new industry in Iceland. After the initial cask sale, we can start producing whisky for bottling.

So when will we get our first taste of Icelandic whisky?

We’ll be presenting the business idea to investors after the summer. If we get the funding we can be up and running within 10 months. Which means that if you’re a cask owner you can get you’re first taste in less than a year. However, we recommend letting the whisky mature for at least a year or two. If it’s a bottle of Þoran Whisky you’re after, then you’ll probably have to wait three to four years. But this isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon. We’re in this for the long run. Producing great whisky takes time and patience. If you rush the process, the whisky loses, or rather, never develops it’s character.

What does ‘Þoran’ mean?

‘Þoran’ is an old Icelandic word which means ‘courage’, something that describes what we’re doing very well. The work we’re doing is mirrored in what Icelander’s have had to live with since the colonization of this land. A thousand years ago, someone probably said that settling on this frozen tundra, way up north in the Atlantic ocean, was a pretty bold venture. The same can be said about starting a whisky distillery in Iceland. It’s not going to be easy, in fact, we’re pretty sure it’s going to be damn hard. But just like those Vikings a thousand years ago, we’re going to knuckle down, put some elbow grease into it and make it work. The fact that it’s going to be hard doesn’t scare us, on the contrary, it fuels our determination.

Are you getting help from established distilleries in say, Scotland or Ireland?

Our influences come from many different directions, but our production method will probably most resemble the Scottish and Japanese ways of making whisky. We are also getting a lot of great advice from consultants in Scotland, Canada and the US, who specialize in helping with the establishment of craft distilleries. Furthermore, we hope to attract the attention of the whisky community with this venture and would be happy to see some of the bigger names in whisky invest in Þoran.

How can we keep up to date with your progress? 

The project is developing at great speeds and over the course of the summer a lot of exciting things are happening. We’ll be posting regular updates on our website, www.thoran.is, as well as our Twitter account, @thoranwhisky.

I wish Birgir and the team the best of luck. I’m a fan of whisky, so I hope that there venture is successful. I think that the addition of Icelandic water and Icelandic tenacity are sure to make a whisky worth waiting for.

Edward Hancox - edhancox@live.co.uk

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.