Douglas Laing's Fellows are a group of Whisky aficionados from all over the world. Tobi Piwek, from Germany, writes his own blog - BarleyMania - but today he guest blogs here for us, telling us all about the wonderful German island of Helgoland!
Located about 50 kilometers off the shore, it is Germany’s only island in the open sea. As such it is free from the customs regulations that apply to the rest of my home country. Consequently, visitors to the isle can not only look forward to feasting their eyes on Helgoland’s beautiful nature and filling their lungs with its fresh sea air, but also to making some incredible whisky steals. Of course, you also find other spirits there for hard-to-believe prices… but why would you go after any of them if you could have whisky instead?
Helgoland is easy-to-reach from several locations along Germany’s North Sea coast – yeah, that is the fabled region to which our friend Big Peat recently paid homage with The German North Sea Coast Edition. Among others, you can get to Helgoland by ship from Hamburg, Cuxhaven or Büsum in 2-4 hours. Or you can embark on the adventure of flying to the island by plane. The flight takes no more than 30 minutes from either Heide/Büsum or Cuxhaven/Nordholz and the machine that takes you there is significantly smaller than the one you might have boarded for your last trip to Islay. While I have not yet experienced this myself, I am pretty certain that visiting Helgoland by plane is not exactly an endeavor for the faint-hearted.
Among the first things you see when you arrive on Helgoland are the colorful fisher’s huts lined up along the island’s boardwalk. To me, they always look a bit like the multicolored house facades that the Isle of Mull – home to the wonderful Tobermory distillery of which you find various Old Particular bottlings – is famous for. But that is not the only similarity between Helgoland and Scotland. The Hochland (“Uplands”), where all kinds of migrant birds breed and lots of cattle and sheep are kept, resemble a miniature version of the Highlands. And the Lange Anna (“Tall Anne”) could once have been a sweetheart of Orkney’s Old Man of Hoy.
While Helgoland is only 4.2 square kilometers in size and has less than 1,500 inhabitants, the island is home to over a dozen duty free shops, most of which have rather well-sorted whisky sections. And where there is whisky, there certainly also is Douglas Laing. Keep your eyes open and you will not only stumble upon lots of Old Particular, Directors Cut and XOP bottlings, but also find numerous Remarkable Malts editions. Of the latter, Big Peat seems to be particularly welcome on Helgoland. During my latest visit, I found all kinds of expressions of that grumpy looking but all the more bighearted Ileach, ranging from out-of-print Christmas Editions to the illustrious Diplomat’s Edition to the aforementioned German North Sea Coast Edition. So… happy hunting, fellow whisky enthusiasts!
Although there are a million other things I could still mention about Helgoland, I better call it a quits now before this blog post gets too lengthy. I hope you enjoyed the impressions I shared and the snapshots I took. And who knows. Maybe this little travel report even inspired some of you to reserve two or three days of their next vacation in Northern Germany for a little side trip to Germany’s whisky paradise in the open sea. It is absolutely worth it!
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