This was my first time attending the Arktisk Whiskyfestival in Tromsø, Norway, which sits at a latitude of approximately 69° 40′, which is about 215 miles from the Arctic Circle and solidly underneath Aurora Borealis activity for much of the year. It was a somewhat overcast and snowy night of the Arktisk Whiskyfestival, so one of Tromsø’s biggest attractions was not available. Fortunately, a wonderfully cozy whisky festival was.
With 400 whisky fans in attendance and a generous spacing of tables, the ballroom/meeting space in the Scandic Ishavshotel made for a very comfortable but nevertheless lively event experience. And attendees were allowed to take their drams out into the restaurant seating area just off the lobby, where they could also order some food if they liked. Having food on offer is not always something one finds in whisky tastings and festivals in Norway, so this was a big plus. But perhaps even better than that was the ceiling-to-floor windows lining one wall of that seating area, facing out to the water only a few meters away.
I met a few whisky lovers who had made this festival part of a longer trip to experience Tromsø in the wintertime (including seeing the Northern Lights), and I think these folks were really onto something brilliant. Tromsø is a beautiful city and even more so in the snow, and provided you can handle the lack of sunlight (at that point, it didn’t start getting light until after 10am and got dark around 2pm), it’s a great way to make your time there more than a typical tourist experience.
Per the laws in Norway, attendees must buy each of their drams with bonger (which in this case are plastic coins with the Arktisk Whiskyfestival logo on them), but attendees get a nice stack of bonger with their admission to get them started and can buy more for 25 kroner each. Almost all of the drams are reasonably priced, and if one looks carefully, one can find some screaming good bargains on some excellent drams.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable event in a stunningly gorgeous location at the best time of year to feature that location’s beauty. With good room to move and some great whiskies on offer, this is one of those whisky festivals that works its way into your heart. I’m already excited about heading back in 2020.