Mackmyra started back in March 1999 after 8 whisky loving friends realised there were no whisky distilleries in Sweden. Sweden doesn’t have a history in whisky making, but there was plenty of opportunity around them that made it the perfect setting for the first Swedish single malt. Firstly, they have some incredibly pure water, a key ingredient in any spirit. Secondly, they are plentiful on barley that has a slightly sweeter edge due to the long summers days, and thirdly, they are surrounded by Swedish oak trees which give a unique flavour. Swedish oak trees grow in much different manner to an English oak tree. Because of their harsh climate, they grow very tall and straight up making the grain tighter which gives the wood more concentrated flavours. There’s more of a rich, fragrant spice that comes from this oak. With this all in mind, the 8 founders registered the company, applied for the 50 or so permits needed and created Mackmyra Whisky, named after the village it was first established in. 

21 years down the line and Mackmyra has grown to be a key player in the global whisky market, proving that it’s not just the Scotts that know how to make a good dram. The experimental curiosity that kick-started the company still remains as they explore innovative ways of creating exceptional and unusual whiskies but, another important factor has also become one of their key principles: sustainability. From the very beginning, the idea was to make a something Swedish using Swedish ingredients. With this in mind, they source all of their barley within a 100km range of the distillery. 100km sounds like a large distance but considering Sweden is approximately 450,000 km², it’s a pretty small area! They also use a traditional, iconic Swedish yeast called Kronjäst, often used in sweet doughs, to ferment the barley. 

In 2011, they opened their brand new gravity distillery in Gävle, 6 km away from the old distillery. The gravity distillery saves about 45% of energy as they work hard to ensure energy is reused and sustainable throughout every step. The heat generated through the production process is kept and used in two thermally insulted tanks as hot water; they use a biomass plant for carbon neutral fuel to fire the stills; they give the stillage (a waste product of distillation) to a biogas plant to be turned in to biogas and bio fertiliser and the distillery itself sits in protected forest. Their old distillery has not been left to ruin and now houses their gin production- I would recommend trying their gins too, they are just as great as the whiskies.

So what an earth does gravity distillation mean? Well, it is a much more efficient way of distilling. The malted barley starts at the very top of the distillery on floors 6 & 7 where it is sieved clean. It then moves down to floor 5 to go through the mill and be broken up in to different milling grades. Once milling is done, it goes into the mash tun for the sugars to be extracted. Off it then goes to floor 3 in to the fermentation room. Mackmyra have a long, slow and cool fermentation of about 4 days to allow greater depth and more complex flavours. After 4 days, they are left with the wash- a beer like liquid at around 7% alcohol that’s now ready for the still. Distillation takes place on floor 2 in traditional onion shaped cooper pot stills. These are heated using bio-fuel from a plant next door to the distillery. As with all spirit making, there is a ‘heart’ of a spirit. This is the good bit, the bit with all the right flavours and compounds. The ‘heads’ and the ‘tails’ of the spirit are things that aren’t wanted or are unusable in spirit making. Even these bits don’t go to waste and are fed back in to the still to be redistilled with the next batch. It takes skill to know when exactly to cut the heart from the run but using their powerful senses of smell and by measuring the alcohol content, they know when they have the best part of the spirit. Finally, the new-make spirit runs down to floor 1 ready to be stored, mixed with 3-4 other batches and diluted to around 63%. It then goes to Mackmyra’s warehouse to be lay to rest in a whole variety of casks. 

Mackmyra’s main warehouse is 50 metres underground in the side of a mountain. It’s an old mine, that also once housed a mushroom farm, with 10 vast rooms filled with all kinds of whisky. The conditions are ideal: the temperature stays around 7-10 degrees and it’s high in humidity meaning the whisky matures consistently and evaporation is kept to a minimum. I mentioned that they use Swedish oak to age their whiskies but these are not the only casks down in the mine. Most of their bottling use a variety of casks. The majority of their whiskies use not only Swedish oak, but a mixture of first fill Bourbon cask and Olorosso casks. There’s also some whiskies that use some pretty special casks like an ex calvados cask from Christian Dourin used to make the delicious Appel Blom.

The person in charge of this process is Master Distiller and Chief Nose Officer (yes this is an actual job title!) is Angela D’Orazio. An actual whisky legend, she was inducted in to the whisky hall of fame in 2019. Although, this isn’t her only accolade, Angela has built up many across the years and has become a well known figure in the whisky industry. She joined Mackmyra in 2004 and is responsible for the a whole host of things. From choosing the blends and recipes, to ensuring the quality of each whisky and maintaining the maturing stock, Angela is a busy woman! As a female master distiller, she joins a handful of women making serious waves in the whisky world. 
Now to the important part, the whiskies themselves. One of the great things we love about Mackmyra is that the whiskies have such great layered complexity but done subtly. Pour a dram and try it. Leave it for 20 minutes and see how it changes. Add a drop of water and see how it changes again. The layers are there but they don’t slap in the face; everything is integrated to create a wonderful balance. Don’t forget, these were some of my personal notes, there is no right or wrong when it comes to what you can taste!
Mack by Mackmyra, 40%
This is their first bottling at 40% and the first to be made at their gravity distillery. Released in early 2017, it’s a versatile whisky that’s just as good on the rocks as it is in cocktails. Made of a blend of whiskies under 5 years old, it’s full of foam bananas, toffee, caramel, pear, citrus and vanilla. It’s the only whisky to be aged completely in American oak- a mixture of first fill and refill bourbon. This is also the only whisky in their range that’s chill-filtered and has added caramel colouring. Whisky purist may discount this as being a serious whisky but chill-filtering doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, for the purpose of Mack’s use, the removal of the fatty acids works well. It stops it from clouding when over ice or in cocktails. It’s also worth mentioning that Mackmyra are one of the only distilleries that are upfront and honest about this…
Bruks, 41.1%
The name Bruks comes from the village the old distillery is in, Mackmyra Bruk. Mackmyra roughly translates to ‘midge-y swap’ (as in the annoying little midge-y flies that are out and about during the summer) and bruk translates to mean mill, forge or work. It can also mean regular so the name is a representation of its place of birth. The Bruks is a fresher style than the Mack with lots of pleasant tropical, apple and floral notes. There’s elements of lemon sherbet and almond that give a touch of sweetness along with honeysuckle, bananas and a little spice. Stocks in this blend are from casks between 7-12 years old, meaning it’s a blend of whisky from move distilleries, with some coming from peated malt. The casks are a mix of first fill bourbon, Swedish oak and ex-oloroso. It’s a perfect all round whisky, not exactly peaty but not too sweet or buttery and great for spring/summer whisky drinking. There’s a reason why Bruks is the most popular seller in the UK and in the shop!
Svensk Ek, 46.1%
With the name meaning ‘Swedish oak’ this whisky showcases just how the tight grain effects the whisky. It has a much woodier, earthy flavour profile to it than the Bruks. The whisky is aged in ex-bourbon and Swedish oak with at least 10% of the Swedish oak being brand new. It’s toasty and spicy, full of cinnamon and nutmeg. There’s also more of a nuttiness in it along with sandalwood and shavings (imagine the smell of the wood when you’ve just sharpened a pencil or what I imagine cutting blocks of wood smells like. FYI, I haven’t cut wood up before so it’s a guess as to what it would smell like!). That being said, it’s still got a lovely freshness to it and not overly heavy. Add a drop of water and the nuttiness increases as do the fragrant spices. It also becomes drier and more earthy. Svensk Ek is definitely more of an Autumn/ Winter whisky, it’s just got that lovely warming sense to it.
Svensk Rok, 46.1%
Whilst the Svensk Ek was all about Swedish oak, the Svensk Rok is all about Swedish smoke. The peaty one of the range, the Rok is not your average smokey whisky. Juniper has been used to season foods in Sweden for generations and the same principle is applied here: juniper is used alongside peat to smoke the barley, almost seasoning the smoke. No berries are used, just the twigs and needles as the juniper bushes they collect from are protected. The smoked whisky is produced to about 55/60 ppm which is pretty heavily peated. However, Svensk Rok is 1/3 smoked whisky and 2/3 unsmoked which brings the peat in to balance. A much more fragrant style of smokey whisky, the juniper adds a wonderful herbal, piney freshness. The smoke isn’t that overpowering medicinal smell you might get from other heavily peated whiskies, but sweeter and spicy. There’s layers of zingy citrus fruits, green fruits and a little saltiness. Casks for this whisky were up to 14 years old and a mix of Swedish, ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso. This was one of the favourites from the evening and, tasting it, it’s clear to see why. I usually don’t go for smokey whiskies but this took me by surprise. It is one of those whiskies to convert people like me that peated malts are they way forward…
Gront Te, 46.1%
Gront Te is part of Mackmyra’s seasonal range. Each year Mackmyra bring out two new whiskies that focus on the more unusual styles and allow Angela to be a little more experimental with her offerings. They’re designed to reflect the upcoming seasons and Gront Te is no different, it’s certainly a spring time dram! For this blend, Angela brought her passion for travel to her whisky making and collaborated with Japanese tea expert, Yuko Ono. She started her company in 2006 when she felt there were no quality Japanese teas available to the Swedish market and being from a Japanese family of tea growers, she was in the ideal position to change the situation. So, with that being said, you can probably take a guess as to what this is about. The whisky spends time in the usual barrels, first fill bourbon, Swedish oak and ex-oloroso, but it also spends time in a newly saturated ex-oloroso barrel that has been seasoned with some of Yuko Ono’s teas. Four different matcha and sensha teas were macerated in a liquid and left to infuse into the grain before being drained and refilled with the whisky. The result is beautifully delicate dram with subtle notes of peach, white pepper, citrus, tart forest fruits and a creamy, slightly vanilla custard-like taste. It’s grassy and fresh with all the floral, herbal notes you’d expect from the teas. It’s really delicious, different, but delicious. I can imagine this with some well made sushi being fantastic!
Vintersol, 46.1%
Another from the seasonal range but this time we have something for the winter time. Vintersol, or ‘winter sun’, was designed to transport Swedes to the sunny climate of Portugal during the long, harsh winter months. It’s a collaboration with Quinta Do Vallado, a well established and historic port house in Douro Valley. In fact, it’s one of the oldest houses founded back in 1716! The whisky follow a similar pattern to Mackmyra’s other whiskies using a mix of new fill bourbon, Swedish and oloroso casks. There’s also a touch of new American oak in there too. However, it’s then vatted and aged in ex-port casks. Vintersol is certainly a richer style of whisky, full of the classic port flavours. Think juicy red fruits, blackcurrants and brambles with vanilla, strawberries and cream and little bit of chocolate. It’s not all big juicy flavours though, there’s elements of spicy ginger and floral notes. Above all, it’s bright and certainly reminiscent of a Mediterranean summer.
Moment Karibien Cask, 44.4%
Time to finish with something a bit special. The Moment series from Mackmyra is a range of incredibly exclusive whiskies. During regular tastings, there will occasionally be a cask that stands out from the rest; an exceptional cask that needs its own bottling to be showcased. This last whisky is the Karibien cask which is a collaboration with Plantation Rum. Around 75% of the whisky is aged in ex Barbados and Jamaican rum casks from Plantation with the remaining 25% being a mix of oloroso, ex-bourbon and cherry wine casks. Stocks for this are aged between 8 and 12 years old. If you’re both a whisky and rum drinker, this might be the ideal dram for you. The result is a whisky with a rum like quality brimming with fine tropical fruits, caramel and honey. It’s robust but has a rounded sweetness and spice with an ever changing nose. A complex and delicious mix of fine rum and Mackmyra whisky.
The favourites of the night were Svensk Rok, Gront Te and Vintersol. My personal favourite was a toss up between Svensk Rok and Gront Te, however, I think the Gront Te just takes first place. Ask me in Autumn and I might have changed my mind. The thing that struck me about these whiskies is that there really is an incredibly well-made style to suit all palates. Whether it’s something unusual and a bit wacky or something more tame and laid back, Mackmyra doesn’t seem to have to conform to a certain style. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with having a particular style or being determined by the region, it’s just refreshing to see such a wide range under one brand and know that they are all of excellent quality.

If you'd like more information Mackmyra have lots of information on their website for further reading and you can browse the full range here.
Virtual tastings are looking like they will be the norm until later in the year and, although it's not quite the same dynamic, the feedback was all pretty good. We're looking forward to bringing you more in the coming months and glad to see everyone getting involved- we've got a sold out gin tasting coming up with demand for a second! So, we'd like to say a huge thank you to you, our customers, for continuing to support us through all of this.

I'll also admit that this is a little more lengthy than I had anticipated, however, our tastings tend to cover a fair amount of detail! Hopefully it provides you with some insight in to our tastings and gives you an idea of what to expect for future virtual events. 

Stay safe. 

StarmoreBoss x

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