Following on from Part 2/3, I’m back for the last three hours of this epic virtual [and real] festival. Amy Seaton and Joe Wadsack [who tells us he is half Swedish, appropriately enough] are back with us to accompany Mackmyra’s Gareth Bell, who follows Shane Pirie.
Shane tells us Mackmyra means “midge swamp”, the name of the village where Mackmyra’s first distillery [in an old mill] is situated. Their first still was a mere 100-litres capacity which provided just 30 litres of spirit. This explains why Mackmyra filled so many of those small 30-litre casks in the founding years, 22000 of them in fact [6:30:34]. Further reading: mackmyra.com.
Whilst the ‘old mill’ distillery now concentrates on making gin, situated 15 miles away from the original mill and its water source, is Mackmyra’s new ‘gravity’ distillery founded in 2011. Operations swapped from old to new in 2012. Fortunately, mostly downhill, the same water is piped down to the new distillery.
Whisky innovation is at the heart of Mackmyra, from efficiency, reduced environmental impact and cask maturation – green tea casks being a prime example as well as whisky matured in cloudberry wine casks which we shall try today.
Mackmyra offers a 3 tier whisky selection:
- Standard range
- Seasonal/limited/one-off runs
- ‘Moment’ – rare, “sensational” finishes
We try two from the ‘Moment’ range.
Mackmyra Efva 3yo  Ob. Moment [4111 bts] 46.3% WB83.30
Named after Efva Attling, a model come silversmith, jewellery designer and celebrity. Her motto is ‘beauty with thought’ This ‘Moment’ was aged in Mackmyra’s Bodas Mine using oloroso and birch sap wine casks.
- N: Straight up. and in the main, we’re in bourbon-land with a profile that talks heavily of rich tutti-fruity < ice cream. The next day, the fruitiness and meatiness have flourished, the richness never in question.
- T: Again, we’re talking of a rich, full active bourbon cask-forward whisky. You can tell the blender has landed the abv on a penny. I wouldn’t wish for any more or less.
- F: Whilst others find this complex, I find this decidedly straight ahead, if layered, the abv power propelling this malt towards a long soft controlled butyric vanilla conclusion.
- C: The search for Swedish bourbon is over!.
Scores 83 points
Mackmyra Fjallmark  Ob. Moment [4411 bts] 42% WB83.67
MoM: ‘This expression was finished in casks that held previously cloudberry wine, as well as casks that held Pedro Ximénez sherry and Oloroso sherry’.
Between 8 and 13years of age, Fjallmark is matured in an array of casks [see MoM above] from 100-ltr casks [at the smallest] to standard hoggies. Joe informs us that Fjallmark means ‘mountain land’. This one has such thick slow oily legs in comparison to the Efva.
- N: Though both these Mackmyra’s are finished in fruit-led casks, a soft tannic meaty fungal husky vail hovers over this one in comparison to the more straight forward bourbon-led Efva. Extras? A lovely nutty oak character – [15yo] Scotia-like – with a hint of mint chocolate. That’ll do for now.
- T: Curious/interesting with a soft meaty savoury-sour and light salivating salted caramel/fudge character presented at perfect strength once again, something Mackmyra has always got right. Even the standard Bruks is bottled at a choice 41.1% abv. There’s a varied fudge/chocolatey veg-suet meaty chewiness with an unusual and memorably idiosyncratic fruitiness with every juicy, luscious, relaxed sip.
- F: More unusual forest [cloud]-berry juice joins the foray at the tail, the oloroso influence also playing a firm role. Finishes with soft mint fresh Cornetto with very little of the cone. There’s something mid-level that sits unidentified and requires hunting for.
- C: So intriguing/unique to anything else I’ve tried. Preferences will be personal, but curiosity can be coaxed.
Scores 86 points
Summerton’s last feature of this virtual festival is Wolfburn.
Matt McKay and John McCheyne are back with us to accompany Wolfburn’s Global Ambassador Mark Westmorland. “Poacher-come-gamekeeper”, Mark was a police officer for 30 years who tells us ‘I used to spend my time locking people up,…. [that were drinking excessively],… now I’m actively encouraging it” [7hr 52].
Since their establishment in 2013, Wolfburn have remained independent. With no shareholders and no vested interests, the distillery is run by its owners, with just four guys in production. Aside from the maltings, every other part of production [warehousing,… even bottling] is done on-site.
Between 2013-16, it was just Shane Fraser and Iain Kerr working on site. Wolfburn now have a new apprentice who works alongside distillers Innes Mackintosh and Charlie Fraser [Shane’s son]. Wolfburn have stuck with their maltings spec of 10ppm, which Mark maintains “is just right for the Wolfburn spirit”.
The bottles have had a great make-over, but inside, the Northland remains lightly-matured in ex-Laphroaig 1/4 casks, non-chill filtered and presented at natural colour. Wolfburn have maintained this as a 3yo as it was when I tried it in 2017. Does that means they are keeping their older stocks for something special, in say, 2023?
- N: Soft toasted liquid barley with a light/quiet but noticeable [and likeable] pebble-like salinity. It’s also nicely farmy/earthy/peaty [the 10ppm staying incredibly intact throughout the spirit-making process], with a touch of rubber, a smaller touch of tar,… more earth, soft wet clay,…
- T: Crystalised [vegetal-savoury] sugars, a soft peppery spice, and a light integrated smokiness matched/merged with the light oakiness, but it’s the barley that’s held aloft – so there’s a balance for certain – those ‘wet’ Islay casks not dominating in the slightest. Good job.
- F: With a surprisingly decent sustain, we’ve a lingering spice into oiliness > tar, a mellow savoury-sour wishy-washy citrus salinity and a smoked vegetal sugar barley conclusion.
- C: Since last trying the Northland nearly three years ago, it’s clear Wolfburn are maintaining consistency very well. This is as I remembered it before, though with the balance between spirit and cask further improved. It’s the softness, the assuredness I found most remarkable here. Pair with Stauning’s Kaos [WLP] for an interesting side-by-side North Sea comparison.
Scores 83 points
Like the Northland, this was a 3yo whisky in 2017. Does that mean it’s now 6yo or is the Morven [like the Northland] still 3yo, whilst older whisky goes towards different/older expressions? It’s the latter.
- N: Referring to previous notes [WLP83], our ‘old man’ [now with a touch of thoroughly faded Old Spice], appears younger, fitter, and healthier. Indeed I’m happy with my previous notes, the ‘meringue pie’ now spilt and melted onto the top plate of a cooled maltings kiln. A husky citrus farmy profile warms with time. I also find a faint hollow > dry innocuousness to it, though ‘watery/diesel-y almond milk’ descriptors would also suffice.
- T: If the nose profile has remained largely unchanged over the last three years, the palate appears to have evolved. Today, I receive a firm salivating/watery saline peated barley spirit. The vanilla-ed oak, covered in sweetish brine, leads to a similar mouthfeel with dark hot chocolate and grimy 3/1 oil on the turn. I pick up hints in the middle of a small macaroon covered in all that grimy saline stuff previously mentioned.
- F: Seawolf/salty dog finish with thin-yet-layered oily-slick briny oaky peppery citrus,… forever watery with more powdered hot chocolate at the death. Unusual juice with homemade vibes. I’m wishing for more body/more richness/more maltiness that would, in time, surely come from longer maturation, no?
- C: This is hard to love after today’s flight, the smokey sourness not my ideal digestif. I think this would have played out better before the Northland, and perhaps the Scalasaig would have been the best festival finisher.
Scores 81 points
It’s been a long day. A really enjoyable and memorable day, but a long day. Mentioning a number of times how tough the last two months has been, I wonder whether Dan would solo-host a 9-hour session again? I hope he wasn’t affected by the mindless chat bar comments, which in future could be managed externally and easily directed away from the main video broadcast page and onto a separate pop-out chat bar for instance.
As well as being a long day, I thought it was fun and informative, and a huge success. I’d shorten the presentations for next time, reduce guest numbers to say two per segment, and encourage more ‘event-ful’ whisky like Bimber’s unreleased reveal or Scotia’s current festival bottling, away from more ‘standard’ fayre. Having said that, I was surprised how many people hadn’t tried Wolfburn before, for example, so maybe Summerton aimed it just right. I’d insist on 2.5cl as the minimum sample size.
The glorious sunny weather played a big part in my personal enjoyment but I could imagine equally loving this virtual festival inside on a rainy day, huddled up around the fire. At some point in the late afternoon, slightly intoxicated, with the sun beating down, a gentle breeze blowing, and the music playing, I certainly felt the energy and excitement of being part of something where the whisky didn’t matter as much as the event itself. At that moment I wrote ‘let the people speak, let the music play and let the whisky flow‘. That is a whisky festival!
With huge thanks to Dan and the Summerton Club, and all involved. Until next year.