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Whalbeer

I’m really disappointed to see that despite a general ‘thumb’s down’ on taste grounds from those who sampled it last year, Iceland’s Stedji brewery is once again brewing its ‘Hvalur’ beer, flavoured with smoked fin whale testicles, to sell during Þorri  (Thorri), the Icelandic mid winter festival which runs from mid-January to mid-February.

This year, the brewery has even made a video to celebrate their offering. Provocatively titled “Do you have the balls for whale testicle beer?”, the video features the brewery owner, Dabjartur Arilíusson, extolling the virtues of this ‘seasonal brew’. To a background of sentimental Icelandic music, he explains proudly that the beer will complement dishes, including rotten shark, ram’s testicle, cured sheep’s head and soured whale fat, served at this time of year.  He explains that “the balls are chopped down and put in these kind of sausages… we smoke them in the old traditional way by sheep dung. We take the balls and we cook it in a beer…we use around one testicle in each batch [of beer].”

The video plays heavily upon ‘tradition’: Dabjartur adds that “the recipe is specially made around the whale so we can experience the true Thorri season” – whilst conveniently omitting to mention that beer flavoured with fin whale testicles is a tradition dating back to ….er… 2015 to be exact.

Once again, it is clear that Iceland’s sole fin whaler, Kristjan Loftsson, has a hand in this and doubtless will be congratulating himself on finding yet another gimmick to offload his surplus whale products. Last season, Lofsson killed a record 155 fin whales: more than at any time since the 1986 whaling moratorium. 

But as I commented last January, when ‘whale testicle beer’ was first unveiled, there is more to this than mere sensationalism. This is a calculated move, not only to dishonour a beautiful and endangered creature by using its most intimate of body parts as a marketing tool, but also a rather sordid opportunity for Loftsson to send a clear ‘two fingers’ to the conservation community and to those who love and respect whales.

To my mind, this obscene use of the body parts of an endangered species is on a par with ashtrays made of gorilla hands, or dried tiger penis as an aphrodisiac and my hope, once again, is that visitors to Iceland – along with the many Icelanders who see beyond the hype – will treat this product with the disdain that it deserves.