Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve

Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Review 01

Distillery: Eimverk
Country: Iceland
Age: 3 years old
abv: 47%

Gordon Ramsey recently caused a bit of a stir shovelling sheep shit on an episode of his show Uncharted. Sure enough, a celebrity chef and excrement are an unusual combination, unless we count the stuff coming out of Gordon’s mouth. The particular poop being shovelled was meant for production of Wholly Shit whisky, distilled in Tasmania. And while the use of sheep dung is sure to grab attention, it’s not necessarily a gimmick. Icelandic distillers Eimverk have been using sheep dung for years now, and to them it’s second nature. Although peat is traditionally the fuel of choice for drying barley, peat simply doesn’t form in Iceland’s austere landscape. In looking for an alternative, Eimverk needed to look no further than their local cuisine, where it’s very normal to smoke foods using sheep dung. I’ve tried Arctic char and lamb smoked this way, and although distinctive, it was an excellent meal. That’s not to say I will be collecting faeces for my next smoking session on the grill, but I am happy that Eimverk decided not to import peat from Scotland. It’s the sustainable choice too: while peat bogs can take centuries to regrow, sheep produce dung on a daily basis. How’s that for a renewable resource!

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Flóki Sherry Cask Finish

Flóki Sherry Cask Finish Review

Distillery: Eimverk
Country: Iceland
Age: 3 years old
abv: 47%

When Eimverk introduced Iceland’s first ever single malt in 2017, it was a young, intrepid dram full of bourbon-like flavours. Although I enjoyed it, I immediately wondered how Flóki would fare with some time spent in European oak. Well, the wait is over, because Eimverk has since released a whole new range of whiskies. And what interesting expressions they are! There’s the next iteration of Flóki’s Sheep Dung Smoked whisky, a Beer Cask Finish, and even a whisky that matured in birch wood. Of these new bottlings, this Sherry Cask Finish is perhaps the most traditional. While the other expressions add an extra Icelandic dimension to an already uniquely local product, a finish in sherry casks is a more conventional next step for most distillers. This cask type tends to help in showcasing a gentler, sweeter side of a whisky, complementing the distillery character with fruity, nutty flavours. But not only the whisky is different, the packaging also received an overhaul. Gone are the shiny Viking inspired patterns, now replaced by beautiful earthy colours. As always, the bottles are numbered and signed by hand, a nice personal touch.

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Flóki Icelandic Birch Finish

Flóki Birch Finish Review 01

Distillery: Eimverk
Country: Iceland
Age: 3 years old
abv: 47%

Whisky is matured in oak. That’s a given. Oak is easy to shape, not prone to cracking and abundantly available. Moreover, it’s got the right level of porosity, allowing the cask contents to evaporate and oxygenate, but not at rates that cause spoilage. Different types of oak can imbue a spirit with different flavour types, whether it’s European oak, American oak, or even Mizunara. The previous contents of the cask also significantly impact a whisky’s flavour, meaning there is an extremely wide array of flavours that distillers can work with. And yet… what if you were to use a wood other than oak? For the reasons mentioned above, it can be challenging to use other wood types, but whisky makers have started experimenting. Japan-based Kamiki offers a cedar wood and cherry wood finished whisky, while Irish distillers Method & Madness produce a chestnut matured expression. I’ve only tried the Kamiki Cedar Wood, but the results are astounding. Even a short finish in a different wood type offers up a wealth of new flavours to explore.

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Paul John Bold

Paul John BoldReview

Distillery: John Distilleries
Country: India
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Most Scotch drinkers probably wouldn’t know it, but India-based John Distilleries produces one of the world’s best selling whiskies. Established in 1996 by Paul P. John, the company is home to Original Choice whisky, which still accounts for around 90% of its sales. The good news is that this commercial success allowed John to enter the premium end of the market with the launch of Paul John malt whisky in 2008. And they didn’t take half measures. Using traditional production methods and installing a pair of copper pot stills, the distillery quickly earned international acclaim. Whereas most Indian distillers import their raw materials, Paul John has chosen to use locally grown 6-row barley. Although yields are lower, the higher fibre content results in an oilier wash and a more robust whisky. For Paul John Bold, peat was imported from Islay and used to smoke the barley to a level of 25 ppm (similar to a Talisker). Owing to the hotter climate in Goa, the maturation comes with an angel’s share of around 8-10%. The upside is that the spirit matures more quickly, imparting a vibrant array of flavours on a whisky that retains its youthful temperament. Sounds perfect for an expression that carries the moniker Bold.

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Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Kavalan Classic Single Malt

Distillery: Kavalan
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Kavalan Classic (formerly known simply as Kavalan Single Malt) has a rich history for a whisky that’s only been around for just over a decade. First released in 2008, this is the expression that launched Kavalan to international stardom. Kavalan Classic started making ripples around 2010, beating some very distinguished Scottish competitors in a blind tasting. Classic has won numerous awards since, as have other whiskies in Kavalan’s range. The distillery has not looked back since this successful launch, becoming a commercial powerhouse, as adept at marketing as they are at distilling.

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Omar Bourbon Cask

Omar Bourbon Cask Single Malt

Distillery: Nantou
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

When you say Taiwanese whisky, you say Kavalan, right? It might be time to update that notion, because there’s a new kid in town. Well… perhaps not all that new, since state-owned Nantou distillery has roots dating back to the Japanese colonial period. It was during this time that Nantou’s parent company Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL) was provided a monopoly on alcohol production and retail, which it maintained until Taiwan’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 2002. The distillery itself was set up in 2008, not so much out of an innate desire to make whisky, but to help domestic farmers who were facing export restrictions for their barley. Now there’s a policy that would earn my vote! TTL dispatched one of their employees to Scotland to learn the tricks of the trade, while a pair of stills went in the opposite direction.

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Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Part of Mackmyra’s core range, Svensk Rök translates as Swedish smoke. And that’s about all the introduction this whisky needs, for indeed it’s smoky and it’s Swedish. So Swedish in fact that all of the ingredients were locally sourced, and part of the spirit aged in Swedish oak. And if you thought this whisky couldn’t get any more Swedish, think again! True to local tradition, the barley for Svensk Rök was smoked over a fire of juniper twigs. This is a common way of preserving food in Sweden, and it’s certainly helped to produce a flavour profile not found anywhere else in the world. Some decidedly unSwedish ex-Oloroso sherry casks were also added to the mix, so we’re in for a treat!

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Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 41.4%

Launched in 2010, Brukswhisky has formed part of Mackmyra’s core range ever since. The spirit is aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks, but sherry butts and Swedish oak are also used, making for quite an attractive mix. The presentation is equally striking, being distinctly different from the rest of Mackmyra’s lineup. Featuring assorted tools, distilling equipment and raw materials, the packaging marries Mackmyra’s premium style with a more industrious image. Indeed, Brukswhisky’s product page shows a scene taken straight from the Industrial Revolution, with Mackmyra’s hypermodern Gravity Distillery tucked into one corner. Let’s see if all this hard work paid off.

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Mackmyra Grönt Te

Mackmyra Grönt Te

Distillery: Mackmyra
Country: Sweden
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.1%

Mackmyra rightly call themselves Explorers in Whisky. For well over a decade now, they’ve been presenting us with weird and wonderful creations that other whisky makers wouldn’t even dare to dream up. At which other distillery will you find casks that previously held lingonberry wine, birch sap or glühwein? Mackmyra’s latest creation Grönt Te (Swedish for green tea) goes one step further though. For while the products mentioned above generally age in oak, tea does not. Instead, master blender Angela d’Orazio decided to season casks with a blend of Oloroso sherry and Japanese tea leaves. This mixture was then poured out, before finishing the whisky in these casks.

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Kavalan Concertmaster

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask

Distillery: Kavalan
Country: Taiwan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Of all the excellent whiskies in Kavalan’s range, the Concertmaster Port Cask Finish has become my go-to expression. Part of this has to do with the price tag: the Concertmaster is much cheaper than Kavalan’s luxurious Solist line-up, yet only a little bit more expensive than the entry-level Kavalan Single Malt or Distillery Select. But ultimately it’s quality that counts. This Taiwanese treat is packed with flavour, exhibiting a richness that belies the fact that it has matured for less than a year. It won’t come as a surprise to you that Taiwan has a completely different climate than the Scottish Highlands. The heat and humidity mean that Kavalan’s casks have an Angel’s Share of up to 15% per year, greatly accelerating the spirit’s interaction with the oak. As a result, the port pipes have left an indelible mark on the whisky, while doing little to restrain the youthful character of the spirit. The result is an intensely rich yet lively whisky, perhaps lacking in subtlety somewhat but bristling with character.

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