Distillery Focus

A Decade of Challenges

Martine Nouetheads to Sweden to find out what hasbeen happening at the country's foremost distillery
By Martine Nouet
It has been a while since Whisky Magazine visited Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery. At that time, in 2008 (see WM73 for the report by Dominic Roskrow) it was the country’s sole distillery; now there are five. With big expansion plans underway, it is interesting to find out where the distillery, started in 1998 by a group of university pals merely as a youth challenge, stands as we roll into 2012. A lot can happen between visits and indeed it has. It is not a pure coincidence that Mackmyra 7, the last distillery bottling released is called ‘Hope’. “Hope for the future,” Angela d’Orazio, the distillery master blender, explains. “We have achieved a lot in a few years. We stayed more or less local until recently but now we have decided to expand to world markets. I was at Whisky Live in South Africa. I have been to Asia a couple of times as well, Mackmyra is now sold in New York and of course in Europe.” Mackmyra started its business by offering whisky clubs, restaurants and also individual customers the chance to buy 30 litre casks, with the possibility of coming to visit their ‘baby’. This offer was only available to Swedish people. But from 2011, foreigners were able to do the same. The international cask sale was launched on the website in spring. However the big achievement in 2011 was the new distillery, officially opened on 18th December. An impressive tall glass and concrete building, erected in the middle of a fir forest, at Gävle, about 50 miles from the original distillery at the old Mackmyra Bruck. This is a major step forward as the new distillery, with its futurist look, is also an environmental friendly concept, featuring a biopower plant. The distillery is called Gravity as the process operates by gravity. The Tun room is on the top floor, then the washbacks a floor down and the stills on the ground floor. This unit allows production on a much bigger scale. The new distillery will produce three times more than the old one as it will be operated in three shifts. Otherwise the stills have the same size and shape as the original Mackmyra Distillery ones. The old distillery which has a production capacity of 170,000 litres of pure alcohol will carry on distilling. The new one should produce 500,000 litres per year. Another warehouse has been built close to the new distillery. It is half buried and covered by a grass roof, which offers excellent maturation conditions. The small kiln looks a bit anachronistic in this modern environment. It is just a mere metal container, but it is sufficient to provide the peated malt used to distill small quantities of the “smoke” new make, incorporated in some vattings on offer. The owners of Mackmyra intend to build a “Mackmyra Village” around the distillery, which will be home to a large visitor centre and provide facilities for the cask owners who come to sample their investment. That should be finished in 2016. The huge warehouse facilities in Bodäs mine should provide enough maturation space for years. The old mine, which was used to grow mushrooms, is an incredible underground world. The ceaseless ballet of workers carrying casks from one place to the other, taking samples, checking receivers, makes you think of an army of elves preparing orders for Santa Claus’ deliveries! A weird and fascinating place which will get busier and busier in the coming years. Last but not least, Mackmyra has just gone to a Scandinavian stock market called First North. The enthusiasm but also the relaxed and modest attitude of the whole team is exemplary. The numerous maturation experiments, run in small casks, are well thought of and controlled. The elves do not officiate in Frankenstein’s laboratory.Mackmyra has earned its growing popularity worldwide and it will be interesting to sample the “gravity whisky” in a few years. The peat bog bug (this is the meaning of Mackmyra) is obviously flying high! MACKMYRA SPECIAL 6 SUMMER MEADOW 46.8%
Released in summer 2011(20,000 bottles)
Vatting of sherry/Bourbon and new American Oak
Nose: Sherry. Fruit and green toasted notes (fresh bread).
Palate: Full bodied, spicy and oaky. Pepper, chillis. Sweet maltiness too. Barley sugar. Rich and smooth. Orange drop.
Finish: Spicy with a fresh astringent note.
To be paired with lemon posset, a fruit tart or blancmange.MACKMYRA SPECIAL 7 HOPE 45.8%
Released in November 2011 (20,000 bottles)
Cloudberry wine finish Nose: Light and fruity. Cereal, malt extract. Hint of citrus, crushed fresh hazelnuts.
Palate : Sweet and fruity. Good balance with a slight astringency. Spicy, soft spices.
Finish: Very pleasant. Well balanced.
To be paired with shellfish (scallops, langoustines) or fish or sushi MACKMYRA MOMENT DRIVVED (DRIFT WOOD) 45.5%
1,155 bottles (some smoky casks in the vatting) - 8 Years Old
Nose: Earthy smoke. Straw. An animal note like cow’s breath. Smoked apple.
Palate: Gentle smokiness. Slightly spirity. Prickly.
Finish: Bitter chocolate.
To be paired with sardines and balsamic vinegar or mackerel pâté.MACKMYRA MOMENT JORD (EARTH) 45.1%
In the vatting, there are some Bordeaux wine finish casks.
Nose: Malty with some dark fruit note. A hint of orange. Freshly baked bread, jammy marmalade. With water, opening on citrus notes.
Palate: Sweet and smooth with a marzipan aftertaste developing.
Finish: Grapefruit skin.
To be paired with a matured style of cheddar.