Type: Single malt whisky
Malt Mileage rating:
Type: Single malt whisky
Malt Mileage rating:
Type: Single malt
On a piping hot 42°C summer day in Melbourne, a brown paper package arrived at my desk. It was torn and half opened, clear evidence of a long trip. The package was marked with Swedish writing and peeking outside its tears was a deep ruby red whisky, Spirit of Hven’s Sankt Claus. What a contrast, from ice cold Sweden to sun burnt Australia.
Spirit of Hven Sankt Claus, as the name suggests, pays homage to Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of a number of groups including sailors, fishermen and, perhaps most appropriately, brewers. He also had a reputation for secret gift giving by leaving coins in the shoes of people, and he therefore became the inspiration for the big bellied white bearded jolly man we call Santa Claus. Spirit of Hven Sankt Claus is intended to “”bring the most joy and (de)light to the winter darkness”, but having just enjoyed some of it on a few bright and very hot Australian days the whisky also inadvertently brings this festive cheer to snow-less lands as well. Even ones that reach 42°C over the holiday period, such as my home city in Australia.
Sank Claus is made from Pale Ale malt and peated malt (48ppm) and fermented for 120 hours, during which the Cerevisiae and Bayanus yeast converted the sugars in the wort into alcohol. Once the wort was fermented, the wash was distilled and a generous heart was collected from the spirits run which it can be assumed included a bit of tails to give the whisky some tasty congeners. Once distilled, the spirit was matured in air dried French Allier oak which had previously contained Merlot.
Stewed berry fruits are first noticeable, with rhubarb, strawberry yogurt and panetone. Undertones of sourdough and olive bread sit beneath the fruit with balsamic, star anise and cinnamon.
On the palate the whisky is potent, warming and drying. The barley is rigid and bold, and the flavours of the whisky are integrated and balanced – find raw sourdough, heavy red wine notes, sweet red candy, red berries (especially cranberry), cinnamon, dark chocolate, sweet vinegar,, ginger bread and crushed nuts.
The finish offers mild creaminess, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, cooked berries, balsamic glazed beetroot, pepper and wisps of smoke. It is somewhat drying and vapourous, again expressing red wine astringency combined with barley.
Buy it, if tis’ the season to be jolly. Find a plethora of all things as red as Rudolph’s nose in the whisky – red fruits, red wine, red candy, red berries, and even a dash of eggnog (an eggy nutmeg note, if you pay close attention). Granted, the nose does present with some aromas that indicate the whisky would have benefited from more time in oak but the Christmas flavours really come through on the palate such that any more time in oak may have altered the festive theme in this dram. This is a potent, rich, drying yet sweet whisky that is absolutely perfect to drink during the festive season. The maturation of this whisky in Merlot barrels certainly gives it a unique flavour profile, and the people at Spirit of Hven have done a superb job selecting this cask of their “Sankt Claus” expression (which is intended to have a Christmas theme). With each sip, I can hear the jingle bells a’ ringing.
Price: £35.99 (UK)
Mackmyra is a whisky distillery located in Sweden. It is the brainchild of eight friends who, tucked away in a mountain lodge in the spring of 1998, wondered why there was no Swedish whisky in the vast ocean of whisky in the world. Mackmyra was born a year later in 1999 and the first drops of their Swedish whisky were distilled on 18 December 1999. Mackmyra now produce a range of interesting, refreshingly different and, I’ll admit, pretty darn exciting expressions that make use of Swedish oak (which is said to infuse whisky with a fiery spiciness) and a signature “Mackmyra smoke” (peat flavoured with fresh juniper twigs) to produce whisky that is not only distinctly Swedish but unmistakably Mackmyra.
Mackmyra Brukswhisky is made from whisky that is matured in bourbon casks, sherry casks and Swedish oak casks, and it is given a hint of juniper smoke with the addition of Mackmyra’s smoky variety of whisky. This certainly sounds very innovative and creative, because the vast majority of whisky tends to be matured in bourbon casks and/or sherry casks. Mackmyra appear to be pushing the boundaries in this case and creating a whisky that is truly distinctive by infusing it with flavours from Swedish oak and juniper smoke. I am getting thirty just thinking about it!
The bouquet is fresh, light and crisp with intriguing notes that immediately astound – creamy vanilla, citrus, orange peel, manuka honey, fragrant flowers, pot pouri, sweet tree sap, warm baklava with nuts and honey, raspberry and milk bottle lollies, perfumed soaps, mild licorice, incense and hints of smoke. On the palate the whisky is extraordinarily balanced and offers notes of cooked pear, fresh orange, honey, hard lollies (Berwick cockles, licorice candy and minties come to mind), dark chocolate, fragrant wood, and all the while an underlying heat radiates rigid flecks of spice from the palate in the form of cinnamon, star anise, fiery peppermint and fisherman’s friends. The finish is refreshing and warming with spices and the continuing burn of peppermint/fisherman’s friends, as undertones of sweet wine intermingle with raisin, apricot custard Danish pastry, oak notes and orange rind.
Overall, Mackmyra Brukswhisky is a soft, crisp, fresh and super smooth whisky with superbly integrated yet complex flavours. Its flavours are superbly balanced and project a distinct style that is Mackmyra, which not only makes it extremely drinkable but a refreshing change for those looking to broaden their whisky horizons and explore not only Mackmyra’s distillate, Swedish oak or juniper smoke but also some masterful blending by the Mackmyra team led by Angela D’Orazio. She should also be pleased to know that my Dad, a beginner whisky drinker who does not much enjoy spirits neat, sipped a dram of Mackmyra Brukswhisky with delight while he made a big pot of pasta sauce – he said it is the first whisky he has enjoyed. My continuing efforts to convert yet another person into a whisky drinker may just have succeeded, thanks to Mackmyra! Tack så mycket.