Norway

Flóki Icelandic Young Malt

Reviewed by: Ted

Floki

By all accounts Iceland is one of the most beautiful and beguiling places on earth, an ethereal land of glacial blue lakes, tumbling grasslands, rocky moonscapes, bubbling hot springs and ridiculously hard to pronounce volcanoes. Basically anywhere you look will create a feeling of awe and wonder at the raw majesty of it all. I myself once met an Inga from Iceland, which certainly left me with feelings of awe and wonder at the landscape…

Ahem… anyway, my Mum was in Iceland recently (lucky sod) so I convinced her to go on a mission for me. You see, apart from making you stumble over yet another lump of stunning wilderness with each step, Iceland also has another point of interest. Two of them in fact, as the island is home to two new whisky distilleries. The Scandiwegians are increasingly becoming known as avid makers (and drinkers) of whisky, with stills operating in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and now, with the opening of Thoran and Flóki, Iceland.

Fortunately, my Mum was able to locate a bottle of Flóki for me in the Iceland duty free. Eimverk Distillery, opened in just 2009, is currently the only Icelandic distillery with whisky available for purchase (Thoran has not yet entered full production at this point). It turns out that the team at Flóki are a crafty little bunch, hand making their own pot still. They also produce their whisky using 100% organic Icelandic-grown barley which, keeping with the craft approach, they malt by hand. Apparently, thanks to the Arctic climate, Icelandic barley is slow growing and low in sugars, meaning that the distillers have to use 50% more barley per bottle (compared more temperate climes I suppose), which they claim gives their product a unique taste.

Fortunately, thanks to my maternal benefactor, I have a bottle on hand to be able to verify said uniquity. The Flóki Young Malt, as its name hints at, is not their flagship release. The reason for this is a question of time rather than choice, as their spirit has not actually been under oak long enough for all systems go, with their Icelandic Single Malt to be unleashed later in 2016. Thankfully to get the ball rolling they released the Young Malt as a limited single barrel Iceland duty free exclusive.

The bottle is awesome (if too small. Curse you limited release!), with a wicked Viking-inspired crest and angular lettering on a textured black label. The liquid contained within is a rich amber-brown that catches your attention straight away. So no worries on the eye, but what does Iceland’s first whisky taste like?

Pretty good for such a young whisky it must be said. The nose is really curious; it’s really, really floral and fruity (pineapple, mandarin, pear) with a slightly salted caramel edge that keeps you sniffing. You know what, if you’ve ever had the chance to try some new-make spirit, then you’ll know what this smells like.

On the mouth the Flóki is sharp, slightly bitter and prickly. It pretty much jumps off its longship and starts jabbing away with its spear, although part of the reason for that is probably the 47% strength. The finish coats the tongue with that raw, grassy, hay-like quality that seems common amongst very young whiskies, followed by a lick of spicy fruitiness.

It’s certainly an interesting experience to try, but you can tell that the Young Malt is only the first step down the road for Flóki. It’s kind of like a teenager whisky, full of all sorts of raw, bubbling emotions and ideas, unsure about its place in life. Given time though it will gain maturity and understand what it really wants to be. Then again, we can’t judge it too harshly as it was never meant to be the be-all and end-all. This is but a glimpse of a whisky that I think will one day stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all the majesty of the Icelandic landscape.

★★

Highland Park Svein

Reviewed by: Nick

Highland Park Svein

Highland Park have one clear advantage when it comes to marketing their whisky: Vikings. Nothing can drum up some interest liked a horned hat on the front of your bottle! Of course, Highland Park can quite rightly look to the Norse raiders when branding their products, as the Orkney Islands where the distillery is located have a proud Viking heritage.

The details of their arrival in the ninth century are told in the Orkneyinga Saga, a historical narrative with more twists and family betrayals than the best soap opera. Among the characters were a series of ‘warriors’ immortalised forever in travel retail by Highland Park.

Svein Asleifsson is the legend behind the entry level of the range – which is perhaps unfair to a man dubbed the ‘Ultimate Viking’. Svein was a charismatic chieftain known for his generous and hospitable nature, and the folk at Highland Park have attempted to create a whisky that mirrors these traits. While I cannot claim this to be exactly the case (it doesn’t pour generous nips of itself into your glass!) it is certainly a very drinkable drop.

While there’s definitely some smoke in there, there’s less on the nose than you’d expect from a Highland Park dram. Instead there are ripe oranges, red apples and plenty of malt. The palate is lightly spicy, with oak, strawberries and… burnt toast? The finish is creamy, malty and slightly bitter. All up, it is a light whisky, threatening to be inconsequential but with just enough to enjoy.

Highland Park have created an interesting series here. While Svein doesn’t stand up when compared to the wonderful 12 Year Old expression, it certainly gives you a greater picture of the flavours captured by the Orcadian Distillery. Sadly I have not got to sample any of the other warriors to broaden my mind!

★★

Overeem Sherry Cask Matured

Barrel Number: OHD-067

Reviewed by: Ted

Overeem Sherry Cask whisky waffle

Norway. Not the first place you might guess for providing the spiritual origins of a whisky hand-crafted in southern Tasmania. Yet it was in the home of the Vikings that inspiration first struck the hero of this tale. Casey Overeem was introduced to the art of distilling in the early 1980’s while visiting relatives in Norway who happened to have a still in their cellar. Impressed by what he saw, Casey was driven to experiment back in Tasmania over the following years, culminating in the founding of Old Hobart Distillery in 2005.

Casey’s main partner in crime at Old Hobart Distillery is his daughter Jane, who has become a well-known face in the Tasmanian whisky scene and an inspirational figure for women in a largely male dominated industry. Together with their crew they fuse fine Tasmanian ingredients together with their passion for the art to create the eponymous Overeem whisky.

Old Hobart Distillery cuts down its barrels (in this case French oak sherry barrels) to create quarter casks, which allows their spirit to develop far more character over a short timeframe. Once the distillers are satisfied with the level of maturation (min. four years) single barrels are selected for bottling, meaning that each release is unique.

The Overeem Sherry Cask sampled for this review comes from barrel OHD-067. The view in the beautifully shaped bottle is pleasing, with the 43% spirit glowing a bright syrupy ginger in colour. The nose is rich and relatively intense, oozing with delicious sun dried raisins, vanilla, mixed peel and candied ginger. The tastebuds are engaged by a sensation of mulled wine, like hot oranges and shiraz, followed by a faint tang of bitterness and burnt sugar. The spirit is dry and very smooth, and the flavours are level and constant throughout the experience.

The Overeem Sherry Cask is a triumph of the exciting new whiskies making their way out of Tasmania, one that is well worth jumping into your longship and questing across the windswept oceans to find. Come to think of it, Casey Overeem’s own journeys in Norway seem to have added a certain something to his dram, as it is no great stretch to imagine mighty Viking warriors feasting in their long halls and supping on rich, warming Overeem to keep away the chill of a cold northern winter. Skål!

★★★