With the profusion on the internet of such a large whisky community, it can often be that you converse only through the digital space with people rather than face to face.
This is just what had happened between Angela D’Orazio – the master blender of Swedish whisky, Mackmyra – and I. We’d chatted on Twitter and Facebook, I’d even interviewed her for an article for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Unfiltered magazine. But we’d never met in person. Worse, I’d never had the chance to try her whiskies.
So, when I heard that she was going to be at the Whisky Exchange Show recently, I made a beeline for her stand like a crazed groupie. I was determined to at least say hello to this fellow “whisky woman” in person.
Unfortunately, she was not there upon arrival at her stand – which was a part of the food and whisky matching room designed by another whisky woman I admire, Martine Nouet.
In the interim, I decided I would at least sample some of the whiskies, which I had heard so much about. On the stand were two of the company’s brands: the Special ’05: Happy Hunting and the new release, the Special ’09: Vildhallon. These are both a part of the “Special” series, which runs from ’04-’09. There is also the “Moment” series, which comprises limited releases of single cask whiskies Angela really loves.
But before I move into my tasting notes, I should tell you a little bit about the whisky distillery in case you hadn’t heard of it. Established in 1999 by a group of eight whisky-loving friends, Mackmyra was the first Swedish made whisky. After much testing, the company built a larger distillery in 2002 to become a proper, small batch producer. Its first young whiskies were released in small quantities in 2006 and 2007, before the company made its first large batch whisky – The First Edition – in 2008, using all Swedish ingredients. That has been joined by The Swedish Whisky, which has won IWSC Gold in 2010 for Best in Class.
I started with the Special ’05, a 47.2% whisky, which had been put in the food and whisky tasting room to match with a gooseberry and elderflower jelly. I tasted it on its own first, and was overwhelmed by an alluring scent of earthy fruits, brambles, fruit crumble and a general sense of autumn on the nose. The palate was more powerful than expected, with earthy flavours continuing in the form of fruit pips, plums and apricots. It was delightfully warming. With the crackers and jelly, nutty, spicy and brambly flavours emerged making it very distinct. Interestingly, the whisky was aged in an oak cask that had previously held lingonberry wine, which no doubt added to the character.
The Special ’09 was a complete changeover from the previous dram. The Vildhallon is bottled at 46.1% and made from whisky stored in oak casks previously holding wine made from wild raspberries. I found it much more citrussy on the nose, although there was still that sweet current – it was more lemons and berries. I also found a touch of something salty, like fresh sea air, coming through. On the palate, it was gloriously fruity, with a touch of spice that helped balance it out. I preferred the ’05 but this was still a stand up, well honed whisky.
After trying these great drams, I headed on to have a wander around to a few other stands since Angela was still not back.
But we still managed to put faces to names. When I returned an hour later, I just managed to catch her to finally introduce myself in person. I’ve got the evidence below!