Peaty persuasion – High Coast Hav “Spiced Oak” 48%

What’s in a name? Well… apparently a lot! Back in 2010, a distillery was founded in the Höga Kasten or High Coast of Sweden…dubbing itself  “Box Distilleri”.

Fast forward to 2018, a few years after Barcardi gained a stake in Compass Box, a potential ‘brand conflict’ was raised and Box CEO Thomas Larsson acquiesced, changing their name officially to “High Coast“.

Our previous brushes with this Scandi distillery were quite positive – from samples of The 2015 Festival and a special Shareholders 3 year dram in 2016 to a full bottle brought from Sweden to Mumbai –  Dálvve – in 2017.

Here is what I found…

High Coast Hav Spiced Oak 48%

  • Nose – Light smoke, youghurt, malty, sweet spices of clove… started to open up more sweet grass peat, candies, then malty mocha, chocolate, almond biscotti, vanilla icing sugar, a light citrus twist
  • Palate – OK that has some kick, a bit harsh at first, spicy peat, some dry oak, then becomes friendlier, fruitier, sweeter… almost flowery
  • Finish – Black peppercorn, cinnamon brown sugar chaser, vanilla

More punch on the palate than the aromas initially indicated, but becomes more fun and tasty. I was struck with how the freshness also had a nice complement of character depth – considering “Spiced Oak” rather apt, particularly appreciating the light peat.

Somehow I found myself sipping and enjoying and… well.. not really thinking about creating detailed tasting notes as I was simply liking it!

What more do we know?

Lots! Thanks to the transparency in sharing the recipe and process…

I’ve reproduced content from their website below, starting with the overall description and tasting notes… however for the geeks, I encourage you to read on!

Here is what the folks at High Coast have to say about Hav:

Hav is a lightly peated single malt whisky from High Coast Distillery (formerly Box Distillery) in Sweden. It has been matured in both ex-Bourbon barrels and small 40 litre casks made from Swedish and Hungarian oak. ‘Hav’ means ‘sea’ in Swedish and is part of The Origins series celebrating location, history and geography of the Swedish distillery.

Official tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Fruity, Spicy, Cloves, Light Peat Reek, Nutmeg
  • Palate: Well balanced, Fruity, Spicy, Peat aroma
  • Finish: Oak, Cloves, Vanilla

Recipe:

Hav consists of 76,82% unpeated whisky and 23,18% of peated whisky. 66,85% has matured in small casks of Hungarian and Swedish oak up to 5 months then transferred to Bourbon barrels for an average of 6,09 years. 30.84% has matured solely in Bourbon barrels and 2,67% has been finished in 40 liter Hungarian oak casks.

Casks used:

  • 200 liter Bourbon barrels (Quercus Alba), delivered empty direct from Kentucky
  • 40 litre Swedish oak casks (Quercus Robur), made by Thorslundkagge
  • 40 liter Hungarian oak (Quercus Petraea), made in Hungary
  • Until October 2014, our casks have matured in a damp warehouse, where they lost slightly more alcohol than expected. Since October 2014 until bottling, the casks have been maturing in a dry environment in warehouse number 3.
  • 14/03/2019 48 Bourbon barrels containing 6610,5 kilos of whisky, with an average strength of 61,69% abv, were emptied into our blending tank. There we added, 2154,7 kilos of water to reach the desired strength of 48% abv.

Ingredients:

  • Yeast: Fermentis Safwhisky M-1
  • Unpeated malt: Pilsner malt from Vikingmalt in Halmstad.
  • Peated malt: Pilsner malt from Castle Maltings in Belgien as well as peated malt from Scottish maltsters.
  • Peated to a phenolic level of 31 and 46ppm with peat from Scotland
  • Barely types: Henley, Sébastian, Rosalina, Scarlett, Quench, Tipple, Barke
  • Process water: From Bålsjön, filtered through sand and carbon filters
  • Cooling water: From Ångermanälven
  • Batch size: 1200 kg malt / 6300 liter wort
  • Average fermentation time: 80 hours in stainless steels washbacks.
  • Distilled between: 09/01/2012 – 12/12/2013

First Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 13 minutes head (foreshots)
Peated spirit: 30 minutes head (foreshots)

Second Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 67 % ABV (20°C)
Peated spirit: 60 % ABV (20°C)

Key facts:

  • Strength ABV (alcohol by volume): 48 % ABV
  • Age: 5,24 – 7,12 years (Average: 6,26 years)
  • Phenol content PPM: 0, 31, 46 ppm (Average: 11 ppm)
  • Cask: 40 liter Hungarian oak, 40 liter Swedish, 200 liter Bourbon barrels
  • Number of Bottles: 11 614 st
  • Bottle Size: 700 ml

Gotta admire the passion, precision and creativity that goes into such an approach…

And the other drams sampled in this Peaty Persuasion trio?

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Peaty persuasion – Sprit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

Last in a Peaty Persuasion trio was “The Nose” from Spirit of Hven…. This wasn’t our first introduction to this Swedish distillery, however it had been some time – nearly five years since we sample Tycho’s Star! With further explorations clearly overdue!

Clearly with a name like “the nose”, it is a nod to the critical role of nosing to determine which cask is ready and how it is to be used…

So what did I think?

Spirit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

  • Nose – Sour mash, solvent? over ripe fruit, cinnamon spice, yes there is some smokiness, cinnamon oatmeal with brown sugar, something quite “chaotic” in the aromas – some malt, some spice, some smoke, some sour, some sweet….
  • Palate – Cinnamon, oaky spice, raisins, a hint of listerine? more bitter oak, with a kind of resin…
  • Finish – Bit of bitter coffee

Well…. there is an oaky spice, however it is a bit peculiar. To be honest, I’m not so sure about this one and struggled with it… Setting it aside, I decided to come back… and just before doing so added a few drops of water, hoping it would help balance this somewhat imbalanced dram.

This time I could tease out more of the overripe fruit, stewed apples, herbs, faintly floral perfume.. but it was still remarkably ‘shy’. And the palate? Hmm.. much improved. Now the oak spice has settled in nicely.

So while the initial experience didn’t tempt me to try water, I’m glad I did.

What more do we know?

The distillery shares that it is an October 2020 release, matured in a variety of casks – more precisely 21 casks! The ‘base’ is 14 French Quercus Petraea casks that previously held wines such as Petrus, Margaux and Latour. These were supported by 7 American Quercus Muehlenbergii casks with a mix of virgin oak and ex Spirit of Hven Vodka casks – yes vodka! These were further ‘married’ in Spanish Quercus Robur ex Oloroso sherry butts. As for age, Spirit of Hven share that the youngest cask is 8 years old and the oldest 12 years – from their distillery’s first year of production.

Here’s official tasting notes:

Without water,

  • The whisky is pungent with balanced elegance, it has a clear note of oak and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are scents of vanilla and caramel combined with coffee and sweet wine. Top note is French oak with a light spiciness.
  • The taste is powerful and lands mid tongue. It shows a menthol sweetness balanced by a slightly acidic bitterness. Elegant and full flavoured.
  • Medium long aftertaste.

With water,

  • The whisky opens up and reveals scents of light, floral herbs, lavender and ripe plums. The scent is caressed, probably as traces from the angels, by a nose of vanilla and apple. This is how the garden of Eden must have scented like.
  • With a little water, the taste becomes velvet smooth and enticing. Balance shifts towards the lid of the mouth with a counterbalance point mid tongue.
  • The aftertaste prolongs with water and the sweet notes extends. Lovely.

I’m sorry… garden of Eden? Not exactly… at least in my experience.

What else was included in an evening of Peaty Persuasion :

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vomFASS – Mackmyra Duo + Teeling

Back in the days that I regularly travelled to Singapore, I heard about an interesting store – vomFASS – where you could find specialty spirits, oils, vinegars and more!

A friend in Indonesia even purchased one of their whisky blends which we enjoyed one fine evening in Jakarta! However I somehow never made it to their Singapore shop… I was certainly curious, but there was always some other work or play priority…

Fast forward several years and now I – remarkably and conveniently – live nearby a vomFASS shop in Nurnberg, Germany!  For those who haven’t yet encountered these folks, over the last 25+ years, they’ve grown far beyond Germany with franchises scattered around 20 odd countries. The concept remains – purchase both bottle and liquid, return to refill your bottle from the cask you liked – if still available – or try something new.

Naturally I couldn’t resist and found myself picking up a trio!

So what made it into a wee 100 ml “barrel to bottle” vomFASS experience?

  • Mackmyra “Valbo” 42.5%
  • Teeling Reserve Small Batch Sherry 16 year 43%
  • Mackmyra “Kungstorv” Peated 47%

Curious? Read on… Continue reading

Vita Dulcis 24 – Sweden’s Mackmyra 5 year Rök 46.3%

Unbelievable but true! I have managed to taste all 24 minis within one month. Something I have never imagined I would accomplish. Now… admittedly, I wasn’t tasting every day. Nor was I even completing each mini. Instead I grouped them in trios and quartets, settling into  a sniff, swish and consideration… mostly on weekends. Curious to know more? You can read about all of the minis here.

As for my penultimate dram? Fittingly, it closed on Europe with a single cask of a Swedish peaty Mackmyra, bottled specifically for Vita Dulcis.

Sweden – Mackmyra 5 year Rök Oloroso Cask Finish 46.3% Exclusive single cask bottling for Vita Dulcis

  • Nose – A bit dusty, then smokey, a dash of honey, fresh and woodsy, a dash of caramel, cinnamon, then shifted into maple chased by vanilla, cured meats
  • Palate – OK now we have peat, delicious, peaking behind was fruits, then baked goods
  • Finish – Bitter sweetness, cinnamon, nicely lingers…

I must say, the more I sipped, the more I enjoyed it. Even after finishing the last drop, came back to my empty glass just to enjoy the aromas. A nice way to wind things up…

As a single cask, I wasn’t able to find specific tasting notes, however I checked out my previously experience with Svensk Rök 46.1%. I’d agree it is certainly in the same vein.

You may also find other encounters with Mackmyra of interest:

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Vita Dulcis 1 – India’s Amrut Fusion 50%

What a way to kick things off! With a dram from my much missed home – India!!

Over the years, I’ve sampled many an Amrut Fusion… however it has been some time since I ‘properly’ sat down with one – particularly the international version that helped catapult Amrut to global attention.

My first taste was in 2010? (I think!) at a spirits exhibition in Mumbai with father and son Neelakanta Rao Jagdale and Rakshit Jagdale. I was impressed by their passion and commitment to bring Indian whisky to the world – by establishing their credibility outside India. At the time, I found the concept of “Fusion” interesting but was personally more drawn to their “Two Continents” – yep that was the 1st edition.

After that, I had a mixed experience with the Fusion version which became available in India – with a very clear caveat that the conditions under which these bottles are stored likely varied considerably.

The most memorable was an evening in 2015 with N R Jagdale and Jim Murray.

I next properly sampled Fusion 50% at Singapore airport and went – huh?! This was NOT the same Fusion available in India. True – the alcohol percentage is different as Amrut must abide by the state regulations on strength for domestically produced alcohol. But it was more than that…

So what did I find with the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar mini?

India – Amrut Fusion 50%

  • Nose – Hmm… is that a hint of bacon? Shifts into toffee apples, oatmeal, cream and honey with a light peat chaser
  • Palate – Full warming spice, some oak, tannins, definitely more spice, chocolate
  • Finish – A nice cinnamon spice, slightly bitter
  • Water? Nope! Not a drop…

Well? Thumbs up or down?

This version, this day… its a yes. Particularly the way the cinnamon spice interplayed with the sweet subtle peat.

And Amrut’s official tasting notes?

  • Nose : Heavy, thickly oaked and complex: some curious barley-sugar notes here shrouded in soft smoke. Big, but seductively gentle, too
  • Taste : The delivery, though controlled at first, is massive! Then more like con-fusion as that smoke on the nose turns into warming, full blown peat, but it far from gets its own way as a vague sherry trifle note (curious, seeing how there are no sherry butts involved) – the custard presumably is oaky vanilla – hammers home that barley – fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all; but for extra food measure the flavours develop into a really intense chocolate fudge middle which absolute resonates through the palate
  • Finish : A slight struggle here as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy here with the dry peat and oak; enough molassed sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. Above all the spices, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, rise up and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit

What about some of my other encounters with Amrut?

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Chorlton – Mackmyra 12 years 50.2%

I don’t know why, but I struggled to prepare this post… My tasting notes from a virtual tasting evening with our European chapter of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai were weak. So it took sitting down for a solo tasting to tease out a bit more. If some of the impressions seem contradictory, this would be why!

First off – we are no strangers to Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery offerings.We’ve quite enjoyed a few over the years… and been disappointed too.

And now, without further ado… here is what we discovered!

Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% 278 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, cherry wood, sweet honey, one dimensional, caraway seed
  • Palate – Cork or wood, juniper?
  • Finish – Bitter cinnamon bark
  • Water – We had a bit of a debate on this – some thought it nicer with water, others thought it killed its character
  • Return – We set it aside and returned after some time… it opened up to reveal some lightly floral notes and balsam wood

Well this was a curious one… certainly not complex or flamboyant. Above all, it needed time to open up.

Did we like it? Let’s say there was a mixed response. In particular our Swedish lady was… underwhelmed by this Mackmyra.

And yet, when I came back to it a few weeks later, I found there was an inviting ‘freshness’ to its approach – clean, straight forward and quite pleasant. I found a subtle citrus fruitiness – more grapefruit than orange. With water, I also discovered tasty baked goods – more like lemon curd wickeltorte or poppyseed grapefruit gugelhupf.

It is distinctly different and while it wouldn’t be the 1st dram I would gravitate to relax and unwind, it was utterly delightful one evening when I came in from a brisk chilly walk. Clearly that is the right context for quite a cheerful dram.

What does David have to say?

My first foray into the world of whisky outside of Scotland is a rare chance to try a non-finished single cask from Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery.

The nose is super-clean and foresty (very Scandi!), with rye, caraway, lemon sponge and hints of apricot. The palate continues the theme with gingerbread, spiced cookies, juniper and a zingy orange/grapefruit fruitiness in the finish. Really interesting stuff, and a profile quite unlike any Scotch.

This bourbon barrel was fully matured in an abandoned mine under the Swedish forest.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £70 plus shipping.

Here is are the other two in this Chorlton trio:

As for other brushes with Mackmyra? There have been many! With nearly all sampled together with our Swedish Whisky Lady:

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An aptly named Mackmyra Äppleblom

I goofed up a bit here… after the delightful Brenne, I intended to continue with the Mackmyra Äppleblom. But mixed up my minis and we cracked open and started tasting the Vintergold instead – oops!

Why I wanted to follow the Cognac finished Brenne with the Calvados finished Äppleblom was an expectation of sweet progression before getting into the curious combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine finishes with the Vinterglöd.

However my tasting companion and I were able to ‘roll with it’… here is what we found…

Mackmyra Äppelblom 46.1%

  • Nose – Lots of white orchard fruits, joyous pears, apples, delicate, toffee, vanilla cream, tangy citrus edge, wood shavings, banana nuts, fruity, apple blossoms
  • Palate – Started a bit softly then the flavours blossomed all around the palate, quite fruity yet also a bit peppery, then a touch of tobacco leaf?
  • Finish – Nicely lingers, anise, orchard fruit

We found the nose much bigger than the palate on this one… when sampled after the Vinterglöd… but when we set aside and returned to resample in the intended tasting order – wow! This one really had a delightful sprightly character that nicely built on the Brenne aperatif.

Based on this experience, I would be curious to try more Calvados influenced whiskies. And would say this ‘apple bloom’ is rather aptly named!

How much would it set you back? EUR 60.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Äppelblom is an elegant single malt that was distilled in Mackmyra Bruk. Finally, the whiskey was stored in oak barrels, which were previously saturated with Calvados from Christian Drouin.

Its spicy balance is made up of the light apple tones in the Mackmyra distillate, the stronger and rounder apple aromas of the Calvados and a generous amount that the barrel contributes. The result is a whiskey with a hint of apple and a hint of ripe pears, citrus fruits, almond caramel and cedarwood.

  • Nose: Fruity, light floral aroma, gentle tones from bourbon and new American oak barrels with a little vanilla. Rounded off with caramel, oak and cedar, along with some toasted bread. Complemented by fruity nuances of apples, pears and lemons. 
  • Taste: Fruity, spicy aromas of apples, ripe pears and citrus fruits. A hint of vanilla, to which cedarwood, anise, white pepper and ginger are added. An impression of caramel-laden vanilla rounds off this slightly oily textured whiskey. 
  • Finish: Fruity and spicy notes emerge, accompanied by a hint of oak and soft apples.  

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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A Christmas ode with Swedish Mulled Wine – Mackmyra Vinterglöd

I will admit to having a mixed response to some more experimental wine maturation combinations. Not all are a smashing success, in my humble opinion. However how are unique gems discovered without someone taking a crazy idea or playing around? So I entered into this particular tasting with an open mind. Thinking of how much I enjoy the tart tasty mulled crabapple and red wine of my Canadian youth and have adapted to the sweeter avatar I find here in Germany.

Intended to come after the Mackmyra Äppleblom, the Mackmyra Vinterglöd is uniquely finished in a combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine casks.

Mackmyra Vinterglöd 46.1%

  • Nose – Initially a whiff of agave, then spicy cinnamon, light Christmasy notes dancing about, then sour plum, Chinese sour cherry, a touch of pine or balsam fir, then some chocolate – yum! More Christmas oranges and cloves, ginger snap cookies
  • Palate – Ginger, sour cherries… the Christmas orange and cloves on the aromas followed through beautifully on the palate, caramelized ginger peel
  • Finish – Dry spice kick, a bit bitter, sweet leather and licorice, cinnamon spice,

Distinctive and even more so when we returned after some time. Really quite interesting… it reminded me of orange bitters, herbaceous and deliciously sweet… like a Ricola swiss herbal lozenge.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Vinterglöd (winter glow) is…inspired by the Swedish winter tradition of drinking mulled wine during the colder months of the year.

Vinterglöd carries notes of orange, candied fruit and almond, together with oak and a ginger-like spiciness. The aromatic profile of the whisky comes from its aging in casks that previously held Swedish mulled wine and Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

Vinterglöd is a collaboration with Saturnus Glögg.

  • NOSE – Spicy with berries, fruits and light oily notes. Toasted notes of vanilla, oak and caramel fudge. A light warm and oaky spiciness with a hint of tar and mineralities. Sweet notes of raisin, marzipan, citrus and pear drop. Blackcurrant notes of older whisky are found together with spicy and herbal notes of aniseed, ginger and tobacco leaves.
  • TASTE – Spicy with a nice balance between fruits, berries, oils and oak. Blackcurrant, pear fudge and grapefruit. Pleasant spicy oak with hints of tar and tobacco leaves. The texture has a light oiliness.
  • AFTERTASTE – Oily and spicy with berries and a light dryness towards the end.

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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TBWC’s Mackmyra 3 year 47.2% – The “Friendly” Dram

We can’t help type-casting whiskies… some are sherry bombs, others peat monsters, some sociable whereas others are elusive, complex and even at times difficult.

And how did our original Mumbai tasting group’s new year adventures begin? With a rather “friendly” whisky from Sweden.

As per our normal practice, it was sampled completely blind before the reveal. Here is what we discovered…

Mackmyra 3 year, Batch 1, 47.2% That Boutiqu-y Whisky Company Bottle 68 of 220

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with a sour fruit, curds, earthy, leafy, coastal, salt, wet stones, wandering in the rainforest, castor oil, green apple, hummus, dry apricot, spice…  all before the 1st sip! Then a sharpness and much more pronounced spice emerged, light tobacco and even coconut.
  • Palate – Lots of bitter, spice, made us “pucker” up, yet with that prick was character and substance, smooth, straight forward yet not in the least bit harsh
  • Finish – A lovely spice… not very long but nice

For two of us, there was something teasingly familiar about this whisky… that we couldn’t quite place.

And what was it like with water and bit of patience?

  • Nose – After releasing a whiff of suffer, a lovely perfume wafted out, talcum powder… much later with the revisit was an oily varnish and peaches
  • Palate – Much sweeter yet still has a bitter quality…. as time passed, it became sweeter and sweeter, increasingly enjoyable as it opened up even more

For most, water was the way to go… while it initially brought out the spice a bit more, it then mellowed the whisky out rather nicely. Beyond making it sweeter, it made it even more approachable, one could even call it a very “friendly” whisky.

After sampling all the whiskies we returned to find a yummy cinnamon candy, bubblegum… really quite delightful. I loved it and would happily come back to this one!

Mackmyra B1.jpg

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

What do the folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have to say?

Should you find yourself near an imposing and immovable-looking wall surrounded by a grove of cloudberries in the forests of Sweden, look for the moonlight to guide you to a doorway etched in the rocks. An inscription will glow upon the archway, instructing you of how to enter. Don’t bother with incantations or hexes. Those will get you nowhere. The inscription is a riddle. Answer correctly and the walls will shift, allowing you to enter the Mackmyra distillery, home to many superb Swedish single malts – and we’ve bottled some for you! Mackmyra have experimented with maturing whisky in casks that previously contained cloudberry wine, and whispers among the trees (or are they ents?) suggest that some of that whisky has made it into this expression…

Tasting notes:

  • Nose:  Marzipan, juicy apricot and raspberry, hints of brown sugar.
  • Palate: Pastries filled with quince jam. Cherry Bakewell and cinnamon.
  • Finish: Rather long and sweet, though a prickle of peppercorn does develop.

And what would this set you back? £128 for a 50 cl bottle.

I must also say the cloudberry wine clearly added a cheerful note to this Mackmyra.

What other Jim McEwan whiskies from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) did we try?

As for me, it is perhaps NOT such a surprise that this whisky was somehow familiar… Thanks to fabulous Nordic and Swedish connects, I’ve had great opportunities to try more than one whisky from this rather interesting distillery:

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Northern Lights – Mackmyra Mack 40%

Yet again we have returned to Sweden, compliments of our Swedish Whisky Lady’s summer trip to the land of her birth. She considered other options then settled on their entry level whisky.

Mackmyra Mack 40%

  • Nose – Oranges, warm peaches in the sunshine, bubble gum, candy floss. Just a fabulous warm and inviting nose, some caramel custard too
  • Palate – Initially came across as a bit flat, like apple juice, but keep sipping and you’ll enjoy the light spice and amiable character, quite satisfying
  • Finish – Light restrained and quite tasty

Overall it reminded us of a summery county fair. Though most of us would have preferred a bit more “oomph!”, perhaps a bit higher than 40%.

Disappointing to learn they use caramel for colouring but it was quite accommodating and easy to drink.

Truth me told – it was the “hit” of the evening and we had to set it aside to keep it from being emptied completely!

Here’s what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Vanilla, boiled sweets and soft orchard fruit. Pear drops and spicy caramel. 
  • Palate: Candies peels, vanilla fudge, hint of basil, stewed fruit. 
  • Finish: Sweet oak spices.

It was purchased in Sweden in August 2017 and opened in Mumbai May 2018.

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

Curious to try more Nordic whiskies? Check out the European whisky section with a selection of Swedish whiskies:

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