I know, there must be a way of writing about Swedish things that doesn’t involve mentioning flat packing or the Fab Fyra. I mean, after all this time you’d have thought I would be tired of them. But how about Swedish malt whisky? Something new to balance things up. And brought live to you on Twitter.Live tastings on Twitter – Twastings, in the vernacular (Twernacular?) are becoming a bit of a thing. This tasting of four Mackmyra malts is the fourth I’ve taken part in after Balblair, Old Putleney, and anCnoc. It’s good for the distiller; it gets the brand name out there, and it’s good for those taking part; it’s really good to interact in the Twasting with people in the Twasting, across the world and exchange notes and views. Must be dull as hell for anybody not taking part. Here’s a potted recent history of whisky in relation to Sweden:
- Small population, massive interest in whisky.The average person’s knowledge about whisky is far greater than in the UK.
- Sweden has loads of private whisky clubs and a whisky festival that has been going for more than 15 years.
- Mackmyra Distillery was founded as the first single malt distillery in Sweden, in 1999, in Gävle, a couple of hours drive north of Stockholm. Distilling began in earnest, a few years later.
- The first Mackmyra whisky went on sale in 2006. They do an “elegant” recipe, which is unpeated, and a smokey one, and use ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and Swedish new oak casks.
Mackmyra bottlings sell out fast in Sweden, and get very good ratings by Whisky Bible author Jim Murray and others, yet I still come across an odd attitude of snootiness among the normally knowledgeable Swedes. But with whisky there is still a heav bias to Scotch. The Japanese are doing serious damage to the received wisdom too. There’s a world of whisky out there, and these four Mackmyra releases add to the reputation.This is what we tried. More potting and condensing… Perhaps I should have limited my summaries to 140 characters each. Mackmyra Brukswhisky 41.4% ABV
The aforementioned Jim Murray awarded this the prize of Top European Whisky in 2011 in his Whisky Bible. On Twitter, we thought it rich and citrus fruity, with cherries, pears and vanilla, and a definite hint of coconut, perhaps coconut suntan lotion. Peppery, warming. I thought it was a nice all-rounder: “Best after-breakfast whisky” I said. (With a heavy wink.)
Not available outside Sweden, yet (495 SEK). Mackmyra Special 06: Sommaräng (Summer Meadow) 46.8% ABV
Fruit and flowers, as you might expect from the name. I also thought it had a mixture of fudges, some vanilla, some rum & raisin. Marzipan-topped sponge cake (Princess tårta). Very good balance, rich and elegant.
Limited edition released on May 02, and possibly available from specialist shops outside Sweden. Expect to pay about £60*. Mackmyra Moment Jord (Earth) 55.1% ABV
This is a “very limited” edition release of 1470 bottles made from their unpeated (elegant) recipe, with some whiskies matured in cask that had once held Bordeaux wines. There are some vinous, perhaps port tinges. A complex, layered whisky that gets better if you let it sit in the glass a while. Teasing it apart, you might find “liqueur chocolates”, “berry balsamic” according to my Twitter chums, and a luscious fruitiness balanced by a drying finish, if you are me.
If you ever find it, after it’s August release, it will probably set you back about £100*. Mackmyra Moment Drivved (Driftwood) 55.5% ABV
Another “very limited” release, containing the widest range of casks in any of these whiskies: some 7 year-old ex-bourbon refill casks, some smokey recipe casks, also ex-bourbon, and a “touch” of Swedish new oak matured whisky. Intense, dense fruitiness, luscious and stunningly smooth, even neat. The bourbon influence gives vanilla like some posh ice cream mixed with fruit compote and a slug of liqueur, sipped by the barbecue (for balance). “A few drops of water lessens the fruit and brings out the pepper”, someone tweeted.
Also to be released in August, and the best whisky (for me) has the highest price: around £130*. So, these are not cheap whiskies. Even the “everyday” Brukswhisky costs the equivalent of the Lagavulin 16 year-old. But I think it’s a mistake to compare the prices to that of Scotch malts, or even Japanese whiskies. Remember too that limited editions that will always command a premium. If you compare to say, Scotch Malt Whisky Society or other independent bottlings, the price comparison makes more sense. They are all very good whiskies, and the Drivved is one of the most enjoyable I’ve tasted in a good while. They’re not about to turn up on the shelves at Waitrose, but Royal Mile Whiskies stocks Mackmyra. Or you could just book yourself a midsummer trip to Sweden, pop in to the nearest Bishops Arms and try a few. Your dram after midnight could be in the sunshine. If only we’d thought a bit harder on Twitter and found some wild strawberries in the Special 06 and I could have baulked the trend and finished on a Bergman reference! * These prices are estimates based on the price quoted in Sweden Links
The English version of the Mackmyra Website
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 award winners