If you ask a sample of whisky lovers about Swedish whisky, most will tell you that this industry began when Mackmyra burst onto the scene with immense acclaim in 2006. However, the country actually had another whisky distillery which was established in the fifties. Skeppets Distillery had a short but notable run, but closed in 1970 and was soon forgotten. However, Sweden is predicted to become one of the most notable whisky distillers on the market in just years.
Mackmyra: The Swedish Sensation
Mackmyra hit the market in 2006 and became a seemingly overnight sensation with their award-winning Preludium. However, this success hardly occurred overnight. The distillery began when eight former classmates from Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology began experimenting with whisky making. They used some traditional methods but also brought a whole new, Swedish flavor to the spirit. Over 150 different whisky “recipes” were used, with different types of barley, a wide range of fuel sources, different types of yeast, fermentation periods, and still types. The fuel choices were especially avant-garde, with not just peat, but juniper, spruce, and other local woods used as a smoke source.
A variety of barrels were tried as well, including a range of sizes and a range of materials. In addition to the usual recycled bourbon and sherry casks, barrels made of new Swedish oak are being tried experimentally. 3000 liters (about 50 barrels) from this period of experimentation are being aged and will be released in the future. These are stored in the Mackmyra distillery’s buildings, which are national landmarks and thus have been only minimally changed in the course of being converted to a distillery.
So far, the Mackmyra whiskies have had a few things in common that could be called a terroir in the making. Ripe fruit and berry flavors and smells seem common in all of the whiskies, along with smooth and smoky flavors that blend seamlessly with the fruit. The most common thread seems to be balance; the Mackmyra whiskies all have a calm and well-balanced nature that pleases almost everyone who tastes it. These aspects are likely due as much to expert handling and experimentation as whisky terroir, so we look forward to trying new Swedish whiskies as they enter the market.
The Future of the Industry
Since the success of Mackmyra, several new Swedish whisky distilleries have been established. Spirit of Hven began distillation in 2008 and plans to release their first batch in 2012—just next year. Smogen and Grythyttan are two distilleries that were established in 2010. Several other Swedish distilleries are in the early stages of beginning operations. These distilleries all have several advantages over new distilleries in other parts of the world: the momentum created by Mackmyra and a generally good view of this national industry throughout the world.
The Swedish industry may be young, but everyone has to start somewhere. With the highly acclaimed Swedish brand Mackmyra Distillery releasing new and interesting malts every year and new distilleries preparing to make their first releases in the next year, it is easy to predict a bright future for the industry.