Mackmyra Vinterdröm

Mackmyra Vinterdröm ReviewDistillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Sweden is perhaps not a country famous for distilling whisky, but since 1999, Mackmyra distillery has been producing a wide variety of excellent drams. Such has been the quality and acclaim of Mackmyra’s whiskies, that high demand pushed them to open a second distillery in 2011. This is the Gravity distillery, and in true Swedish fashion, its production is very environmentally friendly. 35 metres high and relying on the forces of gravity for many of its processes, it manages to save up to 45% on energy use compared to the first distillery. After distillation, the whisky is stored 50 metres below ground in an abandoned coal mine for maturation. The cask of choice for this is often Swedish, rather than American oak. Mackmyra claims this wood type gives the whisky a rougher, harsher flavour, which better represents the Swedish climate.

Vinterdröm is Mackmyra’s latest release in the limited edition ‘Seasons’ range. All of the whiskies from this range have received an unusual finish, and Vinterdröm is no different. Apart from Swedish and American oak, the whisky has aged in casks that previously held rum from Barbados and Jamaica, belonging to the famous rum producer Plantation. The result is a seasoned, sweet whisky with plenty of Caribbean swing in it.  With its sleek packaging featuring swanky palm trees, this whisky also just looks damn cool. Let’s hope it tastes the same!

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Talisker Port Ruighe

Talisker Port Ruighe ReviewDistillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 45.8%

In the face of overwhelming demand, it seems that many distilleries are making changes to their range. Faced with finite stocks, it becomes harder for whisky makers to guarantee a continuous supply of aged whisky. Enter the No Age Statement (NAS) expression: often a vatting of whiskies of different ages, allowing distillers more flexibility to meet fluctuations in demand. Talisker is no different: while the 10 year old is fortunately still widely available, the 18 year old has increased in price dramatically. Instead, consumers can now choose from NAS bottlings such as Skye, (Dark) Storm and Neist Point. While in my opinion this new range is quite a mixed bag, Talisker Port Ruighe clearly stands out as one of the highlights, and an example that the negative publicity NAS whiskies receive is not always justified.

Port Ruighe is the Gaelic translation for Portree, the largest town on Skye, and once a centre of maritime commerce. This Talisker has received a double maturation in port casks, and is billed as “a toast to the Scottish traders who braved the high seas and were instrumental in the foundation of the port wine trade”. Marketing aside, with a whisky this enjoyable I am willing to raise a glass to whatever, whenever. Slàinte!

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Bowmore Black Rock

Bowmore Black Rock ReviewDistillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Named after the fairly obscure ‘Black Rock of Islay’, this whisky forms part of Bowmore’s coastal themed Travel Exclusive range (the other two expressions being Gold Reef and White Sands). Medium peated and finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, this whisky strikes a balance between gentle smoke and a subtle sweetness.

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Islay Tasting

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For a long time now I had been intending to organise a tasting that includes each of Islay’s eight distilleries, and tonight the time had finally come. Known for its distinctively peaty, smoky whiskies, the island of Islay is often considered a whisky region in its own right. This is no wonder, as the island lives and breathes whisky, providing the lifeblood for a population of just over 3000 people. Peat bogs are ubiquitous, the salty sea breeze can be felt anywhere and the sight of a distillery’s chimney is never far away.

Islay Whisky Distillery Map

An overview of Islay’s distilleries

Since much of the island is covered by hills and peat bogs, the production of barley has long since fallen behind the voracious appetite of Islay’s whisky industry. Most of the barley is now grown on the Scottish mainland, before being shipped to Port Ellen Maltings, where it is peated to the exact specifications of each whisky distillery. As such, each distillery has complete control over how smoky they like their whiskies to be, and can even vary this within their range (Bruichladdich for example uses different levels of peatiness for different whiskies).

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Some of the barley is still grown locally

While it would have made sense to compare the core expression of each distillery, I decided to go for something a little more interesting. In deciding the order of the line-up, I took into account smokiness (often measured in ppm – phenol parts per million), as well as alcohol content. The result was the ultimate Islay tasting, a true treat for a peathead like me.

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The line-up for this whisky tasting. Not bad at all!

Below is a short description of each of the whiskies, including a link to the full review.

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