Merry December. It’s been awhile since we gave you a Fib Friday. And what a fast year it’s been - December already. Again, rather than myth-busting, today we’re celebrating the season as advent begins and there are so many drams to try.
You may have seen yesterday that we brought out Fib Festivities, a new series of 2 finished whiskies to add your list. This might seem very soon after Copper & Oak, and equally you might be surprised to see finishes. After all, there was none of that in Copper & Oak (I). Well, these particular drams could very well have been in the Copper & Oak series - we’ve bottled them exactly as we got them, straight from the distillery itself. And this is the exciting part of this post.
You may have gathered from other entries in this blog to date that we are big fans of international whisky, not just Scotch. We have good friends worldwide. So when we were setting up and talking to Mackmyra, we saw their cask list and got a little bit excited. Well, more than a little. We are suckers for new, interesting, and innovative cask types (and flavours). So besides the usual sherry and bourbon barrels, imagine our delight to be offered casks in cloudberry wine (a local Swedish fruit wine), mulled wine, and even green tea (something you might see a few months down the line). Now, we were jolly intrigued - cloudberry wine, sure, you might spend some time storing in barrels, but mulled wine and certainly green tea you usually make and then just drink. So what exciting devilry was happening here?
Well curious, we requested samples first before asking about the process. And we were blown away. These were some fascinatingly different, delicious drams. So what if they probably couldn’t be produced in Scotland under certain regulations enforced by the SWA? We were delighted by what we tasted, and glad that some producers had the courage to try out these at first seemingly wacky flavours. The Scotch whisky industry can be innovative at times, but it is greatly limited by the emphasis on tradition from regulating bodies. We’d love to see more of a balance and more sympathy to those experimenting with tradition. But no changes on the cards soon. Thus experiments like these represent some of the major creative opportunities open to international distilleries but closed to Scotch. Just one reason why we love them.
So, we bought the barrels. And we tried them again. And not only did we absolutely love them, but two just contained such comforting wintry warmth, such Christmas cheer, we immediately thought of this time of year.
We thought, should they go into Copper & Oak Series I? No, these don’t quite fit. Should we hold them for Series II? No, these are far too fun to make people wait. Then we thought. You know what, Christmas is coming up, and these are perfect for the season. Let’s release something EXTRA! Fib Festivities was born.
As you will have already seen, these special seasonal releases comprise a cloudberry wine finish and a mulled wine finish respectively. We haven’t touched them. These are exactly as we got them from the distillery. So what’s the process? We couldn’t get the exact distillation dates, unfortunately, but we know for these special cask experiments the whisky was distilled 8 years ago. It was then filled into very inactive refill bourbon barrels, on their 3rd fill, for temporary storage, before these were both re-racked on 18/1 2019. And how the devil did they sort out the finishing casks? As it turns out both of these finishing casks were seasoned to get the desired effect, rather than holding cloudberry or mulled wine originally. For the mulled wine finish, they took a first fill American oak barrel, made up a mulled wine, and filled the barrel before leaving it to season. In the case of the cloudberry wine, they really wanted that cloudberry character to shine through, so rather than using a first fill barrel, they seasoned a 3rd fill. We tried to find out how long these seasoning periods were for each respectively, and it turns out for both barrel types they leave the wine in there for anything between 6 months and 2.5 years, checking the barrel for how it seems to be doing. I’m afraid because Mackmyra do this process for quite a number of barrels at once, records don’t seem to still exist for just how long each of these barrels were seasoned. Just trust us that they are both bloody good! Being an international delivery, the spirit had to come to us in plastic, out of wood - neutral, flavourless plastic, however, we are hot on that - and got to us a couple of months back. After about 2 months waiting in the warehouse, it was then bottled for you at the start of November.
One of the other amazing, innovative things about Mackmyra it’s worth commenting on: not only are they highly environmentally conscious, constructing one of the first vertical, largely gravity driven distilleries - they also warehouse in at least 7 unique locations across Europe. The most well-known and traditional are within Sweden itself. And one of them is even a disused mine. This underground warehousing, the Bödas Mine Warehouse, is probably the most uniquely Swedish. Not only do Swedish distillers like to talk about the trolls’ rather than the angels’ share, these casks were actively underground stored. So not only closer to underground stone-based beastie, but it is also colder. Now, you’ve heard us talk about the effects of temperature on maturation, and specifically here we are talking about evaporation, before. In the Scottish climate, we get around 2.5% evaporation per year in a dunnage warehouse, and humidity and temperature conditions are such that more alcohol evaporates than water, and so the ABV gradually goes down. We’ve in the past discussed hotter climates like India where the polarity is reversed, water evaporating faster than alcohol, and so your cask empties very quickly but your percentage of alcohol goes up. In a colder climate like Sweden, still with good moisture in the air, the Scottish problem is compounded - more subtle, gradual, tasty maturation, but massively inflated alcohol loss. Our angels may be decidedly merry, but Swedish trolls are incorrigible drunks. And those in the Bödas Mine are particularly greedy with it. Hence the ABVs here being much lower than you might expect for whisky of this age.
Nothing altered, nothing added, nothing taken away. Just fascinating, delicious Fib whisky, exactly as we found it. Fib Festivities are on.
And that’s our special festive Mackmyra casks. Born in Sweden. Bottled in Scotland. We are very proud of them. We also think they’re perfect for the season. Enjoy, and have an idyllic festive period. Slàinte!