Myken Distillery must be one of the most remote operations ever to feature the pages of Words of Whisky. Named after the fishing village it is located in, Myken sits 32 kilometer out on an island off the coast of Norway. When it was founded in 2014 it was the first-ever distillery in the Arctic Circle.
Just like Fary Lochan, I hadn’t heard of Myken until it featured in Berry Bros & Rudd Nordic Casks series. This historic independent bottler decided to put a spotlight on the Nordic region and from what I’ve tried so far that has been an absolute great decision. The whiskies from Fary Lochan and High Coast were top notch.
During the online launch and tasting of the Nordic Casks series, founder and distillery manager Roar Larsen was invited to speak on Myken. “We are far above the arctic circle and even further out into the ocean”, he explained. “Going to the nearest town takes about five hours by ferry. In the winter the weather is often so bad, that we have no ferry connection for two weeks in a row.”
The archipelago is a popular summer destination for holiday guests, which is how Roar and his family first came to know Myken. “My wife and I, and the rest of our family, more or less stumbled upon this place thirteen years ago on holiday with a sailboat. We’ve hardly left it since. There’s only sixteen people here. Maybe it sounds strange to stay in such a place, but they are so nice, they make up for the lack of other people.”
Making a living in such a remote can be difficult, but instead it allowed Roar and his family to combine the two greatest loves of their lives: single malt whisky and Myken. “It presents some logistical challenges. If you can not get anything in or out of the island for a fortnight, then you better stock up on barley at least. We distil over live flames, very slowly. We definitely need to get propane gas delivered. So far, we’ve been extremely lucky that we haven’t had to shut down our production.”
Full capacity of Myken Distillery is 30,000 litres per annum, but they’re usually around 20,000 to 25,000 per year. “We’re working on plans to quadruple that and get close to 100,000”, Roar explained. “That’s where our friends at Box [now renamed to High Coast] started and we plan to end up. We also just built a new warehouse. Maybe the most beautiful warehouse in European whisky, if I do say so myself. There we can store about 2000 casks. Our aim is to fill it up much quicker than the 10 years it is going to take if we produce at our current rate.
The cask Roar sold to Berry Bros & Rudd is actually sort of a leftovers cask, as he referred to it. ” This was a cask that took me six months to fill up. Starting in December 2016 with about 50 litres of peated spirit. Then whenever I had something left over from filling other casks throughout the spring of 2017, I put it into this one. The first 50 litres was about 35 ppm and the rest of the spirit was unpeated. When it was full it ended up at around 8 ppm. I should mention we don’t fill all our casks that way. This was a one off way of doing it.”
Fun fact: The whisky bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd is actually illegal to sell in Norway, where spirits aren’t allowed to have an abv of more than 60 percent.
Nose: Soft and gentle with a farmy backbone of malt and porridge, followed by notes of moss, seaweed and a touch of mulch. There’s a very light, herbal smoke in the background. Just a whiff of sage and vanilla custard. Taste: Thick, oily mouthfeel while the peat is much more pronounced. Charcoal and tar, more in the Ardmore realm than heavily-peated Islay. Also charred lemon peel, some beeswax, a whiff of ash and some chocolate. Surprisingly, no water is needed, but I’ll add some just out of curiosity. It brings out a spicy, nutty side. Finish: Lingering spices, menthol, resin and herbs. Finally a touch of honey.
It's so great to explore good single malt whisky made outside of Scotland. Sure, Myken adheres to Scottish production regimes, but it has a style entirely of its own. A bold pick by Berry Bros & Rudd.