Distillery Visit: Mackmyra Destilleri, Gävle
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
Distillery Visit: Mackmyra Whisky Village & Distillery, Gävle
On our recent trip to Sweden we took a few days to go to Gävle and visit the Mackmyra Distillery!
We were lucky enough to be shown around by Angela D'Orazio, their master blender, after having previously met her in Edinburgh through my previous work.
It was great to see one of the world's first gravity distilleries and of course to try some lovely Swedish whisky. So let me tell you all about our visit to Mackmyra Distillery!
Good to know
How much does a tour cost?
The tour of Mackmyra Distillery costs 150SEK / £13 . Check out more information of their tours on their website!
How do you get to Mackmyra Distillery?
Mackmyra isn't too far away from central Gävle. We took our bikes from our hotel and it took us about 15-20 minutes to get there. You can of course also drive or take a taxi which would be around 10 minutes from the train station in Gävle. If you wanted to walk, it would take about an hour.
Do they have a bar?
Yes! It's a lovely bar with lots of different Mackmyra options. We went for a tasting tray to share and asked the bar staff for his recommendations. After letting him know which ones we had tried before we ended up with three very interesting whiskies. So I can definitely recommend some samples in the bar if you have the time.
Is there two distilleries?
Yes - Mackmyra has an older distillery that was more in use before they built the new gravity distillery in 2011. The old distillery is now used more for their gin and as more of an experimental distillery. The gravity distillery is the main one and that's where the tour takes place.
Riding our bikes tot he distillery was such a lovely experience. Our hotel let us borrow them for free and there was lovely bike paths all the way there. We basically only needed to follow the river on the right hand side, cross left over the river when the road started to turn and then followed the semi-large road that led past the college and then straight ahead to the distillery.
The Mackmyra Gravity Distillery
The gravity distillery was introduced in 2011 and is 35m tall. The older, more classic looking distillery, is located a bit further away outside of Gävle. But we didn't have time to visit this time around, so might have to come back for that! The old distillery is now where they make the gin and it also acts as an experimental distillery and is available if anyone has some money to spare and wants to make their own whisky.
Our Private Tour
We were so lucky that Angela had time to show us around. She is the master blender of Mackmyra and her official title is Chief Nose Officer. She's a busy woman, especially since we managed to show up on the same day as a multi-day press event for the launch of Intelligens, the new AI whisky, was happening but kindly lent us two hours of her time for a private tour.
We started at the top of the distillery which had the most amazing view of the surroundings. They also have a sky bar up there and just imagine enjoying a dram or two with this view?!
It's a long way down, and even though there's a lot of equipment in the way I still got the feeling of vertigo when I looked down.
The gravity distillery uses the force of gravity for its production. Instead of pumping barley, wort, water and spirit up and down several times, you start at the top and let it work itself downwards through the different stages of production.
The Mackmyra Production
I already knew that Mackmyra uses Kronjäst (sweet baking yeast) which is the kind you would buy in the local supermarkets around Sweden for your baking at home, since Angela totally blew my mind when she told us this at a tasting she hosted in Edinburgh last year. But to actually see the large packages that are the exact same packaging as the smaller yeast packages that you get in the shops was still a weird feeling.
Angela told us that the Swedish sweet baking yeast isn't the most efficient yeast, and that if they used a brewers yeast or distillers yeast they might be able to get more alcohol and a larger yield of whisky, but that she doesn't want to change the yeast since it would change the character of Mackmyra whisky.
The Mackmyra Stills
I always love seeing a pot still. These stills are from Forsyths in Rothes, Scotland and have a slightly different lyne arm to the ones in the old distillery. That is because they were housed in a protected building where the equipment had to be adjusted to the size and design of the rooms instead of building a distillery to fit them.
Mackmyras spirit safes are so called "spirit clocks" and they look different to all other spirit safes I have ever seen before. But they had a really lovely design and it was really interesting to see them at work.
Angela was kind enough to take a sample of the foreshots for us to try and also let us compare it to a sample of the new make. Since the sample was from one specific point of the foreshots it was still quite watery and very different to the new make. The new make had a lovely character to it with notes of fresh wood, green fruits and a yeasty sweetness.
The Mackmyra Distillery Warehouse
We then made our way out of the distillery and along the back of it on a lovely path through the forest which led us to the forest warehouse.
Mackmyra focuses a lot on letting people buy private casks and store them in one of their many warehouses. They have warehouses in a cliff outside of Gothenburg, in the archipelago of Stockholm and on a mountain top at a Swedish ski resort to mention a few. Mackmyra lets people choose which of their three recipes they want to put in to the cask and what cask to use. Mackmyras unpeated recipe is called Elegant and is described as smooth and fruity. The smoky recipe is called Rökigt and uses two parts Elegant and one parts of the smoky distillate that they produce using peated malt that has been peated on site with Swedish peat and also juniper twigs. They're using the juniper twigs since using them is part of an old Swedish tradition where you use them to smoke and preserve food. They also have a heavily peated recipe where they use one part Elegant and two parts of the smoky recipe instead. And there's lots of variation of casks, from the gravity casks (where the ends of the casks are Swedish oak) to ex-rum, oloroso and bourbon casks. All are usually 30liter casks.
Several people at Mackmyra told us that one of the nicest things about owning a private cask with friends or family is that they get a good reason to meet at least once a year when they visit the cask to sample and see how it is progressing.
Angela told us we were being too cute in our photos and told us to be a bit more crazy and this happened. I might need to practice my crazy photo poses so I don't look like an evil minion.
A Tasting in the lab with The Chief Nose Officer
After seeing the warehouse we got to walk past the building where they smoke the malt (which smelled of lovely peat and wood smoke) and then we headed back to Angelas lab where she took out a few different bottles for us to try.
First she brought out the new Intelligens, which is the world's first AI whisky. In a collaboration with Microsoft and Finnish Fourkind they have put a lot of information about whisky recipes, reviews, awards and so on which the AI has then generated in to whisky recipes. It was then up to Angla to choose the recipe and supervise so the whisky turned out alright. I was kind of hoping it would be slightly weird and quirky in its character and the flavour was certainly interesting. It was unlike any whisky I've tried before and I loved how unique it was. A very pleasant smooth flavour that was difficult to pinpoint so all I can say is go out there and try it and see what you think!
We also tried Jakt, which was a whisky matured on seasoned hunting wine casks. Hunting wine is a wine made from lingonberries and blueberries from Grythyttan Vin. And we also tried the new mysterious seasonal whisky which is being released next month. I just love how innovative, quirky and experimental Mackmyra can be with its whisky and I'm so happy that the results are so nice! It's so lovely when they use their Swedish heritage in their whisky, such as using cloudberry wine casks, Swedish oak and juniper twigs with their peat. I might be slightly bias but discovering the flavours of Mackmyra has made me appreciate my Swedish heritage even more and makes me more proud to be from Sweden.
Here below you can see the distillery from the back. The sky bar is at the top, then you have the wash backs and underneath is where the stills are.
We were really surprised by how nice weather we had throughout our time in Sweden, but you could feel the autumn cold in the wind. I really want to come back and see what the distillery and surroundings look like covered in snow. And I would love seeing the warehouse where Mackmyra store their casks 50m below the surface in the old Bodås mine.
And here below is the distillery from the front, the two big tanks hold either peated malt or unpeated malt.
Just in front you can see two quirky whisky-loving swedes (I'll keep practicing my crazy poses).
The Mackmyra Bar
After our visit Angela had to run to prepare for the press-event later that day and we sat down in the restaurant and a had a lovely lunch. I enjoyed breaded plaice with potatoes and Cody had a nice burger. We ended up also ordering the lunch tasting where you get three drams from the bar to sample for only 120:-. With the help from the lovely Daniel we got three whiskies I've never tried before; the Moment Skogshallon (a whisky matured on wild raspberry wine casks), one of the jubilee cask releases and a reserve cask which was a peated whisky matured on American oak.
My favourite one was the jubilee cask whisky, which had notes of ripe pears and marzipan! The jubilee cask was created to celebrate the 20th year of Mackmyra which is this year (!) and the ends of the casks are made of new Swedish oak (with special carvings in the wood for more wood contact) and the rest is American oak. The Moment Skogshallon was chewier than I expected and the nose improved with a few drops of water, but the flavour was nicer without and quite smooth but spicy - whisky can be so unpredictable!
The third whisky which was peated tasted like burned fresh wood or like licking charcoal which might sound weird but was really interesting and nice. This might sound weird but the peated whisky from Mackmyra really tastes like Swedish forest to me, which might be because I used to hike in to the woods with my family when I was young and we used to set up a bonfire and grill sausages or chicken, so I don't know if it might remind me of that, but whatever it is - I like it!
It's definitely a stunning bar full of interesting Mackmyras so I would definitely recommend doing the lunch tasting and talking to the guys behind to bar to get a good line up. Some of my favourites are the Brukswhisky, Vinterglöd and Moment Fjällmark.
We had such a great time at Mackmyra and I was really surprised how easy it was to get to the distillery.
If you are curious about some Swedish whisky and to have a unique distillery experience then check out Mackmyra Distillery!
Bonus: Sparkling Birch Sap Wine
We also tried another Swedish drink which was the sparkling birch sap wine Sav. I thought it would taste more earthy than it did but it actually just reminded me of a more citrusy and fresh champagne, with less of the bready and dry notes. Would definitely drink again!
A Mackmyra amongst the clouds
If you are traveling to Sweden with Scandinavian Airlines I can also recommend getting a Mackmyra Traveler Whisky and a marabou chocolate bar on the flight as a warm up treat for your Swedish adventures. The spiciness of the whisky balances out the creamy chocolate really well!
Thank you/Stort tack Mackmyra for letting us visit!
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Have you been to Mackmyra Distillery?