Swedish distillers Mackmyra have two whiskies that must have been designed with the onset of winter. One is called, Midvinter, and one Svensk Rök. I’ll leave you to pat yourself on the head for knowing what the first means, but the second is “Swedish Smoke”, which is the subject here. Extra points for guessing that “rök” has a close friend in the Scots “reek” (and German Rauch, for that matter).
Mackmyra have always done peated whiskies. Smoke is one of their two basic recipes; the unpeated is called Elegant. Svensk Rök is the first commercially-available bottling that is made to be smoke-dominant. They must have spent hours thinking up the name. Private cask owners have always been able to choose the smoke. In fact, I part-own a cask called “Smoky Baby”. You can bet I was keen to compare.
The box blurb says there are notes of peat and juniper-twig smoke – because in the tradition of Swedish curing and drinks-making, juniper twigs form a centuries-old ingredient. The whisky is smoky and the juniper’s contribution makes lightens the peat reek, without making it piney or gin-ey.
There is a Talisker-like, attack, on first sip, just what I want, with more than a hint of pepper – white pepper blended with (old) hot-smoked paprika. As the whisky re-invigorates you for more drizzle, with its long, warming finish, the pine-like smoke comes out to give the impression of bonfire night with a Xmas tree instead of a guy.
With a splash of water, and another sip, the sweetness of the vanilla emerges, and there is pine. Oak mingling with the juniper. Spicy, and ginger hot. It’s smoky, but not one-dimensional. As long as I have known Mackmyra master blender Angela D’Orazio, she has looked for balance in a whisky, and the sweetness of malt and oak vanilla gives it just that without detracting from the main event.