Walking up to the bar on my recent trip to the Caribbean, I was presented with a vast array of borderline undrinkable whisk(e)y options (John Barr anyone?). Here, I was reminded that we in the UK really are spoiled for choice with the new and interesting things that arrive in the market with increasing frequency. I’m not just talking about independent bottlers like Chorlton and Maltbarn (being some examples that Jason and Henry, respectively, have reviewed recently), but things that, wait for it—aren’t even from Scotland!
Swedish whisky is not exactly new; Malt’s first review of a Swedish whisky was back in 2014, when Mark introduced us to Smögen. Even Mackmyra has been flying under the radar for a while now. But in the last couple of years, it seems that the Swedes have really upped their game, with the Scandi contingent on the (likely IKEA-built) shelves of whisky stores in the UK growing faster than you can say “Tack!” The Moment range from Mackmyra is an excellent example: at present count, since 2010, 26 bottles have been released as part of the range, which is separate from the distillery’s core range and other limited edition bottles. Moment was designed to be the crème de la crème of Mackmyra’s range, utilising some of the finest unique casks available to Mackmyra’s master blender, Angela D’Orazio. Many of these are blends with very little detail of what the casks held previously. However, with some, you can see the experimental (or whimsical) approach taken —glühwein and cloudberry wine being examples—with names to match.
Then along came the Prestige, which was released in 2017. Champagne cask, you say? Sure, why not. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea this bottle existed until I was offered a dram. Slick black and metallic packaging and the image of champagne bubbles was enough of a draw in an “Oh, shiny” kind of way. Champagne casks are rare in whisky, and one might arguably say, with good reason: there is a danger, as with Sauternes casks, that the sweetness overpowers the liquid in the cask. This fact tempered my expectations a bit. Even the name of the champagne house provided little indication of what was in store for me; the casks come from Champagne Philipponnat, which is a family-run business that dates back to the sixteenth century, but not a champagne I’ve really seen before.
Although no age statement is noted on the bottle, the product notes from Mackmyra list this at 11 years old, with the oldest whisky is from 2004 and the youngest from 2006. The primary casks are first, second and third fill ex-champagne casks. Bottled at 46.1%, this is still readily available from various retailers for approximately £90, despite being a limited run of 4111 bottles. But how does it taste?
Mackmyra Prestige – review
Colour: Amber resin
On the nose: There’s a distinct but subtle sweetness that envelopes; earthy and green, it is reminiscent of heathery honey. This gives way to apple blossom, ripe pears and white peach, followed swiftly by the whiff of baked goods – cardamom buns and almond brioche. Springtime picnic in the orchard, anyone?
In the mouth: Soft, evoking gentle champagne bubbles, so far true to its provenance. The orchard fruits follow the nose, but is joined by delicate citrus: white grapefruit topped with burnt sugar. The character of the champagne cask is definitely evident here. After a while comes the spice from the whisky itself, but this is fleeting. Medium finish that predominately conveys the tannic oaky-ness from the cask. It subsides before it becomes too overwhelming, but it’s hard to miss.
I wanted to like this more than I did but I also liked this more than I expected. The flavours imparted by the champagne cask were all perfectly pleasant, and like a good dry champagne, there was a hint of sweetness, but it wasn’t cloying. What you’ll notice, though, is that I don’t have much to say about the character of the whisky itself. It was, unfortunately, unmemorable. With the best intentions, the spirit, the essence of the whisky gets a bit lost.
I suppose the fact that you can still find it (amongst other retailers) at The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Cadenhead’s in London, despite being a limited edition, should tell you something. Or perhaps Swedish whiskies are still flying that far under the radar. Although I’d have a dram of this again, at its price I could easily buy a bottle or two of my favourite champagnes, which (to me) is probably a better way to spend my money. On a positive note, it is rare to find something truly limited still available to try for yourself. I would encourage you to do just that, whether it’s for the adventure, for the ’Gram, or for the hell of it…
Lead image from the Whisky Exchange and there are commission links within this review but these don’t affect our opinion.