There are now 14 distilleries in Sweden, putting it alongside Australia as one of the largest whisky-dedicated countries in the world. Mackmyra is internationally established now, Spirit of Hven is making whisky and will feature in issue four. But here we talk to two of the others
There's something deliciously decadent about going on a whisky cruise. It's the whole thought of being contained in a sort of sea of whisky. When the cruise sails out of Stockholm and sails past snow covered islands through ice covered seas, then a glass of malt at an early morning tasting seems hedonistically appropriate.
The highlight? discovering two new distilleries: Box and Norrtelje Brenner
And if the on-board company includes many affable Swedish whisky enthusiasts and heavyweights such as Whyte & Mackay's Richard Paterson and Laphroaig's John Campbell, well what's not to like? Great as the the 24 hours we spent drinking, eating and dancing was, though, it went epic for this writer by catching up with Angela from Mackmyra and making friends with two new distilleries: Box and Norrtelje Brenner.
Box is the result of an idea conceived by Per and Mats Devahl to start a distillery in the Kramfors region in the northern part of Sweden, 500 kilometres north of Stockholm. A founding team was put together by 2007 and about 100 part owners joined the team with a share issuer in 2007.
The distillery is now making malt spirit and is a heady combination of whisky enthusiasts and skilled technicians. It's using French, Swedish and new American oak, but perhaps most excitingly of all, the best spirit is coming from Hungarian oak casks. The distillery is making both peated and non-peated whisky.
Despite being the most northerly distillery and therefore one of the coldest, spirit in oak casks is maturing rapidly, due to the porous nature of the oak.I tasted Ungersk Ek Rokij, 57.3% abv and just 99 days old and another matured in Hungarian oak for 132 days and with a strength of 56.6%
They were nothing short of astounding, full, rich, rounded and tasting much much older. A 63% heavily peated whisky spirit was also excellent.
"We put it down to the Hungarian oak," says partner Thomas Larsson. we are very excited about the whisky we are going to make and there's a lot of interest here."
There's one other thing, too - Box has a still with the capability to run peated spirit and non peated spirit through separate channels through the same still so production can be alternated without having to clean the stills down. Brilliant. I hope to get some samples sent for further coverage soon.
Norrtelje Brenneri has malt whisky older than three years old and again, it's impressive stuff, an easy drinking, honeyed and fruity whisky, but the distillery is not ready to bottle it.
Norrtelje brenneri is owned by the couple Kristina Anerfält-Jansson and Richard Jansson who started the production a few years ago and have built a reputation for high quality fruit Schnapps, and for Swedish Roslags Punsch (sic) made with a mix of plums, arrack, honey, vanilla, lime and a few secret ingredients and with an alcoholic strength of 23%. The whisky is a few months over three years old and there are plans to increase production this year as they start bottling their malt.
What the couple have done is use the whisky for a Whisky Punsch which is sweet but fascinating.
On the strength of these two distilleries and what's happening at Hven, Sweden is suddenly shifting up the gears and moving up the whisky league table.
Incredible stuff. I can't wait to find out more.