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Proust Whisky Questionnaire: Alexandra Dahlenburg

Alexandra – or just Alex – Dahlenburg is the Venue Manage for restaurant and bar Mjølner and also handles some whisky business for the wider Speakeasy Group. A driving force behind the venue’s formidable whisky-heavy back bar, you’ll also see her running educational events and contributing articles to magazines.

Describe your job in five words

Viking badass whisky shield maiden

What do you appreciate most in a whisky?

Same thing I appreciate in people: strong, bold, really honest and have some depth and viscosity about them.

What do you appreciate least in a whisky?

I've never been a light, delicate or floral person in whisky or life. There's nothing wrong with light, delicate and floral, however just not my personal style. I can absolutely appreciate it though.

What is your most treasured whisky?

I have a bottle of Yamazaki 2016 Sherry Cask signed by Mike Miyamoto in both his signatures. I have always said I would open it on a very special occasion. I have no idea what that special occasion is, but it will be opened one day.

What is your favourite virtue in a whisky bar?

Firstly it's always the staff, they make or break every venue. However physically though I like to be able to pull up a chair and sit at the bar, look at all the pretty bottles and be social with the bar team. Some rock, blues or country music, bar snacks and I'm a happy girl!

What do you most dislike in a whisky bar?

Ordering over people and pretentiousness. I’m a dive bar kinda gal.

If you could have any job in whisky, what would it be?

I'm still trying to work out what my future is in whisky, but right now I'm super grateful to be where I am in this wonderful whisky world. To have travelled where I have, worked with great brands in the bars and restaurants I run, met the people I have, and drank some of the best whisk(e)y in the world. It is the greatest privilege.

What is your favourite distillery name?

Favourite distillery name… Iniquity: meaning immoral or grossly unfair behaviour and Ian's Schmitt’s membership is called The Den. Very clever and the whisky is shit hot too! Please don't ever ask me what my favourite distillery is though, I could never choose.

Who is your hero in whisky?

The whisky makers. To all of you, thank you! You are patient, hard-working, perfectionists that bring so much joy to the world and don’t get to see every smile you put on people’s faces.

What is your idea of whisky happiness?

The smell of a new oak barrel warehouse. It brings a tear to my eye. Every. Damn. Time. #whiskyporn

What phrase do you most overuse when talking about whisky?

Delicious. But said “DEEEEE-licious” with a happy wiggle dance.

When do you lie about whisky?

Only to Alissa Gabriel, Mjølner's Bar Manager when she asks me if I've bought anymore whisky when she's doing her budgets and I say no. But I have. Sorry. Not sorry.

Who or what is the love of your whisky life?

Oh, come on!!! [Swears] I’m not naming names.

Ok, So my whisky love type says: If you’re into or make whisk(e)y, have tattoos, like rock/metal/country and wear leather boots, you have my attention. Double points if a still and barrels are involved. Triple points if there is adventure or travel involved.

Final round bonus points for either or all: a beard, truck or ute, motorbike, a farm or ranch or a coastal or water outlook and maybe an accent. I'll leave you all wondering on that because I have described so many in our industry.

But really my true whisky love is my whisky peeps like Joey Tai, Laura Hay, Ross Blainey, Dan Hutchins-Read and Thalita Alves, the ambassadors I have spent the last five years building friendships with. You guys conduct yourselves like true professionals with a passion that is incomparable. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I got into the whisk(e)y industry because I like whisk(e)y, I've stayed in the whisk(e)y industry because I love the people.

What is your happiest whisky memory?

Last year I travelled to Dufftown and stayed at the William Grant Family home estate above Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries. One morning, I opened my curtains around a grand window in my grand bedroom and saw a blanket cover of white magical snow had settled over night with snowflakes, still falling from the sky. I screamed, jumped up and down and woke the whole household up. I scrambled to pull on a hoodie and my boots and ran outside. I was stomping and jumping in the snow, twirling around with my face to the sky, catching the snowflakes on my eye lashes and nose. The boys came running out wondering what the commotion was to find me outside in the snow playing, happy tears streaming down my face and no pants on. "Guys, It snowed" #whiskytookmehere

What is your saddest whisky memory?

Most of my memories around whisky have been happy, soul fulfilling and exciting – I am very excitable, anyone who’s travelled with me knows this. I suppose I can say my saddest memories have been leaving each adventure I have been on. Leaving Kentucky, Tasmania, Scotland and Portland have all been sad. Not knowing if you’ll see each of the new friends you’ve made or fallen in whisky love with again. I always get super emotional leaving but only because I want to keep living each one of those adventures every day, every moment and I want to have all my favourite people in the world close to me. I suppose I will feel the same when I leave Japan, which hopefully will be my next whisky adventure.

Who do you most admire?

Small distillers. Man, that's passion and true grit! It's hard to start a distillery without big backing and I take my hat off to you all. Support the little guys too.

Sherry cask or bourbon cask?

Don't make me choose. I love both equally and feel like the little girl in the taco add, “porque no los dos”.

If you could work at one distillery, which one would it be?

Right now: Westward Distillery. I have just recently been in Portland and hung out with the Westward crew. The team there were kind enough to let me work in the distillery for a day, something I am grateful to have done in quite a few distilleries. I think I played there for nine hours and didn’t want to leave. I have never been happier hosing a floor, shovelling grain or wielding a hammer in my life and I’m a country girl who’s done a bit of that on the farm. Westward have such a young, cool, fresh team who I believe are the future whisk(e)y rock stars. Liam is badass and distils in a kilt. Steve loves his jerky and answered every question I threw at him. (He let me touch the buttons too.) Quin isn't as grumpy as he comes across, has a cheeky smile and loves his music while he is brewing; his Instagram stories give me a distillery fix since being back home. The ambassador team, Jordan and Kim are super enthusiastic, they really, truly believe in the product. The management team are so on the ball with branding, strategy, the whisky and cask programs. I was fortunate enough to see it all, no secrets, no safe words, all honest and out there. They're such a great family and the sneak peek I got into what’s coming is DEEEE-licious. Press subscribe to these guys and get over to Portland.

What is your greatest achievement?

Mjølner and the Mjølner family, by far the greatest achievement I have been part of. The team I work with, the product they put out, the passion that flows through them all is inspiring. I am so proud to work with the all the crew, past and present, Sydney and Melbourne, front of house, back of house and office based. They're the reason I get up every day. I'm so grateful to The Speakeasy Group – Greg and Sven for excepting who I am, bringing me in and letting me loose on this brand and beast that is Mjølner. There are even more big things to come and I can't wait.

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