Whisky festivals are a fantastic way to sample and experience whiskies you wouldn’t have the opportunity to try normally. An abundance is available to sip and enjoy.

Such events have a certain buzz and atmosphere about them: conversing (albeit socially distanced) with fellow whisk(e)y lovers and having the craic with the brand ambassadors on the night. Attending this year’s Whisky Social event in Belfast (hosted by The Drinks Social) was exciting, given how long we’ve all been told to stay away from folks outside of our bubbles.

I was lucky enough this year to win tickets to Whisky Social at Belfast Waterfront Hall on 12th November. Signing up to the WhiskyClub Northern Ireland newsletter proved fortuitous and, I brought along a fellow whisky lover to sample what was on offer that evening (thank you WhiskyClub NI!).

Although tickets were priced at £35 each, the amount of whisky you could sample that night would be totally worth it. The event itself housed around 20 exhibitors, with over 60 whiskies to choose from and sample. Previous years held masterclasses by one or two brands, which were at an additional cost. To my knowledge, this side quest wasn’t available this year.

Looking at the exhibitor line-up before attending, it was a big night for Irish whiskeym which isn’t surprising with the current travel restrictions and the location in Belfast. The event is easily located for those producers on the island of Ireland. I was looking forward to trying some distillery own make Irish spirit on the night that wasn’t sourced like the majority of the Irish whiskey market, but what really captured my attention was Mackmyra Swedish whisky. This is a distillery covered quite a bit here on Malt.

On arrival, each attendee was handed a bottle of still water and a Whiskey Social Belfast Túath Glass. I always like to walk around to see what’s on display and to plan out a sipping path, so I don’t fry my tongue and palette prematurely. This was derailed immediately by the enthusiastic and friendly Mackmyra brand ambassador, who introduced himself as Micky.

Not only was I excited to try the Mackmyra on offer at this event, but Micky wouldn’t let me leave his stand without trying each expression on the table. There were around seven or eight Mackmyra whiskies available (this is a bit hazy, as you can imagine the quantity consumed), and a Gin produced by Mackmyra (I am not a gin fan, but it was delicious!). My favourite, and what I went home with that night, was the Mackmyra Stjärnrök.

Micky delved into each expression, stating ABV, cask maturation, and unique flavour profile. Talking about the distillery itself, there was specific mention of the Gravity Distillery in which these whiskies were produced. Situated in the heart of the Swedish forest in Gävle  and opened in 2011, it was designed to be the world’s most climate-smart distillery.

The distillery stands at 35 metres tall, comprising of eight floors in total. The initial raw ingredients are fed into the floors seven and eight, with gravity providing the energy for processing down into each floor until the new make is collected at the bottom floor. As far as eco-friendly marketing goes, Mackmyra are already standing tall (no pun intended) in differentiating themselves on the world whisky stage.

Now, onto the whisky itself. For Mackmyra’s autumn special release, the distillery named their smoky whisky recipe “Stjärnrök.” This translates as “Star Smoke,” per the packaging. The whisky was distilled from both peated and unpeated malt. The peated spirit was matured in ex-oloroso casks, whereas the unpeated spirit was aged in ex-bourbon. Sprinkled into the cask maturation pick ’n’ mix is virgin American oak casks, while a quantity was finished in Swedish oak seasoned by Cloudberry wine. I was informed by the brand ambassador that, when smoking the barley for this expression, peat and wood from a juniper tree was used to give it that unique character.

What I also find very cool about this whisky is that the barrels are then matured in a disused mine 50 meters underground. Once utilised to mine iron ore, it was abandoned before Mackmyra decided to plant a few barrels down there. With the mine’s environment described as cool, dark, and damp, the space was ideal for maturing whisky. Such a unique location adds another layer of distinctiveness.

My friend Bryan very kindly purchased this bottle for me as a thank you for bringing him along to the event. It comes it at 46.1% ABV. There’s no mention on the packaging or bottle of additional colour or use of chill filtration.

You can find this expression amongst others, at most online speciality drink retailers. At the time of writing, Amazon UK have this bottle priced at £58.32, Master of Malt for £61.95, and on the Distillery’s own online store offers it for £51.92.

Mackmyra Stjärnrök – Review

Colour: Light rust.

On the nose: Soft and gentle smoke on the nose. Toasted oak, maybe a charcoal element to it. I’m getting fire dried wood. Mixed with smoked meats and smoked fish. It’s kind of like an intense meat curing/smoking chamber, made from wood. Hints of soft cheese and cream. Touch of vanilla. Sweetness comes through when you get past the smoke. Floral freshness. Spice kicks in with some red apples and grapes.

In the mouth: A little astringent and prickly on arrival on the tongue. Wafts of smoke and toasted wood. Some honey glazed ham coating the entirety of the mouth, getting me in the mood for Christmas dinner. Soft blackberry jam, a little lemon zest and cooked fruits in the form of red apples and peaches present themselves.The floral note is a little green. Think of pine trees. This compliments the smoke very well. Smoked fish as well coming out, meaty and a little smoked cheese. Quite delicious on the palate.

Conclusions:

My most memorable holiday was a trip to Austria in the summer of 2019 with my wife. This whisky brings me back to our time in Austria every single time I sip and smell this. My score will be indicative of the product and the value it brings, rather than my own sentimental feelings I associate with this expression.

It’s a good whisky. Enjoyable, not offensive, and gives you something to explore. It’s not overly dominant on the smoke, and could be used for someone new to that category of smell and taste in a whisky. The flavours marry well together. A lot of cask influence here mixing in the smoke, soft floral sweetness with a spiciness and pepper on the back end.

It’s a good dram for when those darker nights just creep up on us, it’s raining out, and you need an evening warmer. It was my favourite Mackmyra on a night of tasting a lot of Mackmyra, but I feel this is where my palate is right now in terms of enjoyment and what engages me. Give it a try. You’ll have a lot of fun unpacking this one.

Score: 6/10

Image courtesy of Mackmyra.

CategoriesSwedish
  1. Matthew says:

    Good review. I was at the Whiskey Social too and was very impressed by Mackmyra’s stuff. Micky was certainly a character thats for sure!

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