Mackmyra Stjärnrök

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For 15 years now Mackmyra has been releasing single malts that pay homage to the four seasons of its Scandinavian homeland. The latest release is Stjärnrök and it’s one of the best in the series so far.

Stjärnrök apparently means Star Smoke which is a lovely name, even if I’m not entirely sure what it means. The website talks about the whisky resting 50 meters underground before rising into the sky and exploding into a new phenomenon but I don’t really know what that means either.

What I understand perfectly well, however, is the rather complex and intriguing combination of different spirits and cask types that have gone into the creation of this dram. The whisky was distilled from both peated and unpeated malt, it seems. The peated spirit was matured in ex-oloroso casks whilst the unpeated stuff was aged in ex-bourbon. There is also an unspecified quantity of virgin American oak and a quantity was finished in Swedish oak seasoned by Cloudberry wine.

It’s in this utilisation of local ingredients and resources that Mackmyra really shines. Sure they loosely follow the Scottish approach when making their whisky but they also veer off that well-trodden path to produce something that could only come from Sweden.

Just look at their warehouse. A more unique space for storing whisky, you will not find. The Bodas mine was opened in 1945 by steel company, Sandvik. By the 1950s, 150 men were mining iron ore in its pit. Some 100,000 tons of ore was mined before it ran dry and was closed in 1973. Sandvik sank a shallower mine next to the main shaft in order to conduct further exploratory drilling, but they found nothing.

That exploration shaft goes down some 50 meters. Following the mines closure, it was used to cultivate Champignon mushrooms but that business faltered when Polish competitors lowered their prices. The mine lay dormant until Mackmyra came along. Cool, dark and damp, the space was ideal for maturing whisky. Such a unique maturation space adds another layer of intrigue to what is already a fascinating brand.

The Whisky

*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.

Smell: Really interesting nose. One of the smokier drams from this distillery. Earthy and dusty. Petrichor. Wood smoke. Cranberry and glace cherries. Chocolate orange. Raisin read baking in the oven.

Taste: Lots of forest fruits and berries. Raspberry and cranberry. Grape juice. Some subtle woody spice. Cinnamon and ginger. Dried fruits. Pepper and smoke on the finish.

Thoughts: Mackmyra have really been knocking it out the park with their seasonal releases over the last two or three years and this is another cracker. It’s nice to see a smoky release again though, it seems like a while since we’ve had a touch of peat in one of these bottlings. As always with this distillery, balance is key. No one element dominates, it’s all about the interplay between the different components. Cask, previous contents, barley and peat all work together to create something unique. Stjärnrök is one of the finer examples of Mackmyra’s capabilities and that’s quite an achievement given the quality of their output recently. Fantastic dram. Full-on, Nordic, wintery goodness in a glass.

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