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Swedish whisky is on the rise and leading the charge is Mackmyra. Established in 1999, the distillery was a trailblazer for a series of subsequent Swedish distilleries in the form of Box, Gammelstilla, Smogen, Spirit of Hven and others that we are now seeing on the international market.
The original distillery is located in eastern Sweden, a hundred miles or so north of Stockholm on the site of a former mill. A conversation amongst friends and a question in 1998 around whisky and why as a country, Sweden did not have its own producer led to the foundation of the distillery. Seed planetd, work commenced on putting a wrong to right and only a year later, the spirit flowed and Mackmyra was born.
The distillery has been focused around exploring Swedish flavours whilst working in tandem with nature and a series of releases built momentum. With success, new warehousing was utilised across the country as demand continued to grow. Rather than expand and develop the existing site, a new concept was designed and built at Gavle in 2012; a few miles from the original distillery. This new venture was dubbed the gravity distillery set within the Mackmyra whisky village.
The new distillery externally is a typical representation of Swedish efficiency. A dominant futuristic structure with a height of 35 metres, the elements of distilling are broken down into stages as you’d expect but the layout takes advantages of natural forces. With the milling and mashing performed on the top level – along with a tasting area of course – the liquid then trickles down to the stills themselves with casks being filled on ground level. Just a pair of stills from Forsyth’s in Scotland are utilised in this futuristic design that forms the centrepiece of the Village concept. The stills themselves are very streamlined with long sweeping necks to keep the flavours pure without too much reflux.
Even though concrete warehousing was built as part of the new distillery – to avoid the extremes of the Swedish climate – Mackmyra still prefers to utilise several warehouses in various locations across the country. These warehouse locations vary greatly in terms of setting and potentially the final end product. The distillery has made a name for its by pursuing the use of small casks normally 30 litres in size, which are much smaller than the traditional Quarter casks used by some Scottish distilleries. These turbocharge the maturation and allow greater interaction with the wood over a shorter period of time. The end results are often whiskies that may seem younger in age and stature, but have experienced an efficient style of maturation with flavours to match.
Earlier in 2017, Mackmyra revealed it was revamping its original distillery site that had been dormant since 2012 to take advantage of the current craft boom around spirits in general. This would allow potential distillers with innovative ideas to be able to see their concepts come to fruition minus the burden of start-up costs. These experimental batches will then be presented as part of the annual Mackmyra festival under the new name of the Lab distillery.
For now, the existing distillery produces 3 distinct styles of malt with an unpeated allowing the fruity characteristics to come through. Also on offer is a lightly smoky malt and a heavily smoked equivalent that are smoked through the use of local juniper wood and moss rather than the traditional Scottish use of peat. You can trace the origins of their whiskies via the Vit Hund or White Dog release that offers the new make spirit from the stills but watered down to a digestible 46.1% strength. The existing core range features whiskies from both distilleries and is often enhanced by the introduction of limited expressions such as single casks within the Moments range. These can feature unusual cask types for Mackmyra such as Sauternes wine casks that were found in an Bodas mine, or Korsbar that resided within casks that formerly held a sweet cherry wine.
The staple release is the 10 year old that is presented in a style reminiscent of Bruichladdich that heralds from the original distillery. Then there are unsmoked expressions, no age statements and releases that suggest the new modern distillery is more than capable of experimenting itself. Such as the Skordetid bottling that was initially matured in the aforementioned mine before being finished in Italian Masi Amarone casks. Always expect the unexpected from Mackmyra as it looks to the future.