Scottish whisky producers have to follow fairly strict rules for all sorts of aspects of production, including maturation (although they’ve recently loosened somewhat). European rules are more relaxed though, mostly when it comes to the type of cask that distillers are allowed to use outside of Scotland.
Scottish whisky has to mature in oak casks, and even then not all oak casks are allowed. For example, if the oak cask was previously used for a beer, wine or spirit that was either flavoured or sweetened afterwards, it’s a no-no for Scottish whisky. However, if your distillery is in Europe…
Located in Sweden—which is part of Europe last I checked—is Mackmyra Distillery. They have to adhere by European rules and are therefore able to experiment more freely than their Scottish colleagues. According to the EU a cask has to be made from wood with a volume up to 700 litres. That’s not very strict indeed, and so Mackmyra takes advantage.
They’ve done so for years now with their seasonal whiskies (Säsongswhisky), among others. First introduced in 2013, they pushed this concept to their limites with the Mackmyra Vinterglöd. Swedish for winter glow, the Vinterglöd was released late 2018 and has matured in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks, American virgin oak and first-fill casks, and most importantly, in mulled wine casks.
This quintessential winter drink obviously is prohibited for Scottish distillers. That might be a good thing, because is there really such a thing as tasty mulled wine? And if so, would it even work in combination with whisky? I guess were about to find out.
Mackmyra Vinterglöd (46.1%, OB, 2018)
Nose: Sweet and spicy, with pronounced notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, but also soft notes of milk chocolate and charred oak. Throw in a few raisins too, as well as a touch of rose water. Taste: A strange mix of the sherry cask and mulled wine, that works, surprisingly! There’s the blackberries and raisins, as well as fudge, but then also warming spices that are clearly the result of maturation in mulled wine casks. There’s a touch of oak spices too, as well as some cigar tobacco. Could’ve done with a little more viscosity. Finish: Charred oak, a touch dry.
The mulled wine influence is undeniable. Sensory memory is a wonderful thing, as this smmediately takes me back to Glasgow in November 2018, when I was foolish enough to get some mulled wine at a Christmas market. I don’t even really like the stuff, but I guess I found it befitting of the moment. A good memory in spite of the mulled wine, I must say.
However, in moderation mulled wine can do the trick, as the Mackmyra Vinterglöd proves. It’s a strange sensation, but I kind of love it. It’s there on the nose, but certainly also on the palate, while a delicate balance is retained.