The one drawback is becoming a Swedish malt whisky lover is that it does turn you into the chef on the Muppets. It’s hard not to when you order whisky from the Hoga Kusten in the Angerm analven or a Mackymyra Skogshallon or an Appelbom.
“High Coast Distillery” – formerly the Box Distillery- in Adalen in north Sweden boasts that “it’s at the absolute outskirts of the whisky world”. It is also in the middle of a UNESCO Heritage site.
The temperature variations between summer and winter and between day and night are dramatic in Norrland. And get as low as 30 degrees below zero. During hot days, the pressure in the barrels increases, the whisky expands and penetrates deeper into the oak. Temperature changes, as well as sand and carbon filtered Balsjon spring lake water, contribute to master blender Lars Karlsson’s unique flavor development. His “Origins” series includes “Alav” (River), “Berg” (Sea), and “Timmer” (Timber).
Big things are being predicted for Scandinavian spirits. Especially Swedish whisky. Underground as well as off-shore.
Sweden has joined the New World whisky order. Hvan Backafallsbyn Distillery is on Hven island in Oresund between Denmark and Sweden. The distillery is also a four-star hotel. All the whiskies are bottled without additives or carbon/chill filtering.
Mackmyra – named after local moths – unveiled Björksav, a whisky finished in birch sap wine casks from Per Fritzell’s Grythyttan vineyard in Orebro. Like all Mackmyra releases, the whisky is aged in Bodås Mine, a former iron mine repurposed to store casks. The Valbo Distillery, founded by eight engineering students from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, produced Brukswhisky in 2010.
“Björksav evokes that feeling of spring,” says Master Blender Angela D’Orazio. The distillery releases two new limited seasonal editions every year for the last sixteen. Bottled at 46.1% ABV, Mackmyra Björksav costs £59.90 ($83 USD).
They also produce Vintersol (Winter Sun) aged in port casks and a harvest edition.
“Skeppets” was Sweden’s first whisky. In 1955, two small pot stills were bought from Lowlands in Scotland. The name and the label were inspired by the seventeenth-century Swedish royal ship, Vasa. The first bottles, released in 1961 and now collectors’ items, were a blend of 55 percent malt and 45 percent grain whisky.
Sweden now has a dozen or so distilleries. In the Baltic Sea, the limestone-rich island of Gotland is one of the oldest. Gotland Distillery’s “Isle of Lime Midaik” release is the latest addition to its increasingly impressive portfolio. It’s made solely in American bourbon Quercus alba casks. The whisky is matured for between 3,5 and 4,5 years.
The name Midaik comes from two oaks trees on a trading route where merchants met on their way from the east side of the island to the commercial town of Visby. The grain is cultured on Gotland and 100% organic. The barley is malted and smoked on the south-eastern part of the island in Ronehamn. This process occurs in homemade malting and smoking equipment, unique to Gotland. It guarantees 100% evenly distributed malt where every barley, as well as germ, achieves the same level of smokiness. Distillation occurs in an old sugar factory. The Master of Malt is Stefan Larsson.
In 2013 Smogen, near Hunnesbostrand, released its very first single malt whisky, named Primör. When the casks for Primör were emptied, more spirit was put into them and left to mature – and the resulting whisky is Primör Revisited.
Swedish whisky appreciation is growing all the time. Mackmyra makes Jaktlycka which means “Happy Hunting”. But get ready to be mistaken for a Muppet. Especially when you start enthusing about the Enkoping barley and peat from Osterfarnebo!