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Whisky Business

Alexandra Dahlenburg is the General Manager of one of Sydney’s hottest restaurants, Mjolner Sydney. To chat about (and try) their remarkable whisky collection we stopped by Mjolner for a dram.

Thanks taking the time to chat to us about whisky.

Wow, it looks like you have a few to choose from!

We are lucky enough to have around 500 whiskies on the back bar. It’s a love of mine that was passed from some of the big influencers of my life, and grew rapidly, as I’ve been in hospitality from a young age. I was always exposed to great brands and have since made sure all the venues I’ve run had a well equipped collection of whisky on the back bar. Even at home my cabinet is filled full of birthday whisky gifts and special purchases.

So it runs in your blood then?

My father is actually a barley farmer in Victoria, so I always kind of felt drawn to this industry, knowing what the barley could be used for! Although it’s the people that have kept me here. I say I got into whisky because of my passion for the spirit but stayed because of the passion of the people in this industry.With whisky, I’ve travelled the world, met some of the most wonderful people, and seen some amazing places.

Who would you say is your typical whisky drinker and what are they drinking?

There is no ‘typical’ whisky drinker anymore. The demographic has truly spread between young and old, male and female. What’s more is they’re drinking it in such a myriad of ways: neat, on ice, in cocktails and pairing it with food. Whisky is one of the hottest drinks out there at the moment and I love watching the category grow even further.

Isn’t whisky really an after dinner drink?

There’s still a little of the old perception, that it’s about drinking whisky in an armchair in front of a fire, but these days it’s so much more. Whisky cocktails on our list at Mjølner are one of the higher selling drinks and often what people are choosing as their first drink of the evening. We also do a lot of pairing dinners with whisky, matching it with cured meats or more complex dinners… There are other fun ways people are drinking it too: pairing it with a particular beer, traditionally called a Boilermaker, or at Mjolner we even have ‘bone luge’ during entrees. We’re also offering whisky masterclasses to our corporate guests.

What trends have you noticed with guests ordering at the bar?

What’s been great lately to see is the thirst for knowledge about what people are consuming. With whisky especially there is so much to learn for the discerning drinker and novice alike. The effects of different casks, regions, flavour profiles and grain types. It can sometimes seem a little daunting to people at first but take the plunge! At Mjølner our list is so big that we like to start with a quick chat with new whisky drinkers, asking what they’ve had before that they liked, or what spirits they generally drink. From there we recommend something close but a little different to what they have tried previously, to expand their journey. This gives them another base or a reference which will encourage them to continue their journey from a new point. There’s a whisky for every person out there and I haven’t had a person I haven’t been able swing into whisky yet.

Any favourites or “where to start”?

One of the many whiskies I recommend is Glenmorangie. Their range is just such a crowd pleaser. I put together the Gourmet Traveler Wine Magazine single malt whisky guide and then hosted whisky workshops in Sydney and Melbourne… Glenmorangie Signet was a huge hit in the line up, it’s such a special whisky but also accessible.

Where do you see the future of whisky?

I would love to see whisky being brought to a dinner table like we bring a bottle of wine these days. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons I get invited to dinner parties! You can start off with a whisky highball or whisky and fresh apple juice, moving to an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, then drinking it neat or on the rocks. What everyone needs to remember is that there’s no specific way to drink whisky. You drink it the way you like it and it’s about your journey.

You can find Mjølner at 267 Cleveland St Redfern