SnapShot: Northern Exposure (Whiskies from Sweden)

SnapShot is a new type of feature we’re trying here at Scotchology, specifically geared for sampling groups of whiskies that belong together for some reason or are in small quantities. Eschewing many of the finer details normally found in our standard reviews, this is meant to be our quick reactions instead of a deep dive. Also unlike our normal reviews, we’ll be grouping these impressions together instead of breaking them out by individual. Rapid fire by the dram, if you will, and very unfiltered.  In other words, this is as close as you’re likely to get to sitting at the table with us as we venture into the unknown. There are currently no plans to schedule these beyond when the opportunity arises. First up is a Swedish whisky set we put together from Master of Malt!

Mackmyra Moment: Skog |Link|- There’s a bright spring floral scent that dominates the nose. Orange blossom, pear, honey, apple, palms in general. Definitely some wood elements with a touch of chocolate. A little water is needed to calm the high abv, and it’ll get hotter first before settling down. A berry flavor is present among the strong wood. With enough water, a sweet smoke tobacco element opens in the nose, followed by chocolate in the empty glass. Honey and pear on the palate with a little smoke in the finish, which lingers and numbs. There’s an astringent quality to it along with tannins, centering in the chest and lasting, yet also dry. Reminds us of a Highland scotch in some ways.

Mackmyra Moment: Fenix |Link|- Oh my God, this smells like the Deerstalker 18. Creamsicle and honey on the nose, along with some citrus. Very floral. White peach. Very Japanese, like a Yamazaki in parts. And, dare we say it, cassoulette. Palate is orange, spice, leather, birch and cedar. Finish stays in the mouth, simply continuing the flavors from the palate with added birch sap. Ends like the Deerstalker too. Gets smoother the longer it sits in your glass. Damn. Empty glass smells of birch, in the most gorgeous, perfume-y way. This isn’t yummy, it’s sexy.

Mackmyra Moment: Ægirs Bior |Link|- There’s green apple on the nose with a little vanilla before moving to ripe pear. A few drops of water brings out the pear even more. Very beautiful. Oaky on the palate, along with pear. Red grapefruit too. After it sits in your glass for a while, the pear moves to the background and you get more wildflowers and fresh-cut grass. The finish causes us to salivate a great deal (no, like, really), even though it’s fairly short. There is a lingering sweetness, however. Reminds us of the Knappogue Castle 12 or a Lowland scotch. A spectacular summer whisky. Very fresh and surprisingly complex.

Spirit of Hven: Seven Stars No. 1 Dubhe |Link|- Sweet candied orange peel on the nose, with smoke. Connemara-style peat smoke, turfy on the palate, and also some leather. Water alters flavors in a fascinating way. Chocolate rises in the nose. After letting it sit, rose hips come out. A unique experience. Very tasty. A complex whisky full of layers of taste. The finish is resilient. Where did it go? How did our glasses get empty?

Smögen Single Cask No. 3 2010 (cask strength) |Link|- Red wine and peat on the nose, with some tanned leather if you breathe deeply. Red wine fades eventually as peat comes to the fore. Water takes off the edge and brings out the leather, along with making it drinkable. Smoke, and sweet like already-chewed bubblegum. The finish shows on the sides of the tongue and hangs for a while, more a continuation of the palate than a stark shift. Doesn’t sink into the chest either but remains in the mouth. Peat turns into smoke on the finish with a little oil in the mouthfeel. It persists, like an Islay. 

Conclusion: It should be evident from the above notes that we were very impressed with all five whiskies we tried. While some stood out more than others (Fenix & Smögen), all of them were distinct, capturing a unique sense of place and character. Because the Swedish whisky scene is so new – many of these distilleries are 10-15 years old at most – almost all the ones featured above are very limited and thus almost impossible to find outside of the samples market. We were lucky to get hold of the Mackmyra First Edition when we did, as it has now disappeared. While that is sad for us in the present, it says good things about where whisky making in Sweden is going and we hope to see more great things from them in the years ahead.