Mackmyra and the Edinburgh Whisky Blog Grass Root Distilling Project

Mackmyra, Templeton Distillery, Wasmund's Distillery, Daftmill Distillery

Small distillers and the Plan

My plan for my next few posts is to concentrate on small distillers. The image at the top is of Templeton (reviewed here), Wasmund (reviewed here), Mackmyra (reviewed below) and Daftmill (review coming soon). After these posts, there will be posts on the Distilleries that are in the planning stages (The London Single Malt Distillery and Kingsbarn’s Distillery) and posts on as many other small distilleries as I can get to in the next few months (I am looking at Adnam’s, The English Distillery, Penderyn, and the Lake District Distilling Project). Why have I gone down this route, you may ask? Well, let me explain…

In the beginning

When Lucas and I started Edinburgh Whisky Blog, our concentration and focus was mainly on the big, well known and well established whisky brands in Scotland. There are many reasons we started by tasting and reviewing the big boys e.g; Highland Park 18, Lagavulin 16, Old Pultney 12, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Macallan 18 and the like. Being tour guides at the Scotch Whisky Experience (at the time) meant we knew quite a bit about big Scotch brands (and not so much about less common members of the spirits family), and we had tasted the more common whiskies. It also gave our young site some sort of credibility, so that when people visited, they knew they could find reviews of a whisky they would find in their local bar.

 (So young)

It’s pretty much where most whisky review sites start. Review the big boys first, and then start to become more specific, as your interests become more specific. Also we could access all these whiskies in the bar we worked in, so it meant we could review lots and lots of whiskies quickly, and when you are at the beginning, you want to write every day, so as to entice more readers and cover lots of topics quickly. And to be frank, at the beginning, it was the big brands that sent us samples. Being poverty stricken students with part time jobs at the time, people who send you samples are always going to get reviews (although they found out that if we didn’t like a whisky, we really let them have it!)

And then, my interests became specific. Not weird, just specific (it sounds like I am describing some fetish, which I’m not!) 

I started to become more interested in the smaller distillers. These are the experimental, new kids on the block with crazy ideas about each step of the process. Their experimental nature attracted me to them. Many of them (particularly foreign ones) are not bound by regulations and tradition, and in many ways are motivated to try something completely different to create their own whisky, so that they can create their own style and heritage. It makes sense that when you start up; you try and stand out from the crowd. Pay homage and respect to the well-established big boys, but don’t copy them, as they are very successful at what they do, and they have been doing it for a long time. I started by writing about a couple of small distillers in the States although I sadly couldn’t visit them. Now I am going to take a look at some of Europe and the UK’s bright young things (and hopefully visit as many of them as possible!)

This is where my trip to Mackmyra comes in…

Mackmyra

My adventure to Mackmyra was my first trip abroad (I’m not counting Ireland as abroad) to see a distillery. I visited Stockholm about 8 years ago and loved it, so my thought process was to go to Stockholm for a long weekend and spend half the time in Mackmyra (about an hour and a half on the train from Stockholm), checking out what they were up to and the other half of the time enjoying this magnificent city.

 

 (Stockholm; a great city)

Another bonus to visiting Stockholm (there are many good reasons to visit, it is lovely) was to experience some of the passion Sweden has for whisky that I had heard so much about from Swedes visiting Scotland.

Mackmyra’s Story

Mackmyra began as an idea 8 friends had on a Ski holiday in 1998. They were a talented bunch of engineers and chemists who had met at Uni and were going on a Ski holiday to blow off steam. They had gone to a lodge in the North of Sweden, and they had each taken a bottle of Scotch as a gift for the host. Soon drinking ensued and the conversation turned to the valid question: “why was there no whisky made in Sweden?” It’s a good question to ask, and they talked about it all through the night. The next day, they all woke with pretty sore heads, but the idea was still there. “Why don’t we use our skills and make a Swedish Single Malt!” and that’s what they did.

First Stage

From 1998 to 2002, they spent their time trying out different recipes. Different barley strains, different oaks and different cuts of spirit. Their original, homemade still made 30 litre batches of spirit, hence why 30 litre casks were experimented with.

They also visited several distilleries in Scotland to garner some useful production information and to gain an insight into their ethos and philosophy when it comes to making whisky.

This is why I like Mackmyra so much. From looking at Scotland, they vowed to make whisky in their own style. A Swedish style and by that I mean:

  • 30 litre barrels for some of the spirit, hundred litre barrels for other spirit, 200 litre barrels for other spirit.
  • Swedish Oak, ex sherry European oak and ex bourbon American oak.
  • Local peated barley, with the peat mixed with local juniper.
  • Whisky matured in disused mines to regulate temperature and keep the whisky safe from the warehouse roof collapse we have to deal with in Scotland.

All of these different variables create their house style and their ethos. Similar to Scotland, but also completely different. Quite refreshing from my point of view.

In 2002, they purchased stills from Forsyth’s in Speyside, and from since then; production, availability and as a consequence; popularity has gone through the roof. So much so, that they have built a second distillery (work began in early 2011, was completed late 2011 and the distillery was in full production when I visited) and they are looking to invest in a potential 3rd distillery, although this is some time in the future. The new distillery is a gravity distillery, which I will to endeavour to explain, once I fully understand it!

(Mackmyra’s second distillery; a gravity distillery)

Ok, so I think that just about rounds up part one of my Mackmyra post. In part 2 there will be lots of tasting notes, details on the old and new distillery plus some burning deer husbands/goats. I may even squeeze in a couple of bar reviews including the best bar in Stockholm and a bar where you have to drink freaking quickly.

Chris Hoban

Comments

  1. Another excellently-written and considered post from yourself, Chris.
    The next major whisky box I need to tick is sampling more of that spirit made by passionate souls like your Mackmyra friends on the continent, who have allied their personalities with centuries of know-how to try and establish something unique and exciting. Francis at Daftmill (he visits us at the Quaich Society when he can) is of the same mould: do not release the whisky until you think it is ready and such principles carry their own weight when the spirit does eventually come along.
    I met a Swede on a train last year who muttered encouragingly about some experiments he has been investing in on the whisky front… It must be genetic. Thank goodness the Hobanmeister is on the case to get their stories more widely heard.
    Thanks.

  2. Spot on with this write-up

  3. So i take it you didn’t go to Denmark? But should you be tempted to take another trip please note that on the 30th of June the most exciting whisky i’ve tasted in a very long time will be released in Stauning!

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