Single Malt Whisky traditionally made in different parts of Scotland has been a long running success story. Some distilleries go back over 200 years and keeps their legacy alive into the present. The basic ingredients are pretty simple, malted barley distilled in a pot still and aged in oak casks for at least three years. Since this is not something inherently unique to Scotland, recently there has been a surge in whisky production from other countries.
The making of distilled spirits has been know and practiced in Sweden since the 15th century, mostly consisting of what we call “brännvin” which is a simple spirit made of starch from potatoes and often flavoured by local spices and plants. In Swedish culture Brännvin is strongly associated with weekend binge drinking and certain seasonal feasts connected to the agrarian society of old. However, modernity brings new customs and traditions from abroad changes the game. Sweden has not been as uniformly susceptible to the lure of Scottish single malt whisky as for example Japan, but the interest is nevertheless substantial. During the last few years a change in the manufacture of spirits has been evident in Sweden, and several whisky destilleries has seen the light of day.
The most accomplished of those are the Mackmyra distillery. . A well thought through commercial distillery with enough financial clout to be able to live through the necessary lean years before actually putting a product out on the market. The period leading up to this has been filled with experiments. Different types of barley and maturation. Different varieties of oak and treatments of the same. Combinations of raw materials, storage and finishing. The combinations are in effect limitless. While evaluating the process Mackmyra released a series of limited edition preliminaries called “Preludium”. Through this the enthusiast could follow the birth of a new single malt whisky. The series is by now pretty rare and bottles sell at high prices. One of the final results of all these trials is a first edition of a unique Swedish single malt whisky sold as Mackmyra the first edition.
Quite talked about by whisky enthusiasts it´s taste profile is still pretty far from what you usually get in a traditional single malt. It´s not smoky at all and more similar to the elegant types of Scottish single malt, with prominent citrus notes. In my opinion a fairly nice whisky which can be enjoyed even by those who normally don´t like single malts.
In addition to this basic malt Mackmyra has also released two other series of limited editions. The more avaliable one is calles the Special series and here they play around with interesting combinations of their two basic recipes (elegant or smoky), and different types of barrels. Barrels previously used for storing sherry, bourbon, sauternes, fruit wines and even coffee has been used. Some of these really interesting and some slightly strange. The other limited series is more exclusive and consists of bottlings of whisky from special barrels that the Mackmyra master blender has found to be of specially high quiality or with a unique taste. These are called “Moment” and presently there exists 13 different types, with only about 1500 bottles of each. Usually they disappear from the stores pretty fast, snapped up either by collectors or by those speculating in being able to sell them at much higher prices later. If the market for “Preludium”-bottles is anything to go by they just might be right. Personally, I´ve managed to get hold of one or two bottles of quite a few of the different Mackmyra offerings, however not for speculation purposes but for drinking.
Mackmyra is beyond any doubt the most successful of the Swedish whisky distilleries, and the guys behind it has shown quite a flair for marketing and creating customer expectations. The exclusiveness factor of the different special editions does also help to create a certain mystique, especially around the beautifully packed “Moment” series. A lot of effort seems to have ben put into designing the bottle, which is probably not a bad idea. The success of Absolut Vodka hasn´t escaped anybody in the business.
There are also other manufacturers of whisky in Sweden, some of which have made their first efforts available in the store. One is Wannborga distillery on the island Öland off the Swedish east coast. Besides whisky they are also making vodka, gin and their own take on things like calvados and grappa. I´ve tasted what I believe is the first bottling of their whisky and frankly found it to be something of a disappointment. Not much character there, mostly just tasting of alcohol. Still, nice to have tried it.
Slightly better, but still not near Mackmyra, is the whisky from Spirit of Hven. . Also situated on an island, this time Hven in the Öresund strait between Sweden and Denmark. Vodka, gin and different seasonal Schnapps are on offer, in addition to the whisky. This one is also made in limited editions and feels like something that will probably evolve during the coming years.
So, if you get a chance, try some of these alternatives to the traditional Scottish ones. It´s really interesting to see how much difference in character that can be achieved from pretty simple ingredients.