This Wednesday, the 1st of March, me and some happy-go-lucky people spent some hours on the small, Swedish island of Ven, outside of Landskrona. We had been invited to the release party for the distillery Spirit of Hven’s latest bottling and number five in the Seven Stars series: Alioth.
I started the day by travelling by train to Landskrona and then boarding a ferry to take us over to Ven, where buses to Backafallsbyn and the distillery awaited. After getting rid of our coats and jackets and being warmly welcomed by the staff we were guided to a conference room where Anja and Henric held a welcome speech and then uncovered their latest star. After having then tasted the whisky we were led back to the welcoming atrium where we had the opportunity to try Spirit of Hven’s different types of spirits, paired with different types of food l
ike gingerbread encrusted cheese balls and cucumber pickled in tonic water accompanied by some elderflower mousse. We also had the opportunity to visit the production facilities and a part of the warehouse to know more about their new still and an experiment where different casks get to listen to different types of music around the clock!
So what is new for Spirit of Hven, then? Well, apart from their newest release (which I will get to in a minute) their moments away for their big launch in the US with their whisky Tycho’s Star, since papers have been signed with an importer and a collaboration with the restaurant chain of Nobu is being discussed this very moment. Due to this all of the Spirit of Hven products will become colour-coded shortly, in order for new customers to tell the different bottlings apart more easily. There’s also room for expansion at home, with the help of the city of Landskrona, where new production and warehouse facilities are under way on, also on the mainland of Landskrona. Over to Alioth!
Spirit of Hven no5 – Alioth
General facts: This is bottling no 5 in a series of 7, and the most peated or smoky one so far, and it’ll only be available for the European market. All of the different parts of the production, from seed to bottle, are made locally on the island of Ven. Just like previous releases in this series, this bottling has got its name from a star in the stellar constellation Ursa Major, and the name Alioth comes from the Arabic word alyat which means “the tail of the sheep”. The whisky is neither chill-filtered nor artificially coloured. The PPM-level is 34, the ABV 45% and the whisky is also ecologically certified. Over to the nerd facts! The recipe for Alioth reads as follows: 8% chocolate malt, 48% peated malt and 44% lager malt. The spirit has been matured in the following oak casks: 10,8% French Petraea, 25,6% French Robur and 63,6% American Muehlenbergii. These casks has then finally been married together in a 500-liter cask of Spanish Quercus Robur which previously held Oloroso sherry.
Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Sweet pastry with vanilla custard and some chocolate, almost like chocolate mud cake in a way. Then heavy smoke emerges and mixes with the sweet, creamy and malty notes. The nose of overall quite compact and balanced, with a complex mixture of fruit syrup, black pepper and some leather.Dried dates are there too, together with something mineral, kind of like licking on a rock. With water the nose becomes waxier, and a citrus note appears together with some oak.
Taste: The first impression is a dry, astringent mouth feel. Then a rich, spicy and dark taste lands on the tongue with sweet, dried fruits (figs and apricots) together with heavy smoke, likecampfire smoke. Something slightly stale or waxy sneaks around in the background, with really dark cocoa and some lemon. After adding some water the spiciness and the oak explodes, while the smoke is subdued somewhat and more leather comes forward.
Finish: The aftertaste is initially pretty dry with peat smoke, a lot of leather, quite a deal of tobacco and a faint note of cured meat. After water is added a feeling of gunpowder emerges, and some polished wood. The smoke is still there and the taste lingers in the mouth for quite some time.
This is a lovely, complex whisky which is neither ingratiating nor “easy to drink”, but oh so yummy and interesting to analyze! When removing the cool name, the marketing and the well-designed bottle you find a pretty brave single malt, really. It’s not constructed to be easy on the palate and easily accessible, but is instead a real power package, full of character. The balance between punchy smoke and challenging taste notes like leather and tobacco together with the sweetness of fruitiness is alluring, and to me this is ure pleasure.