Der Weinladen im Schwarzwaelder Store, Munich

Once upon a time I had planned a series of places to find interesting whiskies on your travels. From 2008 to 2019 I was criss crossing around the globe – from Canada to Europe to many parts in Asia. With my travels, I enjoyed exploring curious and quaint places to purchase an interesting dram or two. So it seemed logical to share such discoveries with friends and family in case their path crossed such locations.

Here is one from Munich – Der Weinladen im Schwarzwälder (Black forest wine shop) conveniently located on Hartmannstrasse 8, not far from Marienplatz. Truth be told I was looking for Tara Whisky, but then stumbled across this place and found it utterly charming with very helpful staff. It was during one of my first (of many!) trips to Munich back in November 2017.

Seeing these images today with all the restrictions that life with COVID has brought, I look back on my adventures with a twinge of envy. And at the same time, am quietly amused that was once “novel” is now “normal” as I find myself (mostly) calling Bavaria / Franconia home – with its remarkable forests and easy access to long enjoyable hikes. Even the offerings that seemed at the time “exotic” are now familiar so it was fun to come across the photos I took with great enthusiasm (and little focus) some four years ago.

What whiskies have I picked up there?

  • DeCavo NAS Batch 10, Cask 92 46% – Such an interesting whisky… yet every effort to track down another has been impossible!
  • Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43% – An easy going enjoyable dram
  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing with guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels…
  • I also picked up a Finch whisky that I never did get a chance to try… instead it made its way into another Mumbai home to be consumed during the most extreme lockdown when all booze shops were also closed

And beyond whiskies? A few gins and more!

I noted the beautiful bottles of Schnapps – a proud floor to ceiling display of Ziegler specialities. Who could imagine just a few years later I would have the pleasure of going to the distillery and be blown away by their remarkable attention to their craft – be it their schnapps or whisky!

Just in case you happen to be in the area, do check it out:

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Ziegler Distillery’s Aureum Whisky – Part 2

Wow! What a start with Ziegler’s 7 year, Aureum Classic 8 year, Chestnut 5 year and Cask Strength 8 year! It was such an indulgent treat to explore the range of offerings from Ziegler distillery.

We carried on with a truly special whisky “The First” celebrating 10 years of producing Aureum whisky. Of all the whiskies we tried, this was the one I thought would best commemorate our wonderful weekend together. So I bought a bottle which is patiently waiting for the right opportunity to open and share!

Aureum 1865 The First (2010) 10 year 55.5%

  • Nose – Wonderfully robust, sherry berry burst, raisins, caramel and spice, ripe fruits
  • Palate – Lovely nice spice, more of the rich raisins, tannins, malty
  • Finish – What a delightful contrast – bubble gum and marshmallows – then shifting from sweet to nutty

I set it aside for some time and returned after tasting the next few… it had marvellous “staying power”… retaining its character.

What more do they have to say about this whisky?

The first twelve months this whiskey matures in barrels from the local Spessart oak and German chestnut. He spends another nine years in used bourbon barrels with the traditional “alligator charring”. The climate around our barrel storage facility, right on the banks of the Main, gives it its distinctive maturity. The strong alcohol content impresses with its natural sweetness and, in addition to strong malt notes, ensures dominant biscuit and vanilla tones.

  • Sensory: malt sweets, honey, caramel. 
  • Powerful and muscular finish, sweet vanilla with oily chestnuts.


The Grave Digger range is known for being a bit ‘rock n roll’ with peat.

Aureum Grave Digger “The Bruce” Peat 8 year 43%

I have to admit that by this point, my tasting notes failed me completely! What we tried before and after were there but this one? Just remember it being quite interesting and certainly full of character!

So instead, will share what the folks at Ziegler have to say:

The lightly peated malt for THE Bruce comes from Inverness. After a 5-year aging period in ex-Bourbon barrels, the whiskey develops an inviting, malty note with peat smoke on the nose. The taste unfolds in a slightly sweet liquorice with chocolate and a smoky body. At the end you experience peat-smoky tannins, sweet and clear.


 

Aureum Port 8 year 68.5%

  • Nose – Oh my! Dark berries, black cherries, raisins and treacle, incredibly intense with that distinctive chestnut quality too
  • Palate – So so intense, incredibly dry – makes you “pucker up!” Chestnut wood and port collide in a sucker punch of flavours!
  • Finish – Follows through

Given the intensity, I thought to add some water… just a few drops, then a few more… then I DROWNED it! Yes – a VERY generous dollop and wow! This whisky can certainly take it. The chestnut wood remains the base but with water it opens up – bringing the port more to the fore, balancing the palate without losing the wonderful aromas.


Aureum PX Puncheon 8 year 67.5%

  • Nose – A sherry bomb, tannins, burnt caramel, hazelnuts
  • Palate – Very dry – another one that makes you “pucker up” however a bit less than the Port, dark wood, spice, honey, berry, sweet strong, very full
  • Finish – Long and strong
  • Water – After the experience with the Port, I was generous from the start with this one! Really helps – enables it fuller, fruitier, gorgeous, rich without being over powering

What a remarkable set of whiskies to sample… Whilst I caught on bits and pieces (thanks to very kind translations). It was a huge highlight of the year.

What did we try in Ziegler Distillery Part 1:

  • Ziegler 7 year Single Malt 40%
  • Aureum Classic 8 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Chestnut Cask 5 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Cask Strength 8 year 53.2%

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Ziegler Distillery’s Aureum Whisky – Part 1

About a year ago after an amazing month in the UK, I landed in Germany and went straight to Ziegler Distillery.

We were greeted by a refreshing and rather lovely Gin – what they call G=in3. Fabulous! We then went on a fascinating tour of their schnapps heritage, distillery before settling down to an indulgent and generous exploration of eight whiskies. I’ve decided to share my notes in two parts.

Ziegler Distillery Part 1:

  • Ziegler 7 year Single Malt 40%
  • Aureum Classic 8 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Chestnut Cask 5 year Single Malt 43%
  • Aureum Cask Strength 8 year 53.2%

We also tried their schnapps – the William Pear was exquisite, on a completely different level than any schnapps I’ve tried before. It was elegant, subtle, superb how the aroma and flavour of the pear was distilled to a distinctive concentrated and purest form.

Ziegler 7 year Single Malt 40%

  • Nose – Banana cream, lovely caramel, so sweet yet also had a hint of spice, salty biscuits, marshmallows,
  • Palate – Chilli spice, more of the caramel sweetness, sociable with spice, tasty with character, surprisingly well rounded
  • Finish – Not so much, a bit bitter, light cinnamon and licorice

It was like a friendly bourbon… I found it had a style much like Glenmorangie.



Aureum Classic 8 year Single Malt 43%

  • Colour – Golden
  • Nose – Distinctive, nutty, light wood, started savoury but then became sweeter and sweeter, vanilla
  • Palate – Nice body, malty, light fruits, a bit more wood and a hint of bitterness
  • Finish – Chaser – less spice, but nice

Almost seemed like it was matured in an ex-wine cask… Quite enjoyable.

There was something almost lightly smoky too… I don’t know if I got mixed up with a different one which was matured in an ex laphroaig cask.

I would say the Chestnut and Oak base with ex-Bourbon is more pronounced than Sherry with this one.


 

Aureum Chestnut Cask 5 year 43%

  • Nose – Initially quite direct, the chestnut wood was quite distinctive and pronounced on the nose, light new wood – fresh and vibrant
  • Palate – Much sweeter on the palate than anticipated, followed by an explosion of flavour and character
  • Finish – Bitter cinnamon

After something so lively and distinctive initially, as I continued to sip, it grew on me more and more. Young, interesting and curiously compelling.

I made note that the 1st cask was Chestnut and then it was finished in an ex-bourbon cask.

What more do we know? Here’s what they have to say:

This single malt whiskey is 5 years old and was stored in chestnut barrels. This maturation characterizes the mild taste of this whiskey. The chestnut wood is also responsible for the intense golden hue. It is round and soft in the finish with a subtle sweetness and restrained tannic acid. A very aromatic product, not only for the whiskey lover. As a digestif and / or as a complement to an espresso or dessert.

They also share tasting notes:

  • Sensory: full-bodied and smooth, with spicy vanilla and creamy sweetness.
  •  Hints of chestnuts and orange blossom.

 

Aureum Cask Strength 8 year 53.2%

  • Nose – Curiously closed at first, it then unfurled with increasing intensity
  • Palate – Oh my! Quite peppery, like its 5 year cousin, it was sweeter on the palate than anticipated
  • Finish – The pepper continued

This whisky built on the 5 year, clearly in a similar vein just… more… I made note it also started maturing in Chestnut and then spent some time in a Sherry cask.

Up next, Ziegler Distillery Part 2:

  • Aureum Grave Digger “The Bruce” Peat 8 year 43%
  • Aureum The First 2010 Cask Strength 10 year 55.5%
  • Aureum Port 8 year 68.5%
  • Aureum PX 8 year 67.5%

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Mackmyra Smokey – Reserve Bourbon, Oloroso and Svensk Rök

The folks at Mackmyra distillery clearly know what they are doing. There is a subtle yet notable fresh “Scandi” style that comes from their use of Juniper which we’ve started to look out for as a signature element.

Our fabulous tour and tasting guide – Ingemar – chose to split our tasting broadly  between:

For the 2nd part, we explored the Smokey style through two “Macmyra Reserve” expressions (available only through purchasing a cask) and one standard expression:

  • Macmyra Reserve Bourbon Rök 3.5 year Fatnr 7765 (2018-11-13) 50.3%
  • Macmyra Reserve New Oloroso Rök Fatrn 38740 (2014-1010/2018-10-10) 57.3%
  • Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1% WL (2021 distillery visit)

Here is what we discovered….


#4 – Smokey transition… restrained elegant sweet peat

Unlike the punchy peat of Islay, we’ve found Mackmyra’s Scandi peat much more restrained and nuanced. Our first foray into the “Smokey” side was a perfect example of this.

Macmyra Reserve Bourbon Rök 3.5 year Fatnr 7765 (2018-11-13) 50.3%

  • Colour – Light bright straw
  • Aroma – Mmm… leather, bacon, honey with a citrus twist, had a lovely clean sweet peat aroma with a hint of juniper, restrained and elegant
  • Palate – Light sweet peat, very smooth and well balanced, easy drinking
  • Finish – Delightful cinnamon, long and strong

What a treat! Lovely, uncomplicated… truly stellar. By far one of our favourites of the entire tasting – remarkable at a mere 3.5 years! Narry a drop of this one remained….


#5 – Smokey and Sweet

Switching gears from a restrained elegant peat, we jumped into a more robust peat and sherry combination.

And what did we think?

Macmyra Reserve New Oloroso Rök Fatrn 38740 (2014-1010/2018-10-10) 57.3%

  • Colour – Copper
  • Aroma – Butterscotch toast slathered with butter, malty then becomes faintly floral after some time, shifting into Christmas spices oops and then hickory sweet maple bacon
  • Palate – Very dry, the most pronounced sweet spices – clove, cinnamon, nutmeg… marmite, oak and wood
  • Finish – Very warm finish – which stays, and how!
  • Water – At first, water mere cranks up the spice however didn’t add or reveal anything new… and then a light cinnamon spice with nutmeg and malt

The “Christmas-y” quality was even more pronounced with the New Oloroso Rok than its Elegant avatar.


#6 – Smokey juniper

Last was from their standard line – one we’ve had before many years ago! What do they have to say?

Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke) is the only smoky single malt whisky made from Swedish ingredients only. In Sweden, we have used juniper to season our food for generations. Now you can enjoy the timeless flavour in a golden form. The aroma is slightly smoky and spicy, with a much smokier flavour and peaty juniper notes.

As for what we found?

Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1% WL (2021 distillery visit)

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Aroma – Juniper wood, sweet peat, tobacco, sour mash with an organic or agricultural quality which warmed to become even sweeter with vanilla notes
  • Palate – Much lighter than expected, more of the tobacco leaf, more juniper smoke, lightly salted too
  • Finish – Certainly there yet also not as much “oomph!” as we anticipated – quite dry, oaky with more herbs than juniper

As the only “core” expression tried, it was nice to check out what they had to say in their official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Slightly smoky and spicy with aromas of peat, juniper and vanilla fudge. 
  • Taste: Smokier than the nose with smoky, peaty, juniper notes. Dry, oaky aromas found with light tobacco leaves and herbs. A slight saltiness with minerals, anise and green fruits. 
  • Aftertaste: Slightly dry and smoky with notes of oak, salt and herbs.

Not all official tasting notes “jibe” with our experience – in this case it did completely!

What we tried from Mackmyra’s Elegant Style:

So there you have it! Four “Reserve” experiences, one limited edition and one core. Clearly catering to a local audience, it was no surprise that our cab driver on the way to the distillery – like many – have splurged with friends to buy a small cask after such a tasting!

As for other Mackmyra tasting experiences (nearly 20 and counting!)? You can find them here.

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Mackmyra Elegant – Bourbon Förlagrad, Brukswhisky Moments, Oloroso

After a fascinating tour of Mackmyra distillery we stepped into a ‘social distancing’ tasting room with separate tables for each set of companions.

Six carefully selected expressions were poured, ready and waiting for us… with no details beyond the golden liquid in our glasses.

As we gradually made our way through the progression it was clear they were split between:

  • A trio from their “Elegant” style aka without peat
  • Then a “Smoky” trio with peat aka Rök

So I’ve decided to split sharing our experience into two parts starting with:

Here is what we discovered….


#1 – Elegant Appetizer… foreshadowing the whisky to come!

Unlike Scottish whisky that needs to mature for at least 3 years else it is a “spirit” not “whisky”, American Bourbon can be “ready to serve” after limited time! What about Swedish whisky? Well in the case of Mackmyra’s Reserve Bourbon Förlagrad, just over seven months was sufficient to produce something really quite interesting.

Mackmyra Reserve Bourbon Forlagrad (Pre-stored) Fatnr 41155 (2018-10-29 to 2019-05-14) 55%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Aroma – Quite organic, farm-like and fresh, cinnamon, light honey, vanilla, fresh juniper, caramel… as it settled down, it revealed apricots and apples
  • Palate – Syropy, Christmas spices, malty, dates, wood, chased by honey
  • Finish – Not so long – oak and spice

Not such a bad beginning… until it was later revealed, we had no clue that we were sampling a “spirit” rather than matured whisky. Even only a ‘light’ time in American Oak nicely influenced the character of the spirit.


#2 – Elegant Moments… Brukswhisky DLX 

Next in the Elegant style was a single cask from their “Moments” series… which provide a limited opportunity to the public to purchase unlike the “Reserve” series which is limited to buying a cask!

We learned this happened to be one of their most recently released expressions. Here is what they have to say:

LIMITED EDITION OF 1999.

Moment Brukswhisky DLX is the deluxe version of our classic Brukswhisky; a nod to the original distillery at Mackmyra Bruk but also a stepping stone towards the future. The recipe has remained the same, but the whisky has aged for a longer period in casks. The whisky has gone through an intriguing development, which has resulted in a richer and more complex palate, with buttery notes of caramel and vanilla. In the background echoes light and spicy notes of toasted oak, juniper and peat. Brukswhisky DLX is between 9-14 years old and was aged in the Bodås Mine warehouse. The colour is natural and light golden yellow.

And what did we think?

Mackmyra Moments – Brukswhisky DLX Nr 659/1999 46.6%

  • Colour – Golden sunshine
  • Aroma – Citrus, light friendly and floral, lots of vanilla, summery pear, slightly herbal, leafy? Soft raisins, fruits (pear?), touch of pepper
  • Palate – Bitter yet interesting, initially a bit woody, warming, a bit of fruits, again slightly herbal with some sweetness too… as it opened up, silky smooth, more of that light herbal element contrasting with juniper and oak 
  • Finish – A nice spicy tail

When I looked back at my scrawled notes, I realized it simply didn’t do justice – particularly as what I recorded BIG AND BOLD was – “We really liked it!!”

I then went on to read Mackmyra’s official tasting notes…

  • Nose: Soft vanilla with caramel, honey and chocolate. Finely roasted, bready notes of oak and spicy herbs with light tobacco leaves, leather, white pepper and eucalyptus. Soft, fruity notes of pears, citrus and a hint of raisins.
  • Taste: Buttery vanilla caramel, ripe pears and citrus. Soft, herbal spices with anise and pepper, light notes of roasted oak, peat and juniper.
  • Summary: Soft citrus and pear fruit that ends with slightly spicy notes of roasted oak and vanilla.

Would we agree? Overall yes!


#3 – Elegant Reserve Sherry…

Last in the Elegant style showed off the influence of an Oloroso cask. At just over four years, the colour was striking!

Mackmyra Reserve Oloroso Elegant Fatnr 39502 (2016-11-22 / 2020-09-21) 49.6%

  • Colour – Dark gold almost copper
  • Aroma – Fudge, fruit and dates, raisins, vanilla, very sweet, full of all the lovely Oloroso aromas
  • Palate – Initially a bit harsh, different, herbal, honey…. like a herbal liquor
  • Finish – Quite spicy in a most enjoyable way
  • Water – Even with water, it was strong and even more distinctive in character… after some time it came into its own – rounder, fuller, heavier with caramel and cream

What was so interesting is even with all the Oloroso, it still had that nice clean “Scandi” style we have come to appreciate from Mackmyra. In this case, it reminded us of birch wood rather than pine or cedar!

There was something quite unusual about this one. It wasn’t easy but it was unique and that alone made it worth including in our line-up. We thoroughly appreciated this one – after tasting all six, this was one we came back to!

An interesting way to transition from “Elegant” to “Smokey”…

Coming up… Mackmyra Smokey Style:

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Aux Particules Vines

One highlight from our Whisky Ladies Euro Chapter was the discovery of Maison Benjamin Kuentz whiskies. So when I traveling to Paris in June 2021, we absolutely HAD to meet the remarkably talented man behind the creations. And what an experience in the heart of Paris, going deep into  a cool ‘cave’ like facility where the magic happens!

Our primary focus was on Aux Particules Vines – a whisky series intent on discovering a singular alchemy – the harmony between grain, malt and French wine.

For us, the 1st Edition reminded us of a subtle wet spring morning whereas the 4th edition was a late summer afternoon and the 5th clearly shifted into autumn, demanding more time and patience to open up fully.

With all three we discovered an interplay between aromas, palate and consistently long finishes.

Aux Particules Vines Edition #1 46%

This edition took a wee bit of effort to track down – a hidden remaining stock with La Maison du Whisky which was cleverly spotted by one of our Parisian Whisky Ladies. She brought the bottle along for our tasting with Benjamin, which was such a treat!

What do we know about it? I’ll admit my quickly scrawled notes were impossible to read beyond it finished in a French Wine – Burgandy – and also mention of a white wine?? However Magali from Maison Benjamin Kuentz kindly clarified the whisky was distilled in Loraine at Distillery Grallet Dupic and then has an 8 month finish in White Burgundy barrels (Chardonnay grape) from Jean Chartron wine maker in Puligny-Montrachet. They suggest pairing with pâté or some matured beef meat.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Bright gold
  • Nose – Fresh pear, lots of orchard fruits, honey, combined with a surprising saline, shifting slightly from fruit to fresh green leaves, a kind and charming
  • Palate – Smooth with substance, the kind of whisky that has a lovely “fatness” too it without being heavy, still more on the subtle side and not as sweet as we anticipated from the aromas
  • Finish – Long, strong and slightly bitter

Overall there was a subtle “spring-like” quality that we quite enjoyed.

Aux Particules Vines Edition # 4 46%

What do we know about this particular edition?

Its fourth edition, which matured on the left bank of Bordeaux in the ex-cask of a great wine, gave it immense finesse, exhaling fruity and floral notes. This freshness of red fruits and flowers is enhanced by aromas of fresh and dried fruits as well as by fine spices on the finish. A powerful palate that goes ideally with a fresh fruit tart, or a white chocolate pistachio dessert. In the rest of the collection, this fourth edition is a tribute to the work of the vineyard.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Dark gold
  • Nose – Very fruity and vibrant, lots of peaches and apricots, a joyful late summer whisky
  • Palate – Such a different character! It started sweet then shifted into quite pronounced ginger, cinnamon… if you held it in your palate for some time the peppercorns popped out joined by wine tannins… interesting indeed
  • Finish – Very long
While the aromas reminded us of a late summer afternoon, the palate was even more vibrant and unique in character.
If you are lucky, you can still track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 65.
Aux Particules Vines Edition # 5 46%

What do we know about this edition?

This fifth opus is a first for Maison Benjamin Kuentz: it is the result of a blend of a single malt matured in ex-barrels of a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé, Château Lafon-Rochet, and a touch of a buckwheat whiskey from a Finistère distillery. Enveloping and warm, with fruity and winey notes enhanced by a sweet spice and pastry notes. To taste like a grand cru!

Benjamin added it was a blend with 45% barley whisky from Rozelieres and 55% Buckwheat from Eddu which helps keep the finish. With the strong red wine, we also observed it needs time to open.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Light luminous ruby
  • Nose – Initially very fruity and sweet – lots of berries, heavy honey, vanilla, then shifted into coconut oil, revealing more and more character as it opened up
  • Palate – Very different! Initially a bit sharp, bursting with character – a bit malty, the buckwheat initially prominent then merged with the other elements – including the distinctive influence of the Bordeaux
  • Finish – Like the others – long, strong this time with tobacco leaf with a light bitterness
What is so impressive about what Benjamin does is how he orchestrates the different elements – this is a case where clearly the “sum” is greater than its “parts.” There was no doubt a wine cask was used for the finish.

Again, if you are in France and in luck, you may still be able to track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 75.

We were so impressed with this experience that efforts were made to track down Edition 2 and 3… no luck with the 2nd Edition however one of our Whisky Ladies was successful in purchasing the 3rd Edition. She also has Le Guip, so watch out for future tastings from Maison Benjamin Kuentz!

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Spirit of Hven – Seven Angels – St Raphael 40.9%

Our last Spirit of Hven dram was their most recent – St Raphael – which is the first of their new limited edition Seven Angels series.

The folks at Spirit of Hven love their myths and stories. For this whisky, they were inspired by the tale of the archangel St Raphael sent to heal Abraham and Lot, becoming the patron for doctors, apothecaries and medics.

Hence St Raphael is :

a homage and thank you to everyone within medicine and healthcare. They have fought brave and hard with the Covid pandemic. It is also a tribute to blue light personnel by their side.

They go on to share that the Archangel St Raphael is also the patron for happy meetings, travelers and marriage.

Surely, during this pandemic, we have missed our physical meets, with hugs and human touch. Surely, we long for to travel again, to meet our friends, family and colleagues all around the world. And how huge is not our longing to gather family and friends, and finally be able to celebrate our postponed weddings, to commit, with love, closeness and joy.

Let this whisky be a tribute to the healing, to be able to travel again and meet like we once did. To enjoy the wonders of spring, each other, and a remarkably good whisky.

So what did we think? In short – we loved it! Definitely the right note to wind down our afternoon tasting…

Seven Angels – St Raphael (2010/Mar 2021) 40.9%

  • Aroma – A quick sharp whiff of varnish then it settled down and started to open up, becoming floral, wine, cinnamon and honeysuckle, summery, cloves, dessert confection
  • Palate – Unexpected! Lots of oak tannins, spice, the red wine cask is quite pronounced, while the aroma was floral the palate was a heavier creamier almost fudge like dessert with rich red wine
  • Finish – Long and warm

We could clearly taste the influence of the Italian red wines from Veneto – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vespiola. We understand six casks in all were used – including one which previously held Spirit of Hven vodka!

Whilst we found it took a bit of time to open up, but when it did – worth it! There was a delightful dessert quality without being overly sweet. The contrast between summery aromas and spicy almost autumnal palate was quite enjoyable. Lots going on but it worked!

What do they have to say? Whilst you may not find the factsheet on their website, the kind folks sent it to me with oodles more details!

Here’s what they have to say about how they made this whisky:

St Raphael is a marriage between six casks from 2010. Five of these casks, made from air dried Quercus Petraea from Allier, have previously held wine from one of the most merited winemakers in Italy. A family-owned winery with many generations. Geographically they are situated just south of the alps in northern Veneto. The blend of the five casks is two previously holding Cabernet Sauvignon, two previously holding Merlot and one that have held a sweet wine made from the grape Vespaiola. The sixth cask, to balance the stringency from the French oak, is made from American Quercus Muehlenbergii. This cask has previously held the unique Hven Vodka that is oak matured prior to last distillation.

And what about their official tasting notes?

Scent and taste without water

  • the first scent is enticing, a wonderful marriage of ripe, well matured red wine on a sunny terrace. Both Merlot and Cabernet show themselves without becoming intrusive. A lovely fudge aroma from the Chinkapin oak makes a soft base. The end is elegant and fruity with notes of honey and apricots, a clear contribution from the Vespaiola.
  • Taste is soft with elegant stringency in the closure. Balanced acidity and a light sweetness. Long, warming aftertaste with round body. No fixated balance point on the tongue, it rolls over all the tastebuds, full palate, with small exclamations. Alcohol is clear but fine-tuned.

With water, just a couple of drops, as the alcohol is initially low, the whisky becomes even more flirtatious. It releases light notes of honeysuckle and ripe, dark fruits. Oak character grows with the notes of herbal French oak. Lovely, elegant hints of liquorice and flowers.

With these couple of drops of water, smoothness reach perfection. Velvet smooth over the tastebuds. The stringent taste that was felt before water is transformed to honey and vanilla.

Considering my tasting companion typically prefers a peatier dram, this one was perfect for a summer afternoon.

What else did we try at Spirit of Hven?

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Spirit of Hven – Seven Stars 6.2 Alcor 45%

Sunshine, warm breeze, nicely relaxed after a long walk around the island, distillery tour and grub, we started the serious business of whisky tasting. As an appetizer, we started with Spirit of Hven’s MerCurious Corn Whisky and then moved on to this expression from their limited edition Seven Stars series.

If today you wanted to try each of the Seven Stars series, I suspect you may need to visit the distillery itself as most are near impossible to track down. However for those fortunate few who make their way for a wee island adventure, you may find out experience edifying!

Seven Stars 6.2 Alcor 45%, Chateau Margaux Cask, 3642 bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Aroma – very full, lush, rich coffee, a bit of leather and cream, loads of fudge, some licorice, very sweet, mocha, coffee cream, dark cherries, salted caramel brittle covered in chocolate
  • Palate – Flavourful and complex, clear follow through on the palate from the nose joined by red wine tannins, curiously thin, the peat comes through on the 2nd sip
  • Finish – Stays on the coffee note with a bit of smoke
  • Water – While didn’t think it would be needed, given the intensity of the aromas and flavours, gave it a try. What did it do? The coffee quality reduced and a nice nutty element emerged with brazil nuts, a bit woody and dry

Overall quite an interesting whisky. A little too “concentrated” or “intense” to have on a regular basis, however it was certainly one worth trying!

What do the folks at Spirit of Hven have to say?

Alcor is number 6½ in the Spirit of Hven “Seven Stars” series. It is the most unique so far amongst the releases. A fantastic marriage of American and European oak. Presenting a wonderful combination of traditional whisky lactones with herbal freshness and younger, vibrant and enticing wine cask character. The whisky has a mesmerizing scent- and taste palate with a delicious balance between freshness and maturity, sweetness and acidity, bitterness and texture.

The Alcor recipe was meant to be a longer finish of Mizar on Chateau Margaux casks. Unfortunately the result was not fully what we hoped it to be. So to improve the recipe, whisky matured on wine cask from Italy, Olorosso and Hven Vodka casks was added. The final result became so good, it made our master distiller cry, happy tears.

The mashbill is the same as with 6:1 Mizar; 58,8% lager malt, 35,3% peated malt (38ppm), 5,9% chocolate malt. This single malt whisky is a blend of seven casks. Three casks made of Petraea oak from Allier that previously held chateau Margaux; one cask made of Faginea oak from Portugal that previously matured Olorosso sherry; two casks made of Muehlenbergii oak from Missouri that was used to mature Hven Vodka; and one cask of Burgundy Robur oak that used to mature Maculan Torcolato.

Scent and Taste Undiluted:

  • First scent impression is raisins, then followed by a light liquorice smokiness. Rich nuances of dark chocolate and coffee combined by a distinguished scent of leather. Dried plums in the background. Mature and elegant, yet full of life.
  • The taste is surprisingly round even at 45 %vol. Delicate bitter notes that do not overpower the sweet oak lactones and wood sugars. Lands mid-back-tongue. Long, sweet aftertaste with soft tannins. Great, big mouthfeel, wins on not being chill filtered.

Diluted: With water 1:4

  • The elegant notes from the wine casks evolves, and gets to dance an intimate dance with the herbal maltiness of the whisky. Together they create a lovely fond of chocolate, coffee and liquorice complemented by spicy raspberries.
  • The taste is sweet yet full of texture and life. Balanced mid-tongue. Medium long aftertaste with round oiliness and slight acidity. Perfect to balance an after dinner espresso.
  • This whisky is almost unnecessary good. You would like it to last forever.

What else did we try from Spirit of Hven?

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Spirit of Hven – MerCurious Corn Whisky 45.6%

It is a curious thing at Swedish distilleries… you can pay to taste whisky however if you actually want to BUY a bottle, you need to go to a state-owned “off-license” Systembolaget or order online from an authorised distributor.

Additionally, this small island distillery Spirit of Hven specialises in mostly small batch experiments, so aside from their “regular” expressions like Tycho’s Star, what you try today will not be available tomorrow, let alone via the liquor store.

With Master Distiller Henric Molin’s foray into Corn whisky, there are indications this will  remain a regular expression – simply with different batches where subtle differences may be found. Named after the planet Mercury, known in Greek and Norse mythology as Hermes and Oden respectively. According to the folks at Spirit of Hven, this god “ruled over wealth, fortune and commerce. His favorite activity was to rule the corn trade.” 

After enjoying a relaxing lunch post distillery tour, we settled down with a rather large book of whisky options… and thought why not start by trying this before getting into the “real” aka barley whiskies!

MerCurious Corn Whisky 45.6%

  • Colour – Bright orange
  • Aroma – Sugary sweet, vanilla, bright fruits, buttery, sweet corn starchy sweet
  • Palate – Young, raw but not harsh, more of that buttery quality, sweet and almost a bit grassy
  • Finish – Limited

We didn’t really know what to expect however it was… curious? What struck is was the smoothness and the extremely orange colour!

We set it aside and on the revisit it was pure candy floss!

And what did the folks at Spirit of Hven have to say? Quite a bit!

Every batch comprises of 14 casks, all playing an important tune in this masterpiece; all casks are made of American air-dried virgin oak. MerCurious is velvet smooth and enticing while still challenging with rich character. The recipe is 88% corn, 5% wheat, 3,5% barley, 3,5% rye. Maturation is between 3 and 8 years depending on cask recipe.

Scent and Taste

  • Undiluted: the first notes attracting the nose are light, sweet candy aromas surrounded by scents of fresh fruits; apples and cloudberries. MerCurious has a distinct character of mature whisky combined with vanilla and cocoa balanced with a delicate spirituality. The corn is evident and if you close your eyes you feel yourself teleported to the kitchen with the nose over a casserole with new boiled sweet corn. A fine note of menthol contributes with a nice freshness, a clear provenance from Hven.
  • The taste is exiting and unique. First it is almost sparkling, fresh and vibrant then it transforms into a full bodied sweet and sour pie. It lands mid-back tonngue. Via the mouth it reaches the nose with a sweet corn aroma. The small addition of barley to the recipe gives a lively and fresh taste with light menthol and green notes.
  • Diluted: With water 1:7 (≈40%) the scent changes; the distinct spirituality fades a bit and promotes the light candy notes. It scents of jellybeans, wine gums and chocolate cake, mature blackberries and sweet pie dough. Vanilla and fudge in the background.
  • With water the taste becomes velvet smooth, green notes of sweet corn, asparagus and pear. Sweetness balanced with delicate acidity and light bitterness from American oak. This is happiness in a bottle, soft and smooth mixed with integrity and personality.

What else did we try from Spirit of Hven?

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Spirit of Hven – MerCurious, Seven Stars Alcor, Seven Angels St Raphael

Travel is a precious commodity these days… even more so when somewhere completely new in the company of a good friend. Without a fellow whisky lady explorer, I doubt Sweden would have made it on my COVID times travel list… and certainly not an amazingly packed few days which included not one but two distillery tours!

Our first was Spirit of Hven on a small island between Sweden and Denmark. It is one of those distilleries that takes COMMITMENT to reach. In my case it meant a couple of planes, taxi, bus, train then another car, bus, train, ferry and many kilometres walk to reach! Once on the island of Veen, we took the scenic stroll around the east coast of the island – most enjoyable and well worth doing. However the signage was limited so there was a time or two when we wondered – are we going the right way? It was only as we returned along the ‘main’ route that we suddenly saw signage a-plenty!

I’ll share more about our distillery tour another time, however for us the whisky fun really began after lunch. The owners have quite a remarkable collection of whiskies in their bar – tempting as the range was we were ladies on a mission to explore more of Spirit of Hven creations.

The distillery whisky menu was chock full of options – while some of the limited expressions were out of stock – it was remarkable how many were still available.

What did we try?

And the best thing? Relaxing outside after a day of travel including our MANY kilometres of walking!

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