Sweden may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think of distillers. You may well be surprised to learn, therefore, that there are no less than SEVENTEEN of the blighters currently producing whisky! High Coast Distillery – formerly known as Box Destileri – are, however, one of the more recognisable names on these shores.
Situated in the north of the country, High Coast started distilling in 2010 and have become renowned for an unpeated spirit that delivers clean fruitiness often compared to some Japanese offerings (famously, distiller Roger Melander was unable to differentiate between his own new make and that from Chichibu). They also have a clean, sharp, peated offering reminiscent of an Islay or even Campbeltown peated dram.
Roger’s attention to detail (not to mention his love of numbers, as you’ll see later) is huge in all areas of production. His ingredients include arguably the most naturally chlorine-free water in the world from a lake seven kilometres north of the distillery, Belgian malt for the peated make (for mouthfeel) and South African yeast chosen specifically for balance. He also uses Swedish Pilsner malt with French yeast in the non-peated make, which produces less yield but makes for a superior fruity flavor.
Finally, High Coast’s maturation regime counts not only the traditional subtractive and additive qualities of oak, but also utilises pressure to enhance the interactive conversation between spirit and wood.
Now, for the first time in their illustrious history, our friends at Berry Brothers and Rudd have decided to take on distribution for a Swedish Whisky. Make no mistake, Loungers, this is a big deal! At the launch in the Sussex Cellar of their famous premises at No. 3 St. James’, I was lucky enough to taste the full range. Here are my thoughts…
Background: Älv (Swedish for ‘River’) is named after the Angermanalven on which the distillery sits. This is an unpeated expression which was only bottled the afternoon before we tried it! It’s an NAS single malt, but they’ve confirmed that bourbon barrels and quarter casks ranging from 5 to 7 years old were used.
Colour: Light Amber
Nose: Light and elegant with subtle sweetness and underlying peppery spiciness.
Palate: Delicate honey sweetness makes way for the anticipated vanilla spice, followed by a reminder of the savoury pepper.
Finish: Medium fade with polite lime citrus and that pepper persists…
Background: Hav (meaning ‘Ocean’) is a vatting of 25% peated and 75% unpeated whisky, interesting… Again, it’s an NAS single malt, but they’ve confirmed that casks ranging from 5 to 7 years old were used. Matured initially in 40-litre virgin American, Hungarian and Swedish oak casks, then re-racked into American bourbon barrels.
Colour: Light Hay
Nose: Sodden coal embers on a winter’s morning give way to spiced honey and an ashy hint.
Palate: Peat smoke rises from the embers and forms a thicker, more luxurious liquorice sourness which keeps a heather-honey note nicely under wraps.
Finish: Lasting smoke haze with a very slight touch of toasted cardamom and fennel seed.
Comment: Encouraging consistency here. Again, reflecting exactly what the maker intended: not overpowering, anything but underwhelming and undeniably well put together.High Coast Timmer – Peat Smoke, 48%, £50
Background: Timmer is 100% peated malt, at 46ppm. An NAS malt matured in bourbon barrels ranging from 5 to 6 years old.
Colour: Thin Brass
Nose: Sweet floral smoke and royal icing, threatens to fade but sticks like, well, smoke on clothes! Deceptively deep…
Palate: Initial lemon and a touch of mango is overtaken by bandages, TCP, salt and Germoline.
Finish: Long, hot, dry smoke lingering through lemon, orange pith and fennel that cling with a lasting, soft, cream-like coating…
Comment: Sturdy peated whisky, this one. I’d have no problem putting it up against one of the traditional peated Scottish offerings. Indeed, on the evening the room paid this the great compliment of calling it “Somewhere between Talisker and Caol Ila” – a well-deserved compliment, in my opinion.
High Coast Projekt 63, Aged 63 months, 63%, £110
Background: Ok folks, I mentioned Roger’s love of numbers earlier. Brace yourselves…
Someone realised that the 63° latitude line runs through a warehouse at the distillery. This line was duly marked on the floor, and then sixty-three 63-litre first fill Bourbon casks – raised by a 63-year-old cooper – were filled (with peated Scottish malt spirit) and placed on the 63rd parallel, 63 decimeters above the ground, for 63 months.
It was then bottled at 63% ABV, and will soon be sold from the Berry Brothers And Rudd shop located at – you guessed it – 63 Pall Mall, St. James’s, London [But not at £63, sadly… Ed.]. It’s almost like they planned it!
Colour: White Gold
Nose: Thin citrus smoke, phenolic malt and candy floss. Opens up with water.
Palate: Bigger than its stablemates. Mint, burnt lime peel, candied lemon, sharp prickly white pepper, held together with a chewy orange gum note.
Finish: Long and damp, like a forest fire put out with damp hessian sacks. Entwined with whispers of thin citrus smoke.
Comment: Well, it’s 63 for the win as far as I’m concerned! Although it does need water to release the flavour, when it arrives it arrives with a bang! More than passable whisky! Although I was slightly concerned – before trying Projekt 63 – that High Coast may be sailing in ‘safe waters’ with this range, my eyes are now firmly open and fixed on what they’re doing. There’s huge potential with this distillery, when I look at the range of flavours that have been achieved in just these four whiskies and consider that only fresh and bourbon oak (not older than seven years) has been used. It must be said, the skill it has taken to achieve this suggests that there are great things to come.
Let’s hope they’re here to stay.
Well done to the team at the distillery and the folks at Berry’s, I’m watching you…. Whohohohohohohahahaha!
Hope to see you soon!