Mackmyra do peated whisky a little differently to most distilleries. The traditional method for smoking food in the country was over burning juniper twigs – Mackmyra have taken this tradition and mashed it up with some modernity – adding juniper branches (and I believe sometimes moss) to their kiln.
Svensk Rok (Swedish Smoke) is composed of whiskies that have been matured in ex-bourbon American oak and Swedish oak and casks ‘saturated with oloroso sherry’ (presumably another way of describing sherry seasoning). The smoke here comes from the juniper-influenced peated barley – a neat twist. The expression was launched in 2013 and comes at the Mackmyra ‘standard’ bottling strength of 46.1% ABV. The price for this one seems to vary greatly – the larger specialist retailers in the UK are showing it as presently sold out, and you’ll find it at some slightly more obscure outlets for around £54. However, you’d be paying considerably more than you can pick this bottle up for in Europe. Perhaps those of us in the UK should show a little patience?
Nose: Quite herbal with bracken, moss and lichen mingled with a dry, but vegetal smoke – not quite burning, but slightly ashy and with hints of seafood. The backbone of the whisky remains ex-bourbon with toffee and vanilla – though there’s less of the expected Mackmyra orchard fruit than in other expressions. Honey provides life of sweetness, whilst liquorice and anise give addition depth. Reduction adds a putty-like aroma – clay, earth and tile filler. It also brings out a bready note that I often associate with Mackmyra – yeasty and oaty.
Taste: Starting with citrus – preserved lemons – but moving onto a wider variety of green fruits – gooseberry and greengage. Partly sweet, partly tart. The development is all about the smoke – light, but enveloping – cigar box, fresh golden tobacco leaf, ashy embers and a good ladle of briny water. The back-palate presents a slightly mineral edge – chiselled seawalls with olive tapenade, and aromatically spiced (aniseed) cedar wood. Dilution takes things away from the ‘green side’ and accentuates creamy fudge and milky latte coffee – the smoke is still present – wispy, earthy and herbal – but the brighter top notes have been subsumed into something more buttery and velvety.
Finish: Long with plenty of leafy greens, white pepper, and tobacco. Smoke lingers with citrus and flecks of salinity.
Svensk Rok feels very calm and controlled. There’s a precision here which comes across as an equilibrium between spirit, cask and smoke. Whilst I don’t detect juniper outright, the peat influence is certainly vegetal and forest-like – this adds an extra dimension to the aroma and flavour palate of the underlying Mackmyra spirit in a manner which feels both natural and integrated. Likeable and quaffable too.