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The Literary Dram

A Spirit in one hand, a Book in the other

Category Archives: Denmark

The Whisky:  Destilleriet BraunsteinLibrary Collection 12:2

The Play/Book:  Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

Hold Benedict Cumberbatch to account for this one. His brilliant portrayal of Hamlet in this fall’s National Theatre production got me thinking what a modern day Danish prince might have in his glass.


Dark caramel/light mahogany in colour. Herbal sweet peat on the nose. Youthful in the mouth, with smoke and sherry-tinged fruit coming through. Leaves a lively and lasting impression. (46% abv)

Only 1000 bottles of this peated single malt were produced, released in 2012 as another in Braunstein’s Library Collection, innovatively packaged in the shape of a tall, thick book. I you are willing to be impressed by Danish whisky, this is a very good place to start.

The Braunstein distillery in Køge, just south of Copenhagen, was founded in 2005, following two years of brewing beer, a licensing requirement of Danish authorities, likely wary of young men who come back from fly fishing trips in Scotland with pipe dreams of distilling whisky, without any experience to back them up.


The two young men in question were brothers Michael and Klaus Braunstein Poulsen and by 2010 they were distilling and selling Denmark’s first single malt. Production remains relatively small, as does distribution outside their home country. This bottle was purchased in England, however, and China now imports Braunstein whisky.

Both peated and unpeated whisky are distilled. The peated malt is brought from Port Ellen in Scotland but Braunstein also uses organically-grown Danish barley. While the yeast is a byproduct of their own brewery, the water is sourced from Greenland icebergs! Distillation is in a Holstein still. In the case of our peated 12:2, maturing takes place in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

The Braunstein brothers proved the skeptics wrong. Careful planning and persistence eventually brought forth a world-class whisky. Something’s very right in the state of Denmark!


Is there a better known piece of literature? It’s very doubtful. Written about 1600, Shakespeare’s Hamlet has a magnetism that draws audiences today as strongly as it has ever done. Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent 12-week London run in the title role sold out in a few hours, more quickly than any other show in the history of the British Theatre. The live-to-cinema performance, broadcast to movie theatres around the world, draw an audience of 225,000.


Playing Hamlet is a rite of passage for many serious actors. The list of others who have taken to it is diverse, sometimes surprising:  Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Christopher Plummer, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Kevin Kline, Mel Gibson, David Tennant, to name a few. Of the recent versions, I find Tennant’s take on the role, produced for BBC in 2009 and now available on YouTube, particularly fresh and compelling. (Dr) Who knew?

Every director and actor brings something unique; no two productions are alike. Again on the internet, you’ll find a compilation (by John Kenneth Fisher) of 17 different versions of the “fishmonger scene” in Act 2, Scene 2. Fascinating to see just how varied have been the interpretations of the same scene.

Hamlet’s motivations and the seeming contradictions in character continue to be the cause of endless debate. His wit plays against his profound melancholy and the stage reverberates with the Bard’s mastery of language. ‘To be or not to be,’ ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ ‘what a piece of work is a man!’ They are all there, and so many more. Hardly a scene goes by that doesn’t ring with a famous line, accentuated for many of us by the decades of life experience that have passed since university English classes.

This is the Royal Shakespeare Company edition of the play, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, enlivened by a fresh introduction, scene-by-scene analysis, an essay on landmark performances, etc, etc, together making for an all-round richer experience of the play.

I wonder what Shakespeare would have come up with had he turned his hand at whisky tasting notes? Without doubt something endlessly quoted by lovers of the dram.



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