Towards the end of 2021, Mackmyra released what would be their final autumn/winter release in their successful and progressive Seasonal Collection: Stjärnrök.
The name Stjärnrök translates into English as “Star Smoke” and whilst 2020’s autumn/winter release, Jaktlycka, focussed on the earlier season’s influences, the 2021 expression has focused particularly on nature’s more wintry elements. Think cold, crisp, and clear nights that require fire, food, and frivolity.
This single malt whisky was once again curated by Mackmyra’s (now former) Master Blender and “Chief Nosing Officer” Angela D’Orazio with a focus on I) local ingredients, and II) pushing the envelope on what a single malt whisky can deliver.
Stjärnrök is based on Mackmyra’s “smoky” recipe spirit. Not content with just your traditional peat smoke, part of this recipe includes spirit made from malted barley which has been dried using burnt juniper! This smoky spirit has then been aged across a combination of cask types, with the main focus in this expression being Oloroso Sherry, with support from spirit aged in ex-bourbon barrels and some in casks that have previously housed cloudberry wine.
As with every release in the series, this single malt whisky has been bottled without an age statement – focussing on flavours rather than tenure – and captured at the house favourite 46.1% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration.
An initial combo of very sweet, smoky, and almost savoury smells jump out of the glass. Like those from a sticky glaze on barbecued meats, or a honey roast ham. There’s quite a bit going on actually. Some fruity and pithy orange peel; a slightly bittersweet or herbal note (presumably from the juniper branches); a decent woody oak and pine-y smell; and a final touch of clove spice. It’s altogether making for a very Scandi Christmas type affair.
Festive flavours abound. The oranges are joined by red berries, redcurrants, raisins, and stewed apples. That high herbal note punches through and the gentle clove spice is joined by a warming cinnamon and ginger. Some classic drying sherried oak flavours join in at the end with a gentle earthy peat flavour too whilst the smoke brings an underlying warmth to the whole experience.
Nice and warming. Gingery and peppery heat tingle whilst the peat and juniper smoke make a notable return and leave their final mark. There’s also something towards the end that reminds me of the birch sap type of flavour from their springtime Bjorksav release last year.
Another genuinely interesting, enjoyable, and distinctly ‘Mackmyra’ whisky. All the familiar characteristics of a smoky Sherry-aged whisky are there but with a notably Scandinavian twist. The red berry and juniper flavours really do add something to an already delicious combo.
The Stjärnrök bottle includes the statement that Mackmyra are “Driven by curiosity and the desire to experiment, we question old accepted truths and create our own path”. A cynic might suggest that this is only possible due to the lack of regulation that, say the Scotch industry, is governed by, for example/ An optimist might however suggest that the ability to experiment and explore the influences of the Swedish environment allows for more exploration and new opportunities for the discerning (and open-minded!) whisky drinker. Whichever camp you sit in, you can’t deny that this offers something different to the market, and I for one am all behind it.
I bought this bottle at the end of a Mackmyra tasting night at my local indie booze specialists, Chester Beer and Wine. Having seen the line-up on the night, I was totally anticipating that I would end up loving and buying the Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek (“Swedish Smoke / American Oak”) and whilst it was delicious, the tasting twists of the little juniper and cloudberry influences within the Stjärnrök release changed my mind.
Each year since 2013, the distillery has put out a spring/summer whisky and an autumn/winter whisky, which celebrates different cask maturations and/or finishes. Not that we were aware of it at the time, but Stjärnrök turned out to be Mackmyra’s last autumn/winter seasonal release, and, as ever, it fits that season profile perfectly. As the leaves are starting to fall in the UK, I’ve turned back to this bottle and it has made for a welcome return and a good match to the dropped temperatures and bare branches. Just by clicking Mackmyra here, you can see how many seasonal releases and different expressions that I’ve enjoyed from the Swedish whiskymakers, and this whisky seems as fine a place as any to end a fantastic run for the autumn/winter seasonals, finishing on a high.
Sample disclosure: As mentioned above, I bought this bottle myself and have been enjoying it sparingly. All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.