Interview: A Master Blenders hunt for the perfect whisky

Malin Åberg

Hello Angela! For those who doesn’t know, you’re the chef of our whisky, the Master – or should we say Chief Nose Officer – which one do you use?

– Both works actually!

The 2020 autumn whiskey Jaktlycka (Hunting Success) has matured in berry wine casks from Grythyttan. What would you say the maturing process in berry wine casks adds to the whisky?
– Carrying out the final maturing in berry wine casks is a somewhat bigger challenge than doing the maturing in grape/fruit wine casks. The berries are more sensitive in terms of working with them, and they provide a lighter and more delicate taste than whisky that has matured in, for example, grape wine casks. It is important to know how to generate as much taste as possible. I am pleased with the result, which turned out to be a smooth and expressive whisky with spiciness and notes of dried fruit, berries, raisins and vanilla.

For how long has Jaktlycka matured in the berry casks?
– We’ve used three different batches of berry casks, with the oldest being about 10 years old and the youngest approximately 1 year old. The whisky in the oldest casks has a well-integrated oak taste, while the youngest has a greater freshness in the aroma.

Could you tell us something about the collaboration with Per & Ingunn at Grythyttan please
– I have been to Grythyttan and met Per & Ingunn several times, including just before our first collaboration, regarding  Special: 05 Jaktlycka,   which was released in 2010. The place is really magical, and when you get there you quickly notice how enthusiastic they are about their crafting, and this is really noticeable in the products. These are of fantastically high quality, so the guys can feel really proud of themselves.

What form has the work of identifying the perfect mix Jaktlycka taken, what have you taken into account during the blending?
– When I create whisky blends, I like to have access to the raw material, so that all my senses can become involved in the creation process. I also happen to love berries, so I have probably eaten several litres of both lingonberries and blueberries along the way. When we took photos and made videos for the launch of the whisky, my fingers always had a purple-blue tinge. If you zoom in carefully on the forest pictures, I’m pretty sure that can be seen. And I also had a continuous sense of how Grythyttan’s hunting wine contributed, of course.

What is the difference between maturing whisky in a grape wine cask compared to a berry wine cask?
– Berry wines result in a more gentle character than fruit wine, which makes them a bit more fun to work with.

What does the Swedish forest mean to you; do you have any favourite places you like visiting?
– It’s hard not to talk in clichés in situations like this, but for me, just as is the case for many other people, the forest is a place for recovery. Around my small cottage in Tivedsskogen forest, between Lake Vänern and Lake Vättern, there is a really fantastic old primeval forest where I can walk around for hours. Being surrounded by all the soft, green shades provides me with an incredible energy boost. An hour among the trees is enough to make you more harmonious.

What do you think are the forest’s best treasures?
– In my family, mushroom picking is an annual tradition and we have the fortune of being able to find chanterelles both in summer and autumn in the area around the cottage. Your own harvest always tastes best. Another of the treasures is the nature I see outside the office window in my distillery lab. It is an incredible luxury to have access to uncensored nature on a daily basis, far from the well-tended and neatly arranged city parks. I believe that we humans, especially those of us who are often in large cities, need to interact with the contrasts of nature much more than we think.

Mackmyra Special: 05 Jaktlycka was released just over 10 years ago – how would you describe it compared to Jaktlycka 2020, what are the differences?
Special: 05 Jaktlycka   was a much younger whisky and matured in Grythyttan’s berry wine casks for a shorter time than Mackmyra Jaktlycka.

Would it be fair to say that you have devoted your career to hunting for the perfect whisky?
– Yes, absolutely! And the hunt for encounters with people and new experiences. To constantly learn new things. Such as, for example, that you do not get tired of blueberries even though you have eaten several litres of them, haha.

Ok, so one last question: You are going on a camping weekend and are given the task of selecting two suitable Mackmyra whiskies that match the cool September evenings. Which two do you take with you and why?
– I would bring my next whisky from the Moment series. But as that whisky is still secret, I can unfortunately not answer why. But you will understand in due course. And then, not surprisingly, I would take Jaktlycka with me. It would be stupid not to right?

/ Malin Åberg, Marketing, Mackmyra Whisky