#6 The story behind the name “Mackmyra” / 20 years with Mackmyra

Rickard Lundborg

Here is the previous chapter #6 The stpry behind the name”.

“How did whisky come to Mackmyra? A guy came calling in 1998 and I don’t really know why we didn’t just turn him away at the gate. You certainly get some strange suggestions as the owner of an estate. But we knew his dad and he looked like a decent person. 

The visit ended with us going down to the power station, if I remember correctly. He wanted to build a whisky distillery there. I didn’t really think it was a realistic idea. But… well, we have always had a positive relationship with whisky at this place, so to speak.” 

Magnus Dandanell, now CEO of Mackmyra Svensk Whisky. As a young boy, he had cycled along Bruksgatan in search of new adventures. He built little hideouts, caught crayfish and swam in the river on the Mackmyra Estate. His parents still live just a few kilometres away, through the forest. 

As the idea hatched in the mountain cabin began to take shape, the prospective whisky producers drew an imaginary circle around Stockholm. The distance should not be more than 200 km, otherwise the administration would be too difficult. 

Admittedly a distillery can be built in a corrugated metal shed in an industrial area. That sounds cheap, but boring and without a soul. “How about in an old mill then?” said someone. But the problem was that many such mill estates had already been converted into course centres and conference hotels.  

Although, hang on. Not Mackmyra in Gästrikland County. Magnus Dandanell describes it: 

“I recalled the place as being magical, a bit off the beaten track. Straight after the estate owner had shown me around, I called Jonas Berg and told him “I’ve found the perfect place. It’s here waiting for us!”

“GREAT NAME, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH IT?”

He constantly meets people who say, “Great name, how did you come up with it?” Mack undeniably sounds like a Swedish variant of the Scottish Mac. All whisky freaks also know that classic tongue-twisting names such as Ardbeg, Glengoyne, Auchroisk and Laphroaig refer to poetic descriptions such as “Small Promontory”, “Valley of the Goose”, “Ford Across the Red Stream” and “Beautiful Hollow by Broad Bay”. 

But the origin in this case is considerably less romantic than that. Mack is actually a kind of harmless gnat that used to dance over the marshes surrounding the estate. The Brits like it though, as “The bug in the bog” has a certain ring to it. 

There are admittedly fewer of the winged insects around now, due to land uplift and draining of the marshes, but the name remains. Although some of the locals strongly advised against putting it on a whisky label. 

That is because, in Gävle, Mackmyra is strongly associated with the evictions that affected 40 workers at the sulphite factory in 1906. Even though it was April, deep snow still surrounded the household belongings and crying children. It featured prominently in the media. 

Mackmyra’s evictions caused uproar among the general public and can in retrospect be seen as being crucial for the still young Swedish trade union movement. It also happened almost exactly 100 years to the day before the world premiere of the local area’s, and Sweden’s, first malt whisky. Another historical moment in other words. 

Tage Klingberg calls it quite a feat to get the Swedish National Heritage Board, food inspectorate officials and other bureaucratic watchdogs to say yes to something that is, essentially, a chemical plant in a historic building.

The secret, of course, is doing everything tastefully. And we don’t just mean the actual amber product itself. 

/ Rikard Lundborg, co-founder of Mackmyra Whisky

This post is a short version of a chapter in the book “The Whisky Rebels” by Rikard Lundborg. The whole story is available in the book, which can be ordered here.