Well, I can’t say I was jumping for joy when I discovered that Bunnahabhain have discontinued Darach Ur and replaced it with another Travel Retail Exclusive. I would have liked a little forewraning, at least, so that I could stockpile some bottles of one of my favourite whisky bottlings EVER. Well. Since I have liked what Bunnahabhain have done with their NAS bottlings in general, I picked up an Eirigh Na Greine when I cam through Aberdeen Dyce on my way home from the Orkneys (more, much more, on that later).
Nose: Malt and sweet plums, dryish wood fire, milk chocolate. With water I get chutney made from tropical fruits, with more water the fruity impression becomes fresher.
Palate: Malt, spices, orange peel, tropical fruits, milk chocolate. A lightly bitter finish. Water brings out digestives with orange marmalade.
Comments: Slightly too bitter on the finish for my palate, and it does not hit the mark in teh way the Darach Ur did. Still, it’s a pretty good dram, with a lot of action both on the nose and the taste considering the price.
From an ex-sherry butt #2800. Tasted at Casc in Aberdeen.
Nose: A lot of alchohol, chocolate covered cherries. With water it turns more towards orange marmelade.
Palate: A lot of alchohol, oak and dark chocolate. Water brings out orange marmelade spiced with ginger.
Comments: There is something vaguely smoky both on the nose and palate – dry and ashy – I’m wondering whether it comes from the oak or whether the spirit is actually smoky. A very good dram, but worth the money (GBP 13.10 for one dram)? Well, considering what Bunna is doing with NAS bottlings at the moment… probably not.
Sometimes you receive an offer you can’t refuse. Before the summer holidays I was contacted by a lady who wanted to know if I would consider joining a sailing trip from Gothenburg to Kirkwall and back again organised by Highland Park. “Whisky and sailing? Yuck, no, I hate both!” I exclaimed. Well, actualy I said “I’d love to! I just have to check whether I can have those days off.” And thankefully I have a very understanding employer, so the days off were granted. Tomorrow morning I’m booked on a flight to Gothenburg where I’ll join Celeste of the Solent to participate in The Dark Expedition.
I had hoped to fill the calendar with planned blog posts for the days I’m away, but I’ve simply not had the time. However, I will wax lyrical about the trip once I’m back, I’m sure. In the meantime I will attempt to post updates to Twitter and Instagram (though I suspect mobile reception in the middle of the North Sea is patchy at best).
Myken: Myken posted pictures of their stills ready to ship from Spain on Facebook this week. The stills are looking good, and progress is also being made on the buildings at Myken. Follow their Facebook page to get news as they happen and see more pictures.
Since they have three stills on the way, of 300, 700 and 1000 liters capacity, I had to ask if they are planning on triple destillaton, but they are not. The smallest still is intended for gin production and possibly some experimentation. The whisky stills will therefore be a wash still of 1000 liters and a spirit still of 700 liters.
Travelling round Sweden this summer, we’d booked a time with most of the places we wanted to visit, but as Box did two tours a day all summer, we just showed up. The eldest was exceedingly happy about being left in the visitor centre with a pad, wifi access and 100 SEK to buy ice cream with. There aren’t many distilleries that have more child-friendly waiting areas. The youngest was relegated to dad’s back. Unforunately, she was not happy with this arrangement, so Arve missed most of the tour. One of the drawbacks of public tours is that the other visitors may not appreciate a screaming almost-two-year-old taking part. Oh, well.
Box is obviously a popular tourist attraction, despite the maginificent weather our group consisted of 14 people. Anders Jonasson was our guide and he started the tour by relating the site’s history. The name Box is actually the name of the site, despite its un-Swedish twang. The site on the Ångerman river was named after a sawmill which was built here to take advantage of the timber being floated down the river. From the 1850ies they specialised in producing planks that were exported to England to make boxes, hence AB Box. After a fire in 1890 the site was sold and a steam powered power station was built here. It was finished in 1912 and the main building is what houses the distillery today. Steam power was soon superceeded by hydraulic power stations, but the building was in use until the sixties. It was then left to deteriorate for 30 years, until Mats de Vahl took action to save it from being torn down in 1991. Various initiatives have since been tested to keep the place alive, and it has served as an art gallery among other things. What was needed was an idea that could bring jobs and traffic, preferably a business that would not be sold and offshored once it was a success, and whisky productions seemed the perfect solution. Mats and his brother Per got eight other enthusiasts on board (including our tour guide)and founded Box Distillery. In 2010 the first spirit ran from the still.
Earlier this year Box released their first whisky, the three year old Pioneer. You can find my tasting notes here.
Following the history lesson we were equipped with blue shoe covers and entered the distillery proper. We said hello to the mill (not a Portheus) and got to taste the malt. The unpeated malt is Swedish, the peated malt used to be sourced from a Belgian maltster but is currently from Simpsons in Scotland. They have four malt barns with a capacity of 13 tonnes each.
At the mashtun we were told that they run two waters, 5000 liters and then 1300 liters, which results in 6300 liters of worts. Once in the washback (the washbacks are stainless steel) 5 kilos of Belgian dry yeast is added. A fruity and somewhat tart beer develops, with an ABV of around 7.5% after 48 hours, but they leave it for another 24 to take advantage of the lactic acid which forms towards the end and which they find gives a flavour profile they like.
The wash runs through the wash still and gives low wines of around 23% ABV. Then we come to the business end of things: The spirit still. They cut from head to heart at around 13 minutes for unpeated and 30 minutes for peated, and from heart to tail at 67% for unpeated and 60% for peated. One of the best parts of building your own distillery must be to get to play around with these details. Which yeast, how long to ferment for, when to cut? At Box they are left with around 320 liters of newmake, around 10% of the wash volume.
The stills are from Forsyths, and they have a beautiful view of the Ångerman river. The still room may get warm when the stills are running, but as far as looks go you really can’t complain about working conditions at Box.
To ease the switch between peated and unpeated spirit and avoid “contamination” they have separate holding tanks, for a small distillery this seems to me to be a smart choice. A week’s production is five times 640 liters at 70% ABV, which is taken down to 63% ABV before being filled. Yearly production is between 150,000 and 160,000 liters filled into casks. The warehouses are not insulated at all, so the temperature varies between -30 and +30 degrees centigrade throughout the year. The warehouse we got to see contains about a year’s production, they have another, larger warehouse which will take around six years’ production, then they will have to build another one.
Nose: Subtle smoke, wood fired sauna, vanilla and vanilla sauce. With water the vanilla is emphasised, but not in a good way. It is most reminiscent of vanilla sauce made from powder that has been somewhat burned and then left to coagulate in the pot over night. There is something artificially intense over the vanilla.
Palate: Cloying wood, vanilla, and wet, rotting, singed wood. More vanilla sauce with water, though lightly smoked vanilla sauce.
Comments: The advantage of owning one’s own distillery is being able to experiment. The disadvantage is that, unless you have access to unlimited means, you sooner or later have to bottle and sell the results of your experiments. This particular bottling is not a complete disaster, it’s drinkable, but only just. The palate is all right once the water has removed the rotting wood note, and again I’m left wanting some sort of complexity.