Björk; check. Geysers; check. That European Championship win over England; check (double check, if you’re Scottish). But whisky? Whisky isn’t exactly the first thing you’d think of when you think of Iceland. Alcohol wise, The Land Of Fire And Ice is better known for its production of Brennivin, an aqua vitae known affectionately as Black Death or Opal, something I can only describe as akin to some very boozy Covonia. So this offering, Flóki, from the country’s first whisky distillery is an interesting move.
Eimverk Distillery was opened in 2009 and produces whisky made from 100% Icelandic barley. At this point, as Mark starts to rub his thighs, it might be good to point out that the family farm, where the majority of the barley is grown, is situated at the foot of Hekla, one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes. The distillery mostly uses a local variety called Kría; a fast growing, two-row strain which, according to Egill Thorkelsson, Eimverk’s Master Distiller, is similar to the strains of barley which were used 300 years ago in Scotland. With long periods of daylight in short, cool summers, this is an intentionally selected hardy strain and, according to the website, ‘imparts a sweet bready maltiness and complex spice notes’ to the spirit. The distillery has also used other barley strains, closer in type to bere barley, for the other forthcoming whiskies in their range – Filipa and Ugla.
The distillery has three main brands: Flóki (whisky), Vor (gin) and Víti (vodka). Of the Flóki range, there have been three expressions to date, including the first three year old whisky which was released in November last year. Committed to using 100% local ingredients, this distillery policy extends to the use of sheep dung for its smoked version: Young Malt Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve. With sheep outnumbering Iceland’s population by nearly two and a half to one, the plentiful supply of sheep dung has meant that its use to smoke food isn’t a new phenomenon. Personally, for a distillery, I think this is an inspired move; it’s essentially a win-win situation. Should someone point out that the whisky tastes like shit… well, goal achieved. And if they don’t; well, that’s good too.
The Flóki Young Malt – the first release – is a bottling of spirit matured for between one and two years in virgin American oak barrels.
Flóki Icelandic Young Malt – Review
On the nose: hamster bedding (an insight into my childhood!); fresh but quite soft without the usual harshness of young spirit; slight hint of sandalwood aftershave; yeasty and doughy; subtle notes of strawberry Chewits.
In the mouth: more complex than the nose suggested; the strawberry Chewits come to the fore quite quickly; buttered toast; slight hints of cloves and nutmeg which last into the finish; when the spice subsides, a distinct taste of foamy shrimps emerges which is long lasting.
By no means outstanding, it certainly shows promise. Although bottled at the slightly higher strength of 47% abv, it does, however, retail at £45.95 for 50cl (equal to £64.34 for 70cl) which does render it on the pricey side. I was gifted a 50ml miniature from a friend and, as much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t be prepared to spend that much on a full bottle.
(It would’ve been 6 were it not for the price.)