A little while ago, ‘The Nordic Casks’ were released by London bottler Berry Bros. & Rudd.
The Nordic Casks is a set of four different whiskies from, you’d never guess, the Nordics. Single cask bottlings from a distillery in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. I guess that only leaves Iceland (Eimverk Distillery) in the dust, for now. The ‘#1’ suggests there’s more to come in the future.
Initially I though I would do a bottle-share with all four of them, but one of the whiskies sold out rather quickly. What also didn’t help was that the bottles were rather expensive, clocking in at € 170 each.
Keep in mind that, while rare and quite unique, we’re still talking about pre-teen whisky here.
But, I kept checking to maybe do a share with only the three available bottlings, because I was intrigued. A minuscule amount of research told me there were sample sets available too and, to my surprise, they were actually decently priced.
As in, you pay € 35 for 4x3cl, and some quick math brings that to € 204 per bottle, which is nowhere near what I expected of such a sample set. Generally, the difference is far larger.
So, a sample set was bought. Samples were poured on a quiet night. Tasting notes were written. Apart from ordering by ABV, I didn’t do any preparation, to go in with little bias or expectation.
Kyrö 2016-2021, Barrel 16037, 54.6% – Berry Bros. & Rudd
Kyrö is Finland’s entry in the Nordic Casks, while also being the only whisky of the set that’s not a single malt. Kyrö distills rye whisky, which peaks my interest straight away. Rye is a commonly used grain in Finland and Scandinavia, so in a way they stay a bit more true to their provenance being a Finnish distillery.
There’s a lot of oak, surprisingly so for a four or five year old whisky. Somehow, I also get notes of birch wood. Lots of spices, and while it might be suggestive, it does smell ‘Nordic’. Moss and stones, pine cones, ferns and peppermint. Some citrus, with dark, crusty bread.
The palate is very dry and woody, and woodsy. So not only tasting of wood, but also of the woods. Undergrowth, leafy greens, dark bread crust. It gets a bit syrupy with some time. Notes of chocolate covered orange come forward.
From syrupy back to spices, but gentler than before. Ferns, slate, moss, pine cone, snow and peppermint.
I’m not sure what it is with rye whisky, but it can’t do much wrong with me. And while I already love American rye, it seems that non-American rye (except Canadian, I’m still very much unconvinced by that) does exceptionally well too. Zuidam, Amrut, and now Kyrö.
The combination of the spices, the foresty notes and, on the palate, the orange and chocolate work really well. It’s not as youthfull as I expected, but it’s not all wood driven either. A very, very good rye whisky.
Fary Lochan 2014-2021, Barrel 6, 60.9% – Berry Bros. & Rudd
Denmark’s entry comes from Fary Lochan Distillery. I tried an earlier whisky from them eight years ago, so they’ve been at it for a while. While that previous sample didn’t really convince me, that was of a very early batch so I expect them to have progressed since then.
What makes this one more interesting, is that the malt isn’t dried with hot air, or even peat, but by burning nettles from the surrounding forests. That’s definitely a first for me!
It’s very youthful, and while there’s a certain green-ness, it still is rather traditional for a single malt in style. Notes of barley, vanilla and straw. A hint of stewed strawberries, and milk chocolate. The longer it sits in the glass, the dryer it gets.
The palate is dry still, with much more green, plant like notes than on the nose. Obviously there’s a bit of youthful fierceness, with strawberry jam, custard, straw and barley. The smoke is very timid, and imparts leafy notes, but isn’t as ‘out there’ as I expected.
The finish takes the next step on the road of nettle-smoked-ness. The dryness goes in the direction of dry crackers, with spices and barbecued rosemary.
While there are some interesting notes due to the nettle smoking, I hoped the other notes would be slightly less traditional. When a whisky is made following the Scottish production process, things generally get a bit stereotypical, and therefore less unique. I feel that’s my main complaint here too.
Not a bad whisky by any means, but also not something I’ll remember in a year.
High Coast 2013-2021, Sherry Hogshead 1384, 60.9% – Berry Bros. & Rudd
I spent some time searching my blog for reviews of High Coast whisky, or Box, because the distillery was named that before the changed their name a few years ago.
As it turns out, this is a new one for me. The Swedish entry comes from the Nordic country that, I think, has been making single malt the longest, with Mackmyra being around for quite a while already.
With this being the only sherry matured whisky of the set, it will obviously stand out in that regard. Let’s find out how, exactly.
There is lots of sherry and dried fruit on the nose, apricots, dates and peaches. I also get notes of almonds with some clove and tree bark.
The palate is sharp, and feels sharper than the Fary Lochan, even though they are at the same ABV. Lots of chili peppers and less fruits. More straw, grain and grass than on the nose. Dry wood mulch.
The finish is a bit more gentle than the palate was, with lots of fruit again. Still quite oak driven, much like the nose, so quite mature in that regard.
I’m a bit on the fence on this one. On one hand it tastes surprisingly mature for such a young whisky, although with 7 or 8 years in oak that’s not too surprising. On the other hand, it tastes like the cask has already taken over. While I’m not one to scoff at a good sherry cask, and this is such a good sherry cask, I would have loved to be able to taste the spirit itself a bit more.
Myken 2017-2021, Barrel 15, 61.4% – Berry Bros. & Rudd
Myken takes the ‘nordic’ descriptor to the next level with the distillery being situated north of the arctic circle, and when it was constructed it was the northern-most distillery in the world. The distillery is located on a small island 32 kilometers of the Norwegian coast.
The distillery says they use different barley and yeast strains, as well as desalinated sea water for production. I might be a bit too cynical, because my first thought is ‘that is just water, then…’. But, I’m happy when distilleries diverge from Mauri yeast and whatever barley is the hype this decade.
Not surprisingly, it’s rather young on the nose, with lots of barley notes. I also get a bit of diesel and engine grease. Straw, some salinity and a kind of an aquavit lightness. Lowlands-like in style, without being flowery.
The palate is strong and sharp with a surprising impact of oak after only four years. Lots of barley with many coastal notes too. Brine and salinity. Hints of vanilla, fresh oak shavings and black pepper.
The finish is a bit more austere than the palate was, with an ‘ethereal’ feeling to it. It’s very crisp in a chardonnay way.
While they stick to the Scottish rules for producing their single malt whisky, this has more uniqueness to it than I expected after reading that. That they’re a coastal distillery is very clear throughout and with the rather ethereal spirit produced they are doing something quite unique. This one is very much to my liking!
While I’m not overjoyed by all of them, especially not at the price points they’re at, I wouldn’t mind having a bottle of some of the others. I’m eyeing the Kyrö and the Myken mostly. In regards to the nettle smoked Fary Lochan, I would love to try some other samples of this, but this specific cask didn’t blow me away, and felt less different than I was made to believe by others.
All in all, going through this set for € 35 is no punishment at all, and I’ve tried some really solid drams. Again, especially the Myken and the Kyrö.
All four whiskies are still available, but only three of them from Whiskybase.
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