Age: 13-14 months
When you think of Iceland, you may picture glaciers and waterfalls, or volcanoes that annoyingly bring whole continents to a standstill. Perhaps you may even think of Vikings, Björk or fermented shark meat. But rarely will you hear the words Iceland and whisky uttered in the same sentence. Not until recently at least, because now Eimverk distillery is producing Iceland’s very own malt whisky. True, it will not be ready until November 2017, but there’s already a taster available for those who cannot wait. Fittingly subtitled First Impression, Flóki Young Malt is exactly that: a first introduction to an Icelandic whisky that’s far from a final product.
Bottled after having been matured for just over a year, this Flóki may not even call itself whisky yet. Despite this, it’s a very captivating drink, thanks in large part to the unconventional way in which Flóki is produced. For more background on Eimverk and Flóki, you can read about my visit to the distillery here. What is good to mention though is that because of Iceland’s harsh climate, barley produced on the island is much less rich in sugar content. To make up for this, Eimverk uses up to 50% more barley in each batch, and this has a very positive impact on the flavour of the spirit. You can expect lots of sweet cereal and an almost oily spiciness in this Flóki.
It has been great to make acquaintance with this Icelandic experiment in whisky making, even just for a first impression. It’s left me eager for more, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out to see how the Flóki range develops in the future. For now though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this Young Malt. Skál!
Colour: Sparkling gold. Despite the young age, no artificial colouring was used, meaning that the deep shade of gold is solely from the virgin oak. This in itself is an indication of how quickly the spirit has matured.
Nose: Aromas of hay and fresh wood shavings spout from the glass like a geyser, carrying zesty notes of orange peel and bubblegum in their wake. The nose is like heather growing on a volcanic slope: darkly brooding but floral. There are clear scents of toasted vanilla, betraying the influence of the virgin oak. This Flóki does display a degree of sharpness, but none of the pungency you’d expect from such immature spirit. On the whole, very clean and quite promising.
Palate: Light-bodied, with a very distinctive malt profile, quite unlike any whisky I’ve ever tasted before. The extra barley is working wonders here, complementing the raw spirit and fresh oak flavours beautifully. Belatedly, a spicy character opens up, with notes of ginger and aniseed slowly giving way to fruitier flavours of raisins and dried figs.
Finish: Not quite a volcanic eruption, but rather a soothing, warming plunge in a geothermal pool. The oaky vanilla notes dissipate into a dry but pleasant aftertaste of fragrant barley. The finish is exceptionally smooth, you would never guess that this Flóki isn’t yet old enough to be called whisky.
Verdict: The distillers at Eimverk said they did not want to simply recreate a Scottish whisky in Iceland, and indeed they have not. Flóki is whisky done the Icelandic way, and I must applaud Eimverk for their pioneering boldness. In staying true to local inputs and making the best of the unconventional equipment available at the distillery, Eimverk have created something quite special. Of course Flóki Young Malt isn’t a refined product, heck it’s not even whisky yet. But at just one year old, the spirit is enormously promising. Many whiskies-in-the-making at this age would be quite undrinkable – I’ve tried some spirit you really wouldn’t drink for the fun of it. Taking this into account, Flóki Young Malt is a phenomenal drink and I simply cannot wait to see what it will taste like at 3 or even 12 years old. I expect big things from this small Icelandic distillery.