It’s 11.37 am and I’m sitting in our sumptuous tasting room at Cask Trade towers overlooking Regent Street. My genius plan to escape the hectic hustle and bustle of our main office down the corridor for some peace and quiet has now somewhat backfired. Unfortunately, the very famous toy shop next door is blasting out 101 Disney classics! The sudden urge to have a drink has become overwhelming… Luckily, the boss has just handed me a number of small cask samples of the wonderful Mackmyra distillery. I now know what I am going to write about, and relief is at hand from the excruciating noise.
Mackmyra is a relatively new distillery, having started distilling in 2002. The inspiration for the distillery started when a group of friends on a ski trip had brought with them a bottle of whisky for their host. The conversation then started about creating a high-quality Swedish whisky. Three years later their dream had become a reality and in 2006 they released their first expression. (It sold out quicker than Rolling Stones tickets!).
In 2011 Mackmyra opened up their ground-breakingly innovative Gravity Distillery. The seven-story building starts with the local malted Swedish barley going in on the top floor. Every floor down is another step in the process, with distillation occurring on the second floor. The new-make spirit then comes out on the ground floor. The distillery uses all the latest energy-efficient devices which makes Mackmyra one of the ‘greenest’ whiskies in the world.
Much of Mackmyra is aged in local Swedish oak. This is very different from your traditional American white oak as the trees grow much slower in the much colder climate. This imparts a spicier, fiery quality to the whisky, which is balanced by a vanilla sugar sweetness that is also prevalent. Mackmyra does also use American & Sherry casks in its aging, and these are also worth looking out for. Another innovative project that Mackmyra have started is finishing their whiskies in a whole range of casks. These include ones that have previously contained lingonberry wine, cloudberry wine, roasted coffee beans, cherry wine, beer & rum. Exciting times ahead.
For the future I do believe that the reputation of Mackmyra is going to continue to grow. In the cool climate of Sweden their whisky is only going to continue to improve with age and become highly collectible. If you have a couple of spare kronor, then you know what to do.
‘What on earth was that’ (I’ve toned the language down here)… This was my reaction at the dark brown spirit swirling around the rocks glass that had been thrust into my hand. I had just tasted my first Indian whisky! A friend of mine had brought a bottle back from his trip there and I vowed never to touch the stuff again. Interestingly these cheap Indian blended whiskies are made from molasses (which is normally associated with rum) and I could launch right now into some eloquent tasting notes but there is no point. It was rough! That’s all you need to know…..
Fast forward to more recent times and I am working with my previous employer at one of the many whisky festivals that pre-pandemic were popular around the country. Next to my famous Scottish Single malt brand was this Indian whisky brand that I’d heard of but never tasted. The packaging looked good and it appeared quite premium but after my previous experience, I was expecting the worse. Anyhow after several hours of chatting to their brand ambassador next to me, I had tried the full range and learned so many interesting facts about the product and distillery that I was a convert. This was Paul John Indian whisky making its grand appearance in the UK and it felt a privilege to be one of the first to try it.
Paul John’s Single malt distillery is located in Goa and they make their whisky the Scottish way using a double distillation of malted barley. The wash comes in though at quite a low 5% abv (rather than the usual 8%) and this gives a much sweeter taste. After distillation, the new make spirit will go into the cask at 55% and after four/five years of aging in the tropical heat, the final product comes in at around 57% for their Single Casks. It’s worth pointing out that the tropical monsoon climate of Goa ages the whisky very fast as compared to Scotland and just four or five years in that climate could be argued to be the equivalent of 12-15yrs in the Highlands.
The Indian-made copper pot stills produce about two million litres of spirit per year and maturation actually takes place in underground cellars, which whilst cooler than the outside temperature, the angels share is very high, as temperatures regularly hit 35c+. Paul John uses a mixture of Bourbon & Sherry casks and interestingly makes some smoky batches using peat imported from Scotland.
Whisky aficionados in the know are getting more and more excited about this wonderful distillery. Recently Paul John was awarded one of the Top Three whiskies in the world in the 2020 World Whisky Awards and has a whole slew of gold medals from every award show imaginable. Make a note, Paul John is quickly rising in the whisky ranks.