Nose: Cinese cabbage (that’s a first), fruity, but with some strange fruits, like carambola and kumquat. Green apples and malt. With water it turns tarter and balances on a knife’s edge between fresh and …silo? Carbonated orange juice. A little mint, I get toothpaste. After a while in the glass it suddenly smells of Bamsemums (chocolate covered marshmallowy things).
Palate: Green apples and apple peel, congeners, malt and red brick. With water it develops an unpleasant, bitter note.
Comments: Exceptionally active nose, and it’s mostly all good. Unfortunately the taste collapses with water added, and it becomes undrinkable (and no, you cannot drink newmake without adding water. Sip and taste, yes, drink, no).
Despite some confusion regarding the locations of both Tevsjö and Gammelstilla, we were confident that we could find Mackmyra, having passed this sign the day before:
So we took the exit for Hagaström, and passed Mackmyra without noticing it at all… Once we realised we’d gone too far and turned around, it was very easy to spot the distillery, but from the direction we had come Mackmyra Whiskyby was hidden behind some trees.
We had an appointment with Angela D’Orazio, Master Blender at Mackmyra, whom we have both met before. I attended her masterclass at one of the first Oslo Whiskyfestival where she presented Mackmyra from small casks (a long time before even Preludium was released). Since Mackmyra has a strict 15 years and over age restriction on their tours, we had to convince Angela to do two tours, one with each of us adults, while the other waited outside with the kids (passing time picking blueberries, which the woods around Mackmyra had plenty of). Luckily she agreed.
I was first, and we started the tour in the “skogslager” – the wood warehouse – which has been designed to fit into the surroundings with grass on the roof. Skogslageret is Mackmyra’s most recent warehouse, and they are continuously expanding it, adding a new module for every 1000 casks.
Small casks are rather appealing, I, for one, am always tempted to just grab one and make off with it…
After the warehouse we had a look at the “rökanläggningen” – the “smokery” – which has been built in an old shipping container. That it works is evident when tasting the Mackmyra Svensk Rök, for example.
Finally, it was time for the actual distillery, and this was something we’d been looking foreward to. It’s always exciting to see a new (to us) distillery from the inside, but Mackmyra is rather special, being built as a gravitational plant. The most obvious effect of which is that the distillery building is TALL.
We started the tour by donning grey lab coats and climbing to the top floor. The top floor has a bit of a view.
A malt elevator brings the malt to the top of the building, and it is then dropped into the mill, which is the first part of the process that happens inside the skyscraper.
After milling, the grist “falls” one floor to the mashtun, where water is added and worts extracted. The worts run down another floor, to the washbacks, yeast is added and worts ferment into wash. And then the fun begins. Mackmyra have two pretty copper potstills of the traditional type.
Here, or rather on the floor below the platform from where I took the pictures of the stills, we find another thing that is unique for Mackmyra (as far as I know). The old nordic term for “the thing the spirit runs through for visual inspection”, the spirit safe, is “spritklokke” (literally “spirit bell jar”). And spirit bell jars are exactly what we find at Mackmyra.
At this point I was sorely tempted to rub my hands together and cackle “Ahahahahaaa” in a mad scientisty way, the lab coat didn’t help at all.
Shortly after our visit I came across an archive image from Romedal brenneri, of their “spritklokke”. It’s available online at Digitalt museum.
Had we been on holiday without children, we’d have booked a dinner and tasting in the restaurant at Mackmyra. As it was we were left to drool a bit at the bar.
Since I don’t drive I got to have a quick couple of tastes, but the younger elements of our party were getting increasingly restless, so I had to accept that that was all I would get. I’ve since been able to try Mackmyra Midnattsol again in better conditions, but here are my quick impressions of two others:
Mackmyra Moment Bärnsten (bottle number 1550 of 1550…!) 49.8% had orange peel, oak, thyme and a hint of smoke on the nose. It tasted of oak, orange peel and dark chocolate.
Mackmyra Moment Malström 46.4% had oak, cold rock and ashes on the nose, and tasted slightly bitter, with some congeners (of the good sort), honey, fruit and ashes.
I would happily have poured a sizeable dram of either of them and hidden myself away in a corner to enjoy it, but had to say nicely thank you for the tour and stuff the family into the car for the next leg of our Tour de Suède (it was our last morning in the Gävle area).
This continues our tale of drikkelig.no does Sweden, after quite a break. We visited Gammelstilla 16 July 2014.
We had an appointment at Gammelstilla in the afternoon of the 16th with Sarah Winges (one of the founders). In the morning we went to Furuvik (the zoo and amusement park) and found it took longer to locate Gammelstilla than expected (Google placed it wron, possibly at a corresponence address rather than the actual location), so we were late for our appointment. Fortunately for us, Sarah was also late (coming straight from work) so we arrived at about the same time.
Sarah first gave us an introduction to the history of Gammelstilla Bruk (“bruk” in this context in Swedish is the semi-independent part of a farm that refines agricultural or natural resources, such as milling or iron works). Gammelstilla is part of what is known as “järnriket” – the iron kingdom – and wrought iron was produced here from the middle of the 17th Century, steel from around 1850. Unfortunately for Gammelstilla, other steel producers in the area obtained better patents on steel, and steel production ended here in 1914. Gammelstilla were pioneers in electricity production from water power, however, and the power station supplied a mechanical workshop, so that the “bruk” had other sources of income. Not until 1971 was the last industrial activity at the Gammelstilla terminated. Since then the buildings had been left to deteriorate.
In 1990 a group of locals started a foundation named Gammelstilla Bruk. They have renovated the buildings and these days they house a café, a local theatre group and now: A whisky distillery.
When a group of friends started to plan a whisky distillery in the area, Gammelstilla bruk seemed like a natural location. Their first plan was to use a large brick building, built by the “brukspatron” Gusander as a personal residence at the tail end of the 19th Century. Gusander intended it as a demonstration of his own excellence, and the brick were produced at Gammelstilla. Unfortunately it was at this time that Sandvik bruk with their better steel pattern, absorbed Gammelstilla’s market shares and caused Gusander to declare bancruptcy, so the building was never quite finished. Our distillery enthusiasts had stars in their eyes and the building plan all worked out before reports showed that the building contained more lead in its wooden construction than is permitted in food production .
The enthusiast were at first downcast, but then someone pointed out that Gammelstilla bruk had another empty building, perhaps the distillery could be housed there? Long term it is still hoped that the brick building may be renovated and used, but for the time being Gammelstilla distillery is well housed.
They purchase their malt, not peated, from the only Swedish maltings, Viking malt. The wash is produced in a icro brewery setup belonging to one of the founders, and they use dry yeast.
The stills are designed by the founders and were produced in Sweden at Beckströms Mekaniske. The wash still has a capacity of 500 liter, the spirit still 300. The first new spirit ran from the still in April 2012, so in just a couple of months Gammelstilla will come of age.
Some adjustments have been made after the startup, the wash still had a middle piece added to adjust the height of the neck (and thereby increase reflux) in 2013. When we were there, they were only producing 50 liters a week, which is one run. They have had limited capacity in the electrical supply, so they had only been able to run either the “brewery” or the stills, but that had very recently been rectified.
There is not a lot of spare room in the distillery building, it’s pretty obvious that they will need to expand somehow, even if they can’t get the other building fixed.
The power station currently belongs to GSW and feeds the national grid, which has to be a reassuring asset economy-wise.
Nose: Lemon, malt and sour jelly sweets. With water it aquires a vague herb garden feeling, it smells like herbs, but not of a specific type and not very intensly.
Palate: Malt and vanilla. Sour jelly sweets, again, green ones. It gets a little more woody with water, but the malt is dominating throughout.
Comments: Glencadam is marketed as “Rather Delicate” (™ even), and that’s quite fitting. A good example of a light highlander with very understated cask notes. And very nice it is, too, but perhaps a little boring in the long run.
Nose: To start with it’s more closed than The Pioneer. Wheat baked goods with herbs. I made rosemary buns once, it smells a bit like those. A little lemon, and dusty malt loft. Water opens for some congeners and “grønnsåpe” (a traditional soft soap), but still plenty of herbs, wood and lemon.
Palate: The first thing that went through my head was “I like this!” Orange sweets and juniper berry, malt and dry twigs. With water I find tart apples and dry wood.
Comments: I was only planning on purchasing one bottle of The Challenger. Now I must say I’m rather pleased I gave into temptation and ordered two (the maximum per customer) when I sat there waiting for the order button to turn green on the Systembolaget web launch. Because this is just spot on, and I like it.
This is a bottling from a private Box cask, a so called “ankare”. The cask – or rather the contents of it – belong to Tobias Johnsson, who explains that Lengyel Utca 9 means Poland Street 9, which was his first address in the Hungarian town of Szeged where he studied. He chose a cask of hungarian oak for sentimental reasons. A big thank you to Tobias for the sample, it tempts me further towards buying my own “ankare” when the results can be this good.
Nose: Juniper and cask. Lemon and oak staves. More spice with water; rosemary and thyme, vanillin, cinnamon and oak.
Palate: A somehat harsh and bitter oakiness, but also vanilla and dark chocolate. With water the harshness disappears and it aquires some black pepper.
Comments: The only drawback to this one is that the spice and vanilla in combination reminds me of scented candles and I really do not like scented candles. Apart from that it’s a lovely dram, much better than the other Hungarian oak bottlings I’ve tried. It keeps nicely to the distillery character and is well integrated in a way small cask bottlings rarely are.