Berry Bros & Rudd: The Nordic Casks #1

Nordic Casks

Last month there was the launch of Berry Bros & Rudd’s new range, the Nordic Casks, which was something I was really looking forward to. I may have reviewed a number of Scandinavian brands, such as Mackmyra, Smögen and Stauning, but that was about it.

The main reason for this is that it is simply not widely available and certainly not here in the Netherlands, with the exception of High Coast. That’s the only one in this new series that I’ve tasted before, but that was quite a long time ago.

In addition to the Swedish High Coast, Berry Bros & Rudd has also entered into a partnership with the Finnish Kyrö distillery, the Danish distillery Fary Lochan and last but not least Myken (Norway). Three distilleries that I have heard of, but have never been able to try until now.

Let’s start with Kyrö’s Rye whisky and that also happened to be the first in the Nordic Casks online tasting. Which by the way can still be found on Youtube and I can certainly recommend it to you to watch. Especially if you want to learn more about these distilleries. And this rye whisky, made from 100% Finnish rye, is the distillery’s first independent bottling, which was distilled in 2016 and bottled at a strength of 54.6% ABV.

Kyrö 2016 tasting notes:

Nose: really lovely nose. It starts a little fruity, with oranges mostly, which is quickly followed by fresh rye bread. It’s a little bit woody with a touch of wood spices too: cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I get a hint of gooseberries. Milk chocolate, sweet honey and a touch of vanilla. Later also some coconut in the very back.

Taste: oily texture. Sourdough bread and oranges. Fresh sweet raspberries. There’s a light lemon note, but very much in the back. Toffee and a thick layer of honey. Pine needles and almonds. A touch of oak and some spices, such as black pepper and nutmeg.

Finish: long with milk chocolate, oranges and the same spices as on the palate and oak.

What a pleasant start and surprise! Superb nose, which is quite complex. The palate has a really nice thick texture and plenty of different notes. Now, I’m normally not too fond of rye whisk(e)y but this one wants me to taste more of it. Really well done and quite different to any other rye whisk(e)y I’ve tasted.

Score: 86/100

We travel on to Denmark where the Fari Lochan distillery is located. Once a year, for just a few weeks, they produce nettle-smoked whisky. Yes, you read that right… Nettle-smoked whisky. That is certainly a unique thing and this was perhaps the one I was most curious about. This whisky was distilled in 2014. Matured in a hogshead before bottling in 2021 at a strength of 60.9% ABV.

Fari Lochan 2014 tasting notes:

Nose: in the beginning, I get a light vegetal smoke and quite some nettles too. Very strange, but I really like it actually! Freshly cut grass and tinned spinach. Then dark chocolate and a touch of vanilla. But also some fruits such as pears and Galia melons.

Taste: very oily this one and quite some liquorice on the arrival. Then a touch of vegetal smoke with again the nettles but maybe not as pronounced as in the nose. Honey and white chocolate. Lemons and ginger. Pine needles, but also green bell peppers.

Finish: mid-long to long, quite vegetal again and a touch of mint.

This is light, green and vegetal. It’s super funky and the nettle smoke really adds something. Good mouthfeel and yup, definitely not something I have ever tasted before. Very interesting this one!

Score: 88/100

High Coast Distillery is perhaps the most well-known in this 1st Nordic Cask series. The Swedish distillery, formerly know as Box Distillery, is one of Sweden’s oldest distilleries and often delivers good quality whisky (both peated and unpeated). I’ve already tasted some of them, but this is the first time I taste a High Coast whisky that has matured in a sherry cask (hogshead). This was distilled in 2013 and bottled at a strength of 60.9% ABV.

High Coast 2013 tasting notes:

Nose: quite heavy but in a rather nice way. A hint of burned matches in the beginning. This is quickly followed by dried fruits, raisins and prunes. But I also have a few dark fruits, such as blueberries and blackberries. Then roasted walnuts and a hint of toasted oak. Honey, a touch of maple syrup and oranges. But then I also a note of herbs, such as thyme.

Taste: sherry notes, such as dark cherries and blackberries. There is a note of bbq ham. Toffee and dark chocolate. A touch of oak, followed by a nice layer of spices such as black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. But I also get the thyme here too.

Finish: long with mostly spices, dark chocolate and cherries.

Not sure if I can still get much of the High Coast profile, but it’s actually really good. It’s very thick and bold and there is so much going on. It just keeps developing, especially in the nose. This must have been a really good sherry cask. Maybe not really my style, but I can imagine why it sold out so fast.

Score: 87/100

Last but not least, is Myken. And this Norwegian distillery was the first Artic whisky distillery. Located on a tiny island about 32 kilometres from the mainland (and a full day’s travel from Oslo!), you can imagine that it wasn’t the most obvious choice logistically. But that hasn’t stopped Roar Larsen, the founder, from making his dream come true. A special story and that actually applies also to this whisky. This cask was not filled in one go, but that took a number of months. And that has ensured that many different types of new make have ended up in it. This ranges from unpeated to heavily peated, ultimately resulting in a lightly peated spirit of 8ppm. Bottled at 61.4% ABV.

Myken 2017 tasting notes:

Nose: oh this is really elegant. Subtle peat, very light. A touch of vanilla custard and there is some cotton sugar as well. This is followed by hints of oatmeal. Lemons. Milk chocolate and a faint floral note in the back. It’s very gentle but rather nice.

Taste: soft smoke and slightly ashy. Then zesty notes from limes and lemons. Chocolate. Ginger and also unripe pears and a hint of green apples. Later also a resin and a touch of pine needles.

Finish: long with resin, ginger and fresh mint.

I really like this one. It has its own style, making it really interesting and while the ABV is quite high it’s very drinkable and quite tasty. Funny story, this whisky could never be released in Norway because it is illegal to bottle anything above 60% ABV.

Score: 88/100

Overall: I am impressed by these rather beautiful whiskies. Different from what I’m used to, even though I’ve tasted Nordic whiskies more often. It’s a nice insight into what the Scandinavian countries can offer in the field of whisky and I think Berry Bros & Rudd have taken a very nice path by releasing these Nordic Casks series. Very well done!

Samples provided by Berry Bros & Rudd.

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