Sweden’s Agitator’s early start

Sometimes the whisky fabric leads to special ‘sneak peaks’ into what is coming on the horizon. When The Box whisky became High Coast and more changes in the Swedish whisky industry happened, it lead to Nordic Whisky Capital… from which Håkan Jarskog became CEO of a new venture – Agitator – together with Distillery Manager  Oskar Bruno. Enter a fellow whisky aficionado from London / Bombay who just so happens to know these folks and a couple of early experiments made their way to us… to finally be opened one fine day in 2022.

Truthfully we just did a light touch exploration however it was enough to get a sense of something rather promising indeed!

Agitator’s 7 months (2018 – 9/27/2019) “Ny am ek” 46%

  • Nose – Custard apple, hay, citrus
  • Palate – Hint of heat, light spice, sweet
  • Finish – Hot

And what happens with a few more months in the barrel – throwing in some Sherry and Peat?

Agitator’s 11 months (2018 – 05/19/2019) “Sherry” 30 ppm 46%

  • Nose – Wow! Clear sherry stamp, a hint of iodine, milky caramel
  • Palate – Smooth, toffee, tobacco peat
  • Finish – Light

A rather good start! Way more going on than one would expect from maturing for under 1 year! I couldn’t wait to see how Agitator is with a couple years in a barrel!

Thankfully, I didn’t need to wait so long… in December 2022, we could experience how Agitor evolved with the bottles brought from Sweden by a lovely Whisky Lady for sampling during our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session! We tried two core expressions: Single Malt 43% and Rök 43% plus a limited edition small batch expression Argument: Småfat 46%.

Curious to know more about their process and approach? Check out this informative feature in Distiller magazine.

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Sweden’s Agitator Single Malt Rök 43%

We closed our exploration of three expressions from a new Swedish distillery – Agitator – with the “smoky” one, anticipating it would overwhelm the other expressions. Turns out this had a much more subtle approach. Matured in a combination of ex-Islay and Chestnut casks, this smoky Agitator expression is worth checking out!

Agitator Single Malt Rök 43%

  • Nose – Smoked apples by the seaside, shifts into milk chocolate malt balls, light leather, fresh sea breeze, some herbal or vegetal elements… one lady described it as red cabbage and also found some bacon too!
  • Palate – Burnt sea wood, seawater, damp embers, walnut, dark chocolate, smooth and balanced, some vanilla custard in there too, followed by salt-water taffy
  • Finish – Nice walnut bitter then cinnamon candy, a hint of ginger

Overall this was yummy! This had the character of a friendly sailor… More of a ‘late night’ whisky with some “pep”! The more we sipped, the more it grew on us.

Interesting! We increasingly see the use of ex-Islay casks to add a gentle peat element. Whilst I couldn’t tell from the distillery information if they also used some peated barley, based on the character would suspect some (just don’t quote me on it!). Bottom line, there was a gentle “hand” at play – making this a balanced lightly smoked dram instead of a bold peat monster!

Here is what the folks at Agitator have to say (with the help of google translate from Swedish!):

In the aroma, a flattering smoky tone appears, which is accompanied by light herbalism and straw, as well as balanced fat notes. The taste, just like the smell, has a very balanced smokiness that lingers for a long time without becoming dominant. There are also notes of the vegetable found in the fragrance and a clear note of dried apricot. The finish has a certain saltiness, which probably comes from the fact that we used casks that had previously stored whiskey from Islay.

Pairing suggestion: Flavorful cheeses like blue mold, dark chocolate, oysters or smoked fish, such as salmon.

What an interesting trio! Our introduction to Agitator also included:

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Sweden’s Agitator Single Malt 43%

Like other European whisky distilleries, Agitator turns to chestnut wood to augment the standard oak. For their “core” expression simply called “Agitator Single Malt” they have aged their whisky in four casks: ex-bourbon casks, new American oak casks, ex-sherry casks, and chestnut casks. It makes for an interesting combination…

Agitator Single Malt 43%

  • Nose – Quite spirited at 1st, then mellowed to reveal crunchy green apples and pears, joined by tart pomegranate or mosambi (sweet lime), some fresh-cut wood, slight hint of dried fruits, however overall it was summery – fruity and sweet. We also caught teasing tastes of tropical fruits every once and a while as a contrast with the orchard fruits.  And all this before the 1st sip! After quaffing, we also found vanilla custard, red apple strudel, a hint of bitter cinnamon
  • Palate – So soft, delicious apple sauce, with some spice burn at the back, that shifts into white peppercorns, silky smooth on the palate, joyfully fruity, some salt water taffy
  • Finish – A bit bitter, and resinous, yet also soft and creamy, closing quite sweetly

We could describe this as a Swedish summer – frolicking in the sunshine-kissed fields. When we returned to revisit after an hour – it was like sipping sweet honey water!

We tasted this after the complex small cask/batch Småfat so obviously found their Single Malt less complex. That didn’t stop us from enjoying its sweet, easy-drinking, uncomplicated happy character. We thought this would be the perfect whisky to ease into an evening.

For my part, I couldn’t help but wonder what if it was bottled at 46%? I suspect it would be even more interesting. However, given Agitator cask at a much lower ABV – only 55% instead of the more common approach in Scotland of casking at 63.5% – it must be more challenging to reliably produce higher ABV expressions. Additionally, playing around with four casks, yet still quite young (above three years but likely not too much above that!), means that some of the casks could still be quite “active”, hence achieving the smooth amiable character at a higher strength could also be tricky.

Here is what the folks at Agitator have to say (with the help of google translate from Swedish!):

The aroma has a lovely and light note of fruitiness which is dominated by citrus, red apple and pineapple together with some dried fruit which primarily comes from the Sherry and Chestnut casks. The taste has some saltiness and a slight smoky undertone, which comes a lot from our choice of smokiness on the grain. This is well accompanied by a fruity element where you can also find some apple and citrus here. The finish has a note of sweet vanilla toffee, mostly from Bourbon casks and American oak, and it lingers pleasantly for a long time.

Pairing suggestion: Why not try it with an apple cake?

Our introduction to Agitator also included two other expressions. Now… if you were to also explore this trio together, there is no doubt you should start with this expression first! Then explore the smoky Rök before settling into Argument: Småfat. At least that would be our humble recommendation!

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Sweden’s Agitator Argument: Småfat 46%

Kicking off our evening exploring a trio from the new Swedish distillery Agitator was an interesting expression from their small batch and small cask series. In this case, it was a mix of whisky matured in three different quarter casks: ex-Islay to add a gentle smoke, ex-Sherry for a dash of Christmasy sweetness, and chestnut wood.

It was an impressive start – we immediately appreciate the different qualities the cask combination brought and how remarkably complex it was for a whisky that must be only around 3-4 years!

Agitator Argument: Småfat 46%

  • Nose – Is that Benedryl cough syrup? A bit musty then shifts into a lovely hazel nuttiness, some grain mash, switching to sweet marzipan, then tropical fruits, which was quite inviting and warming. After the 1st sip we detected some hints of leather, black licorice, and some cayenne that then shifted into crisp green capsicum
  • Palate – Love it! Velvet, leather, caramel, cinnamon (a bit like chewing “Big Red” bubblegum), bitter almond, very Christmasy with sherry influences – marmalade, dried fruits with sweet spices, warming and complex, full and fab!
  • Finish – At first we thought little of the finish, but by the 2nd sip, remarked on how it lingers, some black pepper, a hint of salt, a touch bitter, like chewing on meethi ladkri

Overall it was really rather interesting and contrasting – a delicious and shifting nose, so enjoyable on the palate – one to relax, sip and enjoy like a warm embrace, and a finish that sparked a debate.

So what was the discussion about? It was around the dimension described as मीठी लकड़ी (meethi ladkri) which translates into sweet wood – a stick that you can chew to freshen breath, help a sore throat, settle your stomach, and more. A bit more research and we burst out with laughter – it isn’t some exotic desi root – instead we were talking about licorice which is quite common in many parts of the world! However, it is true, chewing a stick differs from the processed licorice one normally finds.

One lady remarked how it reminded her a lot of Caperdonich. I quickly flipped through my whisky-tasting notes and read impressions from a recent experience at Paris Whisky Live from La Maison du Whisky – would absolutely agree! Especially the nutty character!

We rarely have such an enthusiastic reaction to the 1st whisky of the evening – which just goes to show how much we enjoyed this expression! For most, it was the favourite of the evening.

Here is what the folks at Agitator have to say (with the help of google translate from Swedish!):

Tasting Notes: 
  • Aroma: In the aroma you will find a nuanced smokiness with a clear barrel character, hints of vanilla, butterscotch, red apples, tropical fruit and dry leather.
  • Taste: The Islay casks contribute to the taste with distinct smoky tones and a fine-tuned saltiness. Sherry and chestnut casks contribute fruitiness of red apples, tropical fruit and a dry finish.
  • Finish: Light to medium-long finish with hints of some salty licorice.
Pairing suggestion: Blue cheese, chocolate, seafood, and snacks such as pistachios and almonds

Our introduction to Agitator also included::

Curious about more Swedish whiskies? Well…. you are in luck! We’ve had quite a few interesting explorations, so you can take your pick of:

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Sweden’s Agitator Trio – Single Malt, Rök, Argument: Småfat

Welcome to Sweden and say hello to a new distillery – Agitator! Thanks to the travels of a Swedish Whisky Lady, we had an opportunity to explore a trio from the latest “kid on the block”.

I’m still learning what makes this new entrant distinctive but a few things already caught my attention. Agitator do vacuum distillation – to give a gentler treatment to the raw materials and reduce energy consumption. They also have a casking strength of 55% ABV – which is much lower than the standard 63.5% ABV by Scottish distillers. And, much like some German distillers, they also use chestnut casks to augment traditional oak. You can read more about their approach here.

Our introduction to Agitator included::

What an interesting introduction to a very promising new entry into the world of whisky!

And what a lovely December evening in Mumbai – kicking off with the flavourful Swedish mulled wine, an impressive spread of snacks, it was a fabulous way to close another calendar year of tasting adventures with the Whisky Ladies!

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