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Marianne is viewed as the ‘godmother’ of the Swedish whisky movement. She recalls early struggles with

Sweden’s tightly controlled liquor laws, which threatened to kill the festival at birth, but which she eventually overcame. But, in many ways, her fight against the system continues, as she lobbies for greater export assistance and freedom for the country’s nascent distilling industry to innovate commercially. “We have no history of whisky here, so we’re making one,” she says. “It’s like when the new Swedish breweries started coming up. They weren’t brewing Swedish beer – they were brewing British, Czech and Belgian beers, and now they’re doing it better than them. The same thing will happen with whisky, so beware!”


Johan started with another whisky-loving friend around two years ago and, in its short life, the Swedish language site has gone from a fun side-project to an influential voice in Swedish whisky. He is now being courted by Scottish

distillers, keen for positive exposure in Sweden. “The industry in Scotland has been quite supportive of the site, as Sweden is becoming a big market for them. “There’s so much more to whisky than what’s in the bottle. I always say to people, you’re not just buying whisky, you’re buying the experience. It’s culture and history and craft, all distilled into your glass.”

treat rope and smoke our meat. The smell and taste of peat makes us feel good, safe and nostalgic.” However, while acknowledging that

Swedes get a lot of genuine pleasure from their dram, Steffo is frustrated by what he sees as a very Swedish kind of one-upmanship or snobbery around the acquisition of knowledge. “Some people tend to accumulate

enough knowledge to show off at a party or survive a dinner; they can tell you an Ardbeg is more than 55ppm, but they can’t explain properly what that means. It’s not enough to just enjoy the taste.” I later put this point to respected

whisky writer Ingvar Ronde (by telephone, sadly, as he lives on the

other side of the country) and asked him how important the social aspect of whisky is among Swedish enthusiasts. “The real question is why have the

Swedes been so keen to embrace whisky in a way that few other countries have,” says the author of the Malt Whisky Yearbook. “The overall alcohol consumption in Sweden has risen over the past few years and for many it is regarded as OK to drink more, as long as you do it in a sophisticated way. That includes being knowledgeable about what you are drinking, how it was made and how it differs from other drinks. “Many Swedes have also travelled

to Scotland to visit distilleries, often combined with golfing and

fishing [two other big interests for many Swedes], so the social aspect is certainly very important.” Whether or not one agrees with Steffo’s

analysis of their motives, it is undeniable that, for a lot of Swedish whisky lovers, the consumption of whisky culture, history and knowledge is as much a part of their enjoyment as the spirit itself. Keen to experience firsthand how

this intense sense of community, knowledge and old-fashioned enjoyment of whisky come together in Sweden, I left Steffo’s apartment and immediately struck out for an evening among Stockholm’s whisky bars.


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