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Patrik (right) and Bergslagens

Destilleri CEO and SMWS co-founder Mats Lihnell on

Skeppsholmsbron bridge, Stockholm


The town of Nora is a couple of hours outside Stockholm, set squarely on the tourist trail in the heart of Sweden’s stunning countryside. It is also home to Bergslagens Destilleri, one of the largest of a new crop of distilleries currently springing up around the country. When completed in a few months’ time,

Bergslagens Destilleri will produce around 1.2 million bottles per year and offer a visitor tour, restaurant and shop, whisky academy and conference facilites. Although its recipe

is yet to be finalised, we are told to expect something delicate and medium-sweet, in a Speyside style. Bergslagens Destilleri will also host

Sweden’s new Scotch Malt Whisky Society branch and bar, founded by Jill and Mats Lihnell and Bo and Ann-Sofi Lindell, and managed by Patrik Axelsson. “The whole idea of single malt, single cask whiskies really appeals to Swedes’ sense of curiosity and appetite for unique produce,” says Patrik. “Even though it’s still early days, our membership is growing quickly and, particularly with the branch we’re building here, I think we’re going to create a great experience.”

Bergslagens Destilleri is making its home in a disused munitions factory (curiously, the Swedish branch’s collection of Society bottlings is kept in a steel-doored, triple- locked, stone-walled gunpowder store). It is a surprisingly elegant building, which Mats Lihnell says is perfectly suited for both distilling and the new Society bar. “The distillery is situated in the middle of a traditional commune with other craft businesses – artists, carpenters, bakers – with a beautiful stream running right alongside us and plenty of space for visitors. We’re very excited about welcoming members soon.”

impromptu tasting of various drams. Like the Enthusiasts group, they had an obvious passion for single malts. “I think we have a strong bond with

whisky and Scotland because of our shared history and because we are culturally quite similar,” said Jim. “Although Scotch isn’t part of our national tradition, it has been quite easy for us to adopt it. I hope over time we can have our own whisky culture which respects that tradition.” Despite having spent only a little time with local whisky drinkers, I found myself reluctant to agree with Steffo’s view that whisky interest is largely driven by snobbery. While the individuals he describes no doubt

exist (as they do in Scotland), those with whom I was fortunate enough to share a dram seemed more eager to listen and discuss than to show off their often considerable knowledge. This distinction was echoed by

whisky blogger Johan Baeckstrom of, when we met up for a restorative lunch the next day. “I get both kinds of people on the

website,” he said. “Some definitely think there’s a status thing around knowing about and owning expensive whisky. That kind of snobbery is certainly quite common here, but we wouldn’t be one of the world’s largest markets for single malt whisky if that were the whole story. “I’d say the majority of people just

want to learn because they enjoy learning, and to enhance their understanding and enjoyment.” One of the most curious aspects of the Swedish whisky market is that all sales outside restaurants and bars are conducted through a single, state-owned monopoly retailer, Systembolaget. It is not even permitted for breweries and distilleries to sell their own produce on-site. The central Stockholm Systembolaget

is a brightly lit and well-organised smorgasbord of beers, wines and spirits, with a decent whisky section divided into standard supermarket


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