Christmas has passed and the New Year is upon us. Soon, we will be deep into the depressing, cold weeks of January and February, with Spring still a distant hope. You would be forgiven for reaching for a warming whisky to help you get through the weeks ahead. And, given that the Scandinavians know a lot about getting through long, dark winters, you couldn’t go too far wrong in reaching for a Swedish whisky.
The Swedish whisky that I have reached for is Mackmyra’s aptly named Vinterglöd, meaning “winter glow”, which features spirit matured in casks that previously held Swedish mulled wine. Mackmyra claims that this was inspired by the Swedish winter tradition of drinking mulled wine during the year’s colder months. The concept is unique enough that I suspect more than a little mulled wine consumption was involved in deciding to produce the whisky.
Sweden’s first single malt whisky producer, Mackmyra, was founded in 1999. Since then, it has sought to create a quintessentially Swedish whisky using local barley, spring water and Swedish oak. The distillery has tended to use smaller barrels for its maturation to impart the maximum flavour in the shortest time. Mackmyra boasts an excellent warehouse for this maturation: an old mine 50 metres underground.
Mackmyra has seen significant success since its founding. In 2011, it expanded production from 600,000 bottles per year to 2.4 million bottles per year, thanks to building an energy-efficient second distillery, dubbed the “gravity” distillery. This growth was followed shortly after by critical acclaim, with the IWSC awarding Mackmyra the “European Spirits Producer of the Year” title in 2012.
What all this gives us is an award-winning, environmentally conscious distillery producing a whisky with its own unique character. And if Vinterglöd is the whisky in question, the use of a mulled wine cask in the whisky’s maturation should make that character even more unique. All that is left is to try it.
Swedish Single Malt Whisky; no age statement.
46.1% ABV; matured in a mixture of PX sherry casks, mulled wine casks, and first-fill American oak casks.
Chill filtration and colouring were not disclosed; however, the consensus across most reviews is that the whisky is non-chill-filtered and has no colouring.
Nose: Spice, oaky, and very complex. The spice comes through as vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, aniseed, and pepper. This is joined by oak, orange zest, toasted coconut and almond, raisins, and pear drops, with earthier notes of tobacco leaves, molasses, and tar.
Palate: Another balance of spice, fruit, and some earthier tastes. Ginger and cinnamon lead the way, joined by blackberry, candied orange peel, pink grapefruit, honey-roasted almonds, molasses, angostura bitters, damp tobacco leaves, and finally, a generous helping of oak.
Finish: A warm, lingering finish of oak, bitters, ginger, and toasted almonds.
Opinion: This seems to be the ideal whisky for sipping beside a roaring fire while a storm rages outside. Its spice is indeed warming, and there is a lot to examine on both the nose and palate while waiting for the storm to abate. The complexity displayed by the whisky is truly fantastic, although there isn’t a huge amount of depth to any of the myriad of flavours.
Although I was initially sceptical about the Vinterglöd’s use of mulled wine casks, the result speaks for itself. I suspect that using PX casks and first-fill American oak casks in addition to these is necessary to provide the balance in the whisky. However, this has been accomplished well, resulting in something that is both a bit of a novelty and rather pleasant to drink. The whisky has not been overpowered by the influence of the mulled wine; instead, the mulled wine has played its part in creating some the dram’s spiced flavours.
There are two things that stop me from scoring this whisky higher. I find that the balance is ever so slightly too far towards bitter flavours for my taste, although some may appreciate this. And at £62, the price seems slightly high. Although not currently in stock, I have seen it listed for less on other websites. However, I would suggest that anyone seeing a bottle of the Vinterglöd at about the £50 mark should consider buying it.
I also found it quite hard to get detailed information on the Vinterglöd. While better than many others, Mackmyra’s website is still relatively scanty on exact details. Given that the company distils at two separate locations, I think they could be a lot more open for those who like to understand what created the flavours in the spirits they drink. Given the company’s self-professed curiosity and desire to experiment, they should be much keener to boast about what precisely these experiments are.
In summary, the Mackmyra Vinterglöd is more than just a curiosity. It’s complex and very drinkable: a great whisky to help cope with the cold weeks to come.