Despite being a very small and young distillery, founded in 2009 by Pär Caldenby, a lawyer also whisky fan and author of the book Enjoying Malt Whisky, Smögen starts to be quite known in the whisky enthusiast world. My 7th dram from my whisky calendar is a Smögen 2011 Single Cask Edition No. 5, so let’s quickly introduce Smögen, that I must admit I don’t know a lot about, before reviewing my first Smögen ever.
As I said, Smögen is quite a young distillery, located on the west side of Sweden, slightly south and as west as possible from Stockholm. The distillery features three small 1600 litres washbacks in which the wort ferments for 6 days. The fermented wort, now wash, is distilled twice, into a 900 litres wash still first, then a 600 litres spirit still. Since 2018, it also features worm tubs to cool the spirits, so it will be interesting to see in a few years the influence it has over their spirit.
They now import their heavily peated barley from Scotland but try to use local barley as much as possible, from the farm they’re located on, and where their entire stock is maturing. While they do release many single casks, they do also release age stated and batch bottlings, but they stay limited by their 35.000 litres of alcohol production capacity.
Smögen 2011 Single Cask Edition No. 5 Review
This Smögen was distilled in 2011 from heavily peated locally grown barley (literally from the distillery’s doorstep). It was then filled on the 23rd of October 2011 into first fill Oloroso sherry hogshead 51/2011 to mature for 6 years, before being bottled on the 18th of March 2018 at the age of 6yo, at 64% ABV. The 422 50 cl bottles were non chill-filtered and with natural colour. Unfortunately if you wanted one, it seems to be long gone.
The nose starts with a combination of earthy peat, red fruits salad and the tingling sensation caused by the quite high ABV (okay, almost murderously high ABV). The oloroso sherry influence is quite noticeable, with those red fruits and dried fruits, but there’s also a good maltiness. Smoked meat, tea leaves, pine needles and sap. Smoked white chocolate is that exists. Orange peel and a tiny bit of oak.
Reduction unlocks hints of apricot behind the smoke, but hides many of the other fruits.
That’s some tasty rocket fuel! For a second or two, you get the heavily peated barley and a soft sweetness, then the alcohol shows up and bites the tongue with enthusiasm. But strangely, despite the high ABV, the burn stops very quickly to let the peat talk, or even shout. There are fruits behind, apricot, apples, strawberries, all dusted with pepper. The sweetness of the barley is there, but it has to fight with the fire from the alcohol and the peat, each one of them taking the lead for a moment before another grabs it back.
With a few drops of water, more orange juice and some wood bitterness, while the alcohol bite is softer.
Peaty, smoky, with citrus and some saltiness, the smoke lingering on the tongue as the heat softens progressively.
Well, this was fun. Even though it might have wanted to launch me into space with that ABV worthy to requalify this whisky as rocket fuel. But despite the abv, despite the fact that it’s heavily peated, there are lots of flavours and aromas to unlock, and this is quite enjoyable.