Svensk Ek has been matured in ex-bourbon and Swedish oak casks. Both Quercus Robur and Quercus Petrae grow extensively across Sweden – indeed, nowhere else in the world does oak grow indigenously as far north. But, there are a variety of other, more exotic Quercus species (Cerris, Coccinea, Frainetto, Macranthera, Palustris and Rubra) growing across the country – particular in the south. The ones used for the production of Svensk Ek hail from the island of Visingso – east of Gothenburg. A rich source of oak since the Swedish Navy planted over 300,000 trees in the 19th Century to provide a source of timber for ship construction. There’s hundreds of acres of oak on Visingso, but its use for whisky cask production is somewhat limited due to the tress growing unusually tall, straight and skinny.
As to the precise type of oak used for the Svensk Ek casks, your guess is as good as mine. I asked - it's apparently a trade secret. But, as you’ll see from my tasting notes – the Swedish oak has imparted some uncommon, unique aromas and flavours on the composition. The bottling consists of 50% 1st fill ex-bourbon, 40% ex-sherry and 10% Swedish oak (matured for a minimum of 18 months). It’s delivered at 46.1% ABV and can be purchased for £41.25 from Master of Malt.
Nose: Quite light and dainty with trademark Mackmyra apple and pear joined by oven-baked buttery pastries, toasted cashew nuts and vanilla cream. Running throughout is plenty of menthol and eucalyptus alongside buttered bread and cut grass. Reduction introduces some floral/herbal aromas – lemon verbena and thyme.
Taste: Piquant with sharp spices and taut wood. Champagne yeast and proving bread mingles with orchard pears, breakfast cereals and heavily toasted cask ends. Spicing pushes through quickly with ginger and pepper offering sharpness, but also harking back towards the high levels of oakiness. In the mid to back-palate, burnt caramel, chopped thyme and aromats – cedar, chestnuts and dusty vanilla. Dilution brings more candy apple to the party, but also more oak – pencil shaving and wood chips and a darker, roasted cask note – part caramelised sugars, part heat-blasted resin.
Finish: Medium in length with champagne lees breadiness, putty, clay and drying wood.
Svensk Ek is a whisky with a highly modern outlook – on the one hand, it's dominated by its casks, but on the other, those casks have imbued a discernible difference to the end result. There’s curiosity here, and whilst Ek is not entirely to my (largely spirit driven) personal tastes, I still have to respect its uniqueness. One for the wood lovers.