24 • FEATURE: SWEDEN
bottlings and more expensive limited runs, special editions and curios. Many take the wholly understandable
view that Systembolaget is something of an anachronism, or even a threat to Sweden’s nascent whisky industry. However, it has responded to growing public demand by improving its whisky selection dramatically in recent years, as well as providing an albeit expensive bespoke import service for any bottling not on its list. With a good supply of interesting Scotch
malt whisky and a hugely enthusiastic, well-informed community of whisky lovers, the fi nal piece of Sweden’s whisky puzzle is an indigenous distilling industry. For the past decade, Swedish whisky has been synonymous with one name: Mackmyra – the distillery that began production in 2001 and released its fi rst
bottlings, to much fanfare, in 2006. Mackmyra has set out from day one to
create a recognisably Swedish whisky, beholden to no existing distilling tradition. “The most important thing that we still live by is that we will not try to make a copy of a Scotch,” says Mackmyra marketing director Rikard Lundborg. “Scotland has more than 100 malt distilleries and many more brands, most of which have been around for more than 150 years. Why would we try and add another one? Even if we got close in quality, ours would probably be much more expensive. “That decision made everything so much easier, because we could say we will honour the tradition of making malt whisky, but still be as innovative as we want. So, we stress the diff erences between Scotch, Irish, Canadian,
Maturing market 1. MACKMYRA, Valbo
Established in 1999, Mackmyra is the oldest and best known of Sweden’s distilleries. It essentially bottles two lines; a fruity, Speyside- style whisky and a smoky malt, which takes its flavour from juniper wood and bog moss smoke. A second distillery is being built.
2. SPIRIT OF HVEN, Ven
In 2007, Spirit of Hven became the second Swedish distillery to open its doors. Its founder, owner and head distiller Henric Molin is a trained chemist and takes a distinctly scientific approach to the production process.
3. SMÖGEN WHISKY, Hunnebostrand Beginning production i n 2010, Smogen is the brainchild of whisky author and former lawyer Pär Caldenby. Pär uses heavily peated malt from Scotland.
4. BOX DESTILLERI , Bjärtrå
Also firing up its stills for the first time in 2010 (though founded in 2005), Box is aiming to hit the market in 2013 with both fruity and peated recipes.
5. GRYTHYTTAN WHISKY, Lillkyrka Founded in 2007, Grythyttan is working on both unpeated and unpeated recipes. Release dates have not yet been set.
6. NORRTELJE BRENNERI Norrtälje
The first whisky from this distillery, expected in 2013, will be matured in Olorosso casks, then finished in French oak previously used to hold the distillery’s own apple spirit.
7. BERGSLAGENS DESTILLERI, Nora
The distillery was founded in 2009 in the historic brewing area of Nora. The facility is in the process of being set up and is expected to be ready to start production later this year. The distillery will also be home to the Swedish branch of SMWS.
8. GOTLAND WHISKY, Gotland Gotland is under construction, with production of its first whisky expected to start soon.
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY 2 3 8 7 5 1 6 4
bourbon and Japanese, and, ultimately, we want to add Sweden as a distinct whisky-producing country, with its own unique characteristics. And, since we were the fi rst, it was pretty much up to us to decide how that might start.” The team at Mackmyra took this responsibility seriously, building their own 30-litre test still and trialling around 180 diff erent recipes, with very little external advice. The outcome of this process is a whisky deeply Swedish in its provenance, using Swedish barley, malted in Sweden, fermented with Swedish yeast and matured in Swedish oak, sourced from a forest originally planted for the Swedish Navy.
MACKMYRA RELEASED THE FIRST S ‘SWEDISH PRELUDIUM:01
INGLE MALT’ IN 2006 –
But is it any good? Opinion was divided among the whisky lovers I spoke to, with the consensus view being that some early mistakes had been made but quickly rectifi ed, and that the distillery is now producing some excellent drams. I tried Mackmyra’s limited “No.6” bottling and found it to be very easy drinking; light, fl oral and peppery with little of the immature sharpness, which had apparently
dogged earlier expressions. Today, more than a decade after Mackmyra fi red up its still for the fi rst time, the trickle of indigenous Swedish whisky seems set to become a cascade, with several distilleries under construction or already laying down stock (see left). Mackmyra’s original vision has
clearly left its mark on this new cohort, with the idea of a “Swedish” whisky (whatever they may turn out to be) now fi rmly embedded. Another interesting quirk that the burgeoning industry seems to have inherited from its older cousin is the practice of producing both unpeated and peated whiskies in the same distillery, under the same brand. Yet, each distillery is fastidiously carving
out its own path, feeding on the sense of excitement and exploration which permeates Swedish whisky culture. As fi nal consideration, it would be easy
to assume from my brief adventure that Sweden’s whisky culture was focused entirely around Stockholm. In truth, the real explosion in whisky clubs can be found in more rural areas, where even the smallest outcrop of homes is likely to have some kind of formal or informal collective, sharing knowledge and the cost of a good bottle. In the best Swedish social democratic
tradition, whisky is not a drink for grandfathers, city professionals, or devotees with too much time on their hands. It is being drunk, discussed and enjoyed across society. And, with a groundswell of new distilleries to call its own, Sweden’s whisky future seems bright indeed.
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