One of the reasons why I wanted to start this blog was to have a place to brag about Swedish whisky.
I’m Swedish but I live in Ireland. I’m not the typical Swede and there are many reasons why I feel more at home here than in the country where I was born. There are many, many things I don’t like about Sweden, but as a Swede AND a whisky geek, thinking about Swedish whisky really makes me feel proud.
My first encounter with Swedish whisky was with Mackmyra, but I haven’t always been a fan of them. They had some odd releases at the beginning (but to be honest I wasn’t much of a whisky drinker then) and I didn’t like Brukswhisky much when it came out either. But all of a sudden, my inlaws purchased a Mackmyra cask and they later invited us to come and taste it with them.
It was a very enjoyable evening in a little back room at the pub Ölrepubliken in Göteborg. The whisky had been in the cask 1-2 years then, and I remember thinking that it was “quite nice” but I don’t recall any more details than that. This was obviously before I started geeking about flavours and tasting experiences! But as far as I remember, I liked it better than the bottled Mackmyra whiskies I had tasted.
The second tasting was a warm and sunny June day in Smögen. We met a lovely brand ambassador named Håkan, and he told us about some new cask types and that they were exploring triple distilled spirit. It sounded interesting and before leaving, we had decided buy a Gravity cask with future triple distilled whisky.
Since (most) Swedish distilleries use small casks for the private cask programmes, the liquid has more wood contact and matures faster than it would in a large barrel, so it will be a good whisky quite soon and for many, it is ready to bottle after only three years. So in October the same year, my inlaws went to Germany to collect their bottles (Germany is the location where Swedish cask owners get the best prices for bottling) and then they came straight to us so that we could taste the freshly bottled whisky together.
The first two tastings of this whisky may have been mediocre or at least didn’t have any particular impact on me (since I can’t remember what my opinions were!), but tasting the finished whisky was an amazing experience. I couldn’t believe it was the same liquid! At the first two tastings I found the whisky quite subtle, but the finished product was rich, creamy, mouth-lining and incredibly tasty. We immediately purchased a couple of bottles from them, and have owned several bottles since then, it has become like our special family whisky.
The whisky from this particular cask opened up my eyes for everything Mackmyra. I’ve happily visited their stand at whisky events, to taste their newer whiskies and have a good chat. In 2018 we also purchased a second cask that we share with friends.
After we moved to Ireland and I started communicating more with non-Swedish whisky drinkers, I’ve begun to understand that Mackmyra (and other Swedish brands) is very highly regarded in the rest of Europe. That didn’t seem to be the case in Sweden back then, at least not in whisky nerd circles. I hope it has changed now with all the newer interesting bottlings that have come out of Mackmyra in recent years.
I was asked yesterday why I like Swedish whisky. That was a difficult question!! I’ve never even thought of it. Of course it is because it’s good whisky, but not only. There’s lots of good whisky in the world. But Swedish whisky is also brave and innovative and there are options for every palate. Smögen creates heavily peated whisky that is big and bold in flavour and they always bottle at cask strength (as far as I know). It’s more expensive than many other brands but it is highly appreciated by more experienced whisky drinkers while it can also be a good option for everyone else, if you add some water. Mackmyra is by now known for exploring different cask seasonings that in some cases make people raise their eyebrows (Grönt te, anyone?) and they are famous for their Intelligens whisky, made using AI technology. They also have a nice portfolio of core range whiskies in different categories and at different price levels.
Swedish whisky doesn’t try to copy scotch. Swedish distilleries have made whisky their own, and it’s a category I find interesting and fascinating, as well as good on the palate. There are Swedish whiskies I don’t like much, just as there are Irish or Scottish whiskies I don’t like. But I’m a big fan of Swedish whisky as a category.
Of course, I have a special interest in Swedish whisky also because I’m Swedish, but that would never happen if it wasn’t good whisky.
I’m mostly acquainted with Mackmyra and Smögen, but High Coast is another distillery that is doing some excellent work and I hope to explore their whiskies a bit more in the future. There’s also Hven and Isle of Lime (located at Gotland) distilleries, both of which I don’t know much about yet, and there seem to be quite a few newer Swedish distilleries around too.
Recently one of the UK Mackmyra brand ambassadors helped me to get cask samples over to Ireland, since we can’t travel to Sweden because of the pandemic. I also received some nice surprises – the core range sample pack and a sample of Jaktlycka – because I support and promote them so much on social media… this is going to happen even more now when I have a new shiny Instagram account for this blog. Go there and follow!
These samples are going to generate some blog posts here where I will highlight these core range whiskies and the Jaktlycka. I’m also going to write about my casks and about what to expect when you buy a Mackmyra cask. Mackmyra’s official bottlings are good, in some cases VERY good. But their private casks are superb, and if you have the money you should get one.
Eventually I hope to write about other Swedish brands here too. In April 2017, we met the people from Smögen distillery and tasted some of their whisky. Later, we ended up buying a cask from them too. So, in the future we will have, eh, a couple of bottles of Swedish whisky…
Here’s a nice recording of one of my favourite Swedish traditional tunes, Slängpolska efter Byss-Kalle. This tune originates from Uppland, a region just north of Stockholm, and not far from Mackmyra distillery.