It was the strange of times and it was the weirdest of times. Finland’s “across the pit” neighbor Sweden has been producing whisky. Granted, they’ve been producing whisky a lot longer than Finland has. But I’ve rarely heard that they did anything worthy of noting. Until I heard about “The Specials” and actually noticed, that I haven’t ever tasted any of their whisky. And since I got the opportunity, thanks to a fellow blogger, to get into this world I of course had to pour to the glass the opportunity.
I’ve also heard that this kinds of tastings, whole 1-10 series of Specials, is a rare opportunity. So I will treat is as such. 10 whiskies and one short evening. Of course it can be done! On the scientific note, Mackmyra only uses Swedish materials, even the oak in their barrels is made of Swedish oaks. Of course there are exceptions: Jack Daniels barrels (for bourbon maturing) and sherry barrels. What they tell about their sherry casks, is that those are New Spanish Oaks and the Mackmyra distillery actually does the filling by themselves.
These drams don’t have exact age statements, but roughly the specials 1-4 are five to six years, 5-7 about six and a half years and the rest are about seven and half years old. Non chill filtered. I’ve copied the steamy science/background stuff from Viskisieppo’s blog and loosely translated them.
1. Eminent Sherry. 51.6%
Elegant recipe. This is a vatting of ex-bourbon matured and strong sherry finished barrels.
The junior. The starter. Hey, what about if you go first since you are…. the first one. The nose is surprisingly good and complex. Sweet and balanced. At this point, these qualities were a real easy to find out.
Talking about the palate, this one is a really sweet package. Fudge and sweet fruits. There is the sherry bitterness, but it does not mind that much in this one. It is a bit short, after all, and clearly unfinished. When tasting ten of specials, you notice that this was really their… first one. Not bad, done with love, but their skills have been honed a lot for the later ones.
2: The Anniversary Edition / Jubileumsutgåvan. 50.6%
Elegant and smoke. Matured in a Swedish Oak, but finished in new American oak and ex-bourbon
The nose has some smoke! Not much, but smoke in deed. It does feel like coming to Nordics! The palate is soft and oily, like smoothly descending the small mountain side. It is not rough, especially compared to the climb. Imagine a oil painting at the sunset, painted at the sunset, where the mountain is at the sunset, where the painter is painting about the sunset.. Moebius, but with oil. Later on, you can add Christmas calendar chocolate (most likely a Finnish taste is involved – nope.. not about salmiakki!) to this scent and taste. If this one does not make any sense.. Just let it breath in the glass!
3: Small casks, big flavour. 48.2%
The basis is a small (30 liters) ex-bourbon barrel matured Elegant.
It scents like whisky. It feels like whisky. Bourbon, checked. The nose tells me it is whisky.
Oily, smooth and bourbonishly sweet. It is so much like bourbon, that is is bitter and stingy but overall – I’ve had a lot worse liquids that have been called whisky. A nice dram, but frankly – there isn’t anything special about this one. It is like Mora-knife. You use it, it gets most of the stuff done. It is not a work of art, nor a super quality blade either. But it works. Once you’ve tasted several other Mackmyras and get back to this one there seems to be a hint of cloudberry in the taste too. The palate gets stronger over time, so this one definitely needs to breath a lot too.
4: Double Dip Bourbon. 53%
Double-matured in different kinds of ex-bourbon barrels. First barrels are bigger 200 liter ones and the finishing is done in 100 liter and 30 liter casks.
Vanilla mix with balanced body. Not bad for the nose. The palate is sweet, but yet there are different dimensions that are easily lost. I don’t recall too many complex sweet whiskies that I really enjoy. It has a lots of Highlander in it, but with the touch of elegant smoothness. A good dram!
Mental note: always sip plenty of water between different Mackmyras. There is no exception here.
Even after the third and fourth sips, this one is really a nice whisky. No, not smoky and yes, it stings, but there is complexity and dimensions that make this an really enjoyable trip!
5: Happy Hunting / Jaktlycka. 47.2%
Elegant has been matured in different casks and finally finished in a cask that used to have lingonberry wine. Flavored with blueberry wine casks. A real experiment!
The nose tells me, that there is a lingonberry whisky approaching! A weird send, that combines the deep Finnish/Swedish (finnish_swedish_ci_as) setting with sweetness of the mighty oak. And when you taste it, it is a lingonberry whisky! Like a combined lingonberry liquour and whisky! There is a bits of blueberry in the palate. Overall, this is like a walk in a October forest! A marvelous lingonberry taste that really rockets this one into favorites of this series. This is boldly different without going to the three extremes. This gets the title of “Number two” in the series final.
6: Summer meadow / Sommaräng. 46.8%
Based on Swedish oak matured Elegant, later vatted with ex-sherry and Swedish Oak matured Mackmyra. The nose is filled with sweet pear. Overall, the experience can be summarized into the light and fresh. There isn’t much imagination nor out of the box thinking. It is good, yes, does it stay in your memory – no.
On the second round, this one produces a nice sweet “meadow” experience. The name has not been selected in random. This is a nicely Northern dram, that is worth that compliment. Despite pears and sweets.
7: Hope / Framtidstro. 45.8%
Elegant and Smoke series Mackmyra have been matured in different barrels and finally finished in ex cloudberry wine casks.
The nose does not make you expect too much Suonsilmäke (the eye of the swamp, the pit, the swallowed soul… The name of – to my experience- the traditional Laplandish drink which combines cloudberry liquor and (cheap) whisky). This one has a lot better scent.
But when you ship this one.. you get into the eye of the swamp. Pleasant, warm, smooth but nevertheless – you are in the pit. You go down. Cloudberry rules this one but I am glad that the whisky is out there too to bring out more complexity. Different, strong, but does not reach for the lingonberry level.
After tasting all these drams once and most of the the second time, this one only shows out it’s cloudberry side. Everything else is too weak, but of course.. It is not every day when you taste ten drams in a row. But if you do, then the end result on this one is not the best. It is the eye of the swamp. Sorry Mackmyra – you’ve done a nice whisky, but cloudberry is just too strong in here.
8: Handpicked / Handplockat. 46.0%
Mackmyra’s Master Blender Angela D'Orazio chose the barrels. The finishing was done in Sauternes barrels.
Sauternes is present in the nose, but it is not as dominant as in some other finishing's. The palate is good and sweet, but the problem is that this one does not really stand out. It is nice, it has a voice but it does not make a statement. Just like having a luxury cabin in the middle of the spruce forest without a beach. It is nice, but it is missing the edge. The finish gives it a more oak around it’s frame, which is a good thing.
On the round #2, this one does not qualify for the finals. Not bad, but there isn’t enough personality that I do enjoy with more smoky drams. There is just not that twist here, that would light the fire. Good, but disappears in the crowd.
9: Vildhallon. 46.1%
Elegant Mackmyra finished in ex raspberry wine barrels.
Raspberry. Check. More raspberry. Check. A different kind of the experience when you nose the whisky – you realize it is whisky, but you also get the scent of the sweet raspberry.
When you sip it the first time, you don’t get the awaited raspberry experience. Not for the first ten seconds. After that there is plenty of raspberry! They really dared to use that! It is not too sweet but a nicely subtle and filled with berries. The second sip adds more raspberry and redness. I grant, this is not of my favorites but is not a bad one either. A nice winter dram, when you want to remember the warmth of the summer. Bold experiment!
10: Kaffegök. 46.1%
Again, the Elegant recipe is the solid base for this dram. The new spirit has been flavored with coffee beans(!) before maturation in barrels. The finishing for two weeks has been done in that coffee whisky spirit barrel, where the spirit was flavored.
Did somebody say coffee? I do smell the fresh coffee! If you compare whiskies how much they smell like coffee, look no further. You have a winner. All roasted lids and barrels just lost their battle. This one is interesting and strange, but I surely like the way this smells like .. coffee.
The palate is like a nicely roasted light coffee. There is the morning and the afternoon, a splendid fresh coffee experience and the highlighted spirit. Boldly different, which is a great thing. I give my points to Mackmyra on this one – they’ve done something I have never experienced with whiskies earlier! This really stands out! If you are looking for a something completely different – you have found it.
Despite having tasted all ten drams the first round and most of the the second, this one strikes out with it’s coffee. Strange. Weird. Steampunkish. But I do like this one. Lingonberry loses to this one tonight, but just barely. This is too Nordic themed to be placed aside. I surely would love to have a bottle of this one. Thinking about a bad morning, premade coffee with whisky! *justjoking*
This was one marvelous ride! The tastes were bold at the best, good at the worst. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to taste and write about these drams. I would have not believed our beloved-hated neighbor would have produced something like this. The hat is off and I have respect for them from now on. And when I think of this – I am glad they have the courage to experiment. These are about us, the Nordics, so if you want to get a wee bit closer to knowing us – perhaps you should try out these too!