To produce a good quality raw whisky is vital, and to us this is the secret behind the finished product, explains Pär Caldenby, founder of Smögen Whisky. With an annual production of at least 10,000 litres of raw whisky, and after recently bottling his products, Pär Caldenby has put Smögen Whisky on the map.
In the middle of March 2014, Pär Caldenby started selling his first single malt whisky, Smögen Primör, via Systembolaget’s online shop. The whisky was so popular he sold 400 bottles in only a few minutes.
The family farm
Smögen Whisky’s distillery is in a beautiful location, surrounded by grazing land, forests, blocks of granite and fields near the village of Hunnebostrand in Bohuslän. This is where Pär Caldenby has chosen to use the family farm as a base from where to establish his whisky and gin production. The low white buildings, designed by Caldenby himself, have room for stills, distillery and oak casks for ageing.
How it all began
Pär Caldenby’s interest in whisky began when he bought his first bottle, an Auchentoshan, at the age of 20. At that time only a handful of malt whiskies were available in Sweden. He was hooked immediately. He became so passionate about whisky that he eventually wrote a book about it, in English. The book helped open the doors to a number of whisky producers in for example Scotland.
In 2009, Caldenby decided to start producing his own whisky. After applying for, and being granted, 11 licences from various authorities, he was able to begin. The copper stills were ordered to exact specifications from the historic Forsyth’s in Scotland. The rest of the equipment has mainly been sourced locally. As an example, the stainless-steel milk tanks used for fermentation come from local farmers who have discontinued their milk production.
Malting and production of raw whisky
The majority of the malt is imported from Scotland. All malt is produced in large malting plants – it is very unusual for a distillery to produce its own. Once the malt has been delivered to Smögen Whisky, it is ground using a malt mill. It is then mixed with water at a temperature of 82°C, to extract the sweet wort. The fermentation process is started with special whisky yeast that turns the natural sugar in the malt into alcohol and flavourings. After fermenting for almost a week, the resulting mash, which has an alcohol content of about 8.5%, is heated in the first copper still. The resulting liquid has an alcohol content of 26% and is known as ‘low wine’. To achieve the correct purity and quality, the low wine is distilled again, in a second copper still. Each batch from this still yields approximately 120 litres of raw whisky, which is full of character and has an alcohol content of 70%.
Ageing in oak casks for at least 3 years
The raw whisky is then matured in oak casks for at least three years before it can be called whisky. The casks are either purchased from France or the US or specially made in Sweden, which in practice means that they could be sherry casks, wine casks, bourbon casks, or brand new casks. The oak gives the whisky a certain character, but the lovely smokiness that is typical for Smögen Whisky is already present in the malt. The store room contains oak casks of different sizes, from 30 up to 600 litres; the whisky in the small barrels matures quickly, within 3-4 years. The really big barrels are meant to be stored for a very long time. Caldenby uses his nose to determine whether the whisky is ready to be tasted, or whether it should be left to mature for longer. Once the whisky has been bottled, the flavour does not usually develop any further.
The Hållö Lighthouse logo
The casks, all packaging and bottles are marked with a logo depicting the beautiful Hållö Lighthouse, which symbolises the whisky in a wonderful way. Smögen Whisky feels a certain kinship with the smoky whisky from the Scottish island of Islay, where they also take their inspiration from the sea, salt and peat smoke. Hållö Lighthouse is located a few nautical miles from Smögen.
FACTS ABOUT SMÖGEN WHISKY
- Production outside Hunnebostrand, Bohuslän.
- Smögen Primör on sale right now, is just over 3 years old and ready to drink.
- The character is smoky, robust and dry.
- The alcohol content is 63.7%
- The whisky should be diluted with water before drinking.
Text: Kinna Jonsson, Fiduser Communication, http://www.fiduser.se
Kinnas blogg – mormors mat http://kinnasblogg.blogspot.comPhoto: Kinna Jonsson and Jonas Ingman