Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Taste of Sweden with Mackmyra

The first four whiskies.
For our March tasting we had the great pleasure of being joined by Alex Johnson, who represents Sweden's Mackmyra distillery in the UK, to take us through a selection of excellent Scandinavian whiskies.

All the bottles (first half on top).
There were no fewer than eight for us to try, including Mackmyra's core expressions plus some more specialist drams. We'd had the odd bottle of Mackmyra at the club over the years but there was plenty of new stuff here for us all to have a go at.

And we started off with one of Mackmyra's newest drams, Mack. Alex explained that it was aimed at a cheaper price point than its other products, in part to satisfy a gap in the domestic Swedish market, where the sale of booze is famously controlled by a state-owned chain of off licences.

Mack by Mackmyra.
Available here at £34.50, the 40% Mack is a very easy-to-drink single malt. Almost too easy, some club members thought! It has orchard-type notes, with fresh pear and apple alongside a bit of a rummy quality too. We liked this a lot, especially for the money. One to open for a summer's afternoon barbecue.

We moved next onto another component of Mackmyra's core range, a blend called Brukswhisky. Alex told us that the youngest whisky in the blend is about the 7-year-old mark, with others nearer 10, with a mixture of those aged in first fill bourbon barrels but also sherried and Swedish oak casks.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky.
There was apple in this again, and more nuttiness too. Again quite a soft, light and easy to drink whisky, this was a bit creamy with hints of almond and even maybe liquorice too. It's £42 and comes in at 41.4%.

Svensk Ek was whisky number three, and it's among the Mackmyra drams we've had and enjoyed previously. You might have clocked its distinctive burnt orange packaging before. It's particularly notable for being matured in barrels made from oak trees originally intended to provide wood for shipbuilding. The Swedish Navy's loss is our gain, clearly.

Svensk Ek.
On the inside it's a more complex, wintry kind of drink than the first two. "More chewy" as someone described it. There's definitely an oaky taste, along with cinnamon and even crispy toast. It opens up a bit with a drop of water too. It's 46% and you can get a bottle for £52.

The last of the whiskies before half-time was Svensk Rok, which translates as 'Swedish Smoke'. And in keeping with Mackmyra's tradition of using local ingredients, we're talking Swedish peat here.

Svensk Rok.
I thought this was very definitely smoky bacon Frazzles on the nose, although others in the club had rather more refined comments to make. There's certainly a bit of barbecue-type flavour going on, and in general it's quite a bright, smoky whisky. Very distinctive and very nice, too. It's £48 and, although it only comes in a 50cl bottle, it's still good value for something of this quality.

The second half.
Half-time meant not only an opportunity for a bit of extra refreshment from the bar at the Britons Protection, but also gave Alex time to sort out a new line-up of drinks for part two. This time we were switching to four whiskies away from Mackmyra's core range and into some more unusual territory.

And whisky number five was certainly something out of the ordinary. Mackmyra Appelblom, that is apple blossom, certainly gives us a taste of spring. The secret sauce here is that it is finished in Calvados casks, Calvados being an apple brandy from Normandy.

Mackmyra Appleblom Calvados cask.
This really was very nice indeed. As we'd already spotted, Mackmyra whiskies generally have a certain fruitiness about them anyway, so with the addition of the Calderos finish, this gave us a full on apple pie or apple strudel kind of taste. "Toffee custard" was another suggestion. From Mackmyra's seasonal range, it's 46% and you can get a bottle for about £60, and the whisky on the inside ranges from about 8 to 10-year-old.

Mackmyra also has a range under the banner 'Moment' and this was where whisky number six came from, the Fjallmark. This is finished in barrels which have been used to hold cloudberry wine, cloudberries being those orange berries that grow wild quite commonly in Sweden, and even at certain locations here (Kinder Scout, apparently!).

Moment Fjallmark.
Even in a crowded field, this whisky really stood out. Complex and highly tasty, with flavours such as treacle and golden syrup coming to the fore. All summed up with a simple "wow" from one club member. This is bottled at cask strength, which is unusually just 42%, and it's £95. It's safe to say that you don't get too many cloudberry finished whiskies, so that alone makes splashing out for something a bit more premium well worth it.

We weren't finished yet, and whisky seven took us into the world of private casks. The particular dram Alex had for us to try was a 6yo peated whisky from an Oloroso sherry cask.

The private cask - a peated Oloroso.
I'm certain it was very nice but, as you might expect from a whisky tasting of this length, by this point my notes had become rather more limited. For this whisky, all I wrote was that it was "complex" which admitted doesn't tell us very much in the cold light of day. It's 43.7% and Mackmyra makes a batch of 48 bottles available for £3k, which is roughly £62 apiece.

The night concluded with our eighth (!) whisky, and it was the Svensk Rok Amerikansk Ek, a limited edition version of the Svensk Rok aged in new American oak casks.
Svensk Rok Amerikansk.

This has a rich, dark colour. Again there's a barbecue feel about it ("like McDonald's barbecue sauce" as someone suggested - is this a good thing? I'm going with yes), along with a smoky, spiciness. It's £58 and is 46%.

That left us with just one order of business to complete, the dram of the night voting. It was even tougher than normal, and no fewer than six of the eight scored at least a couple of votes, but the winner turned out to be the cloudberry-infused Fjallmark with no fewer than 11.

Thank you to Alex for a great evening, and also for fixing up a tie-up with our friends at Aston's which will see club members get a little money off their next bottle of Mackmyra. Also thanks to everyone who came to yet another well-attended tasting, and to everyone at the Britons for hosting us.

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