Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Berlin: Whisky City with some hidden gems

What combines better with a good glass of Scotch whisky, than a good football match and a menu that makes you thirsty for the next glass? You can find it all at Offside in the Berlin district of Wedding. During my visit to the city in late February of 2024, I decided to drop in this most charming establishment in a – I must say – quite underwhelming part of town. Walking to the pub from the Gesundbrunnen U-bahn you think you have ended up in a different time. The Jülicher Straße a broad avenue where the wind has free reign. But then you come up on the location, walk inside, and there is nothing but a warm and cosy feeling. Judging by the many signs signalling reservations on the tables, this is a popular place to hang. But this was a Saturday afternoon, three o’clock, and football fans know that this is when the Bundesliga games start.

Offside has listed their impressive whisky collection in a handy tablet through which you can scroll and be totally stunned. Stunned, because they have quite an extensive collection to choose from. And most importantly, the proprietor of the bar does not try to make big money on the whiskynerds of the world. He could easily ask double, triple, quadruple prices for some of the things he has in stock. He doesn’t. That makes for an even more pleasant experience. And while the guests moan about the struggles of Werder Bremen or the doings of local club Union Berlin, we put our nose in some nice glasses!
I started with taking the opportunity to taste my first ever Holyrood Distillery, which I will chronicle in a separate post. After that, because one could only taste so many whisky in one afternoon, I limited myself to going for two Longrow Campbeltown single malts.

Longrow 10 years old, 1993 – 2003, bottled at 46 % abv

Quick notes: Quite the contrast with todays Longrow Peated, and can’t help but feel this is a more classic expression of Longrow. Lots of mineral qualities, sucking on a pebble, the traditional Springbank funk, saltiness, but balanced by a soft sweet element. This Longrow has a dry character, with notes of salty ham and green melon, most notably the one wrapped around the other. Light touch of wood. The aftertaste reeks of smoke. A much more simple time for Longrow, these early 90s vintages. I love it. Score: 87 points.

The very friendly guy behind the bar left the bottles on the table so I could take pictures of them. You could really see him going through the establishment, recommending whisky to customers, telling background information about the new and the old alike, serving an InchDairnie to someone who had not tasted anything from that (new) distillery before. When he put back my bottle of Longrow, he notice behind it a Cadenhead’s bottle of a 1994 vintage. I decided to try it!

 Longrow 11 years old, distilled on 11-11-1994, bottled at 58 % abv by Cadenhead’s for Whiskyplus

Quick notes: I found it on Whiskyfun.com with a remarkably low score. Let us see for ourselves. There is still some 1993 left in my previous glass, and the contrast could not be bigger. This one from a refill sherry hogshead, and my God this is dirty funky. Wet dunnage warehouse mold spores, wallpaper glue and a sour off-note. I am started to understand Serge better now. But, moving on, I have to say
there is nothing wrong with the remainder. The taste is clean as a whistle, but definitely more powerful compared to the 1993. After adding some water, I conclude this is close family member of the bigger batch bottling. The sour off-note does keep a presence and brings down the score. I suspect this bottle has been open for a while, and that probably mellowed the impact of some of the weaker parts. I come to a draw of again 87 points.

I paid my tab and went back to my hotel a happy man. After scoring some nice bottles in shops scattered over the city, I also managed to taste a few nice ones. New memories on top of recollections about the Köpenicker Whisky Herbst whisky festivals of long ago. Offside comes highly recommended! Make sure to drop me a note if you also decide to visit. It is worth leaving the beaten tracks of touristic Berlin.