The small High Coast distillery is located on the east coast in the northern part of Sweden in the Ångermanland region in the tranquil village of Bjärtrå. Picturesque on a headland by the Ångermanälven river, whiskey has been produced here since 2010.
How does high coast whiskey taste?
In the distillery primarily two different styles of whiskey are produced, with a very fruity, not to barely smoky type (<10 ppm phenol in the malt) contrasting with a more smoky type (> 40 ppm phenol in the malt). The master brewer and distillery manager Roger Melander implemented his vision of the production of the best Swedish whiskey very directly from the start and did not direct his gaze towards Scotland, but oriented more towards the east and Japan. Whether he is right will only be revealed in a few years, as he himself soberly points out.
The “new make” should be as clear and pure as possible, which is achieved through a very slow distillation and as much copper contact as possible. In addition, the distillate is cooled by the river water, which is probably the coolest in the entire whiskey world at 2-6° C.
With the fruity & non-smoky whiskey, notes of toasted baguette, sweet fruits and fresh herbs can be found in the nose. In the mouth, the fruits develop very cleanly and intensely, creating a full aroma of apples, melons and pineapple. In the finish, the still young whiskey remains clean, fruity and short, but very promising.
The smoky variant starts in the nose with a hint of burning, dry wood, roasted mustard and something reminiscent of sesame, before a little more fruitiness paves the way here too. On the palate you can feel sweet fruits, berries from the nearby forests and lots of young, fresh wood, pleasantly overlaid with gentle smoke. The aftertaste remains very clean and clear, very fresh and a little longer, more exciting and intense than in the non-smoky variant.
The bottlings of the future will probably consist of a mixture of the two variants, although it is still planned to present both types as an independent line in the range. Lovers of clear and structured whiskeys should find themselves here and could find a new favorite with the whiskeys from the High Coast Distillery.
How is high coast whiskey made?
The first drops of box whiskey were distilled in December 2010 and the first barrels were finally filled one day before Christmas Eve 2010. Despite the Japanese orientation actually practiced in the style, Scottish equipment is still used.
The non-smoky malt is exclusively Pilsner malt from Vikingmalt in Halmstad, while the smoky variant comes from Belgium and is refined with Scottish peat. At the start of production, both types of malt first pass through the over a hundred year old Boby Mill before the resulting “grist” is poured into the mash tub, where it undergoes three passes. As is common in Japan, the High Coast wants to produce a completely clear flavor in order to bring the fruity aromas to the fore. Then it goes for fermentation in one of the three stainless steel fermentation tanks with a volume of approx. 8,000 liters each. In order to intensify the fruity aromas in this step too, French (wine) yeast is used on the one hand, and on the other hand it is left to do its work for at least 72 hours.
It is then distilled twice on copper stills from Scotland, whereby the “Wash Still” has a capacity of approx. 3,800 liters, while the “Spirit Still” is somewhat smaller with approx. 2,500 liters. Both styles, smoky as well as non-smoky, pass completely through the first distillation, only in the second both the forerun and the tail are separated. However, this happens differently depending on the style:
The fruity / non-smoky variant begins its middle course after approx. 13 minutes and stops early at an alcohol content of around 67%, with the smoky version only ending after 30 minutes and the after-running only at 60%. The differences in the New Make are clearly recognizable and reinforce the respective desired notes, on the one hand fruit and purity, on the other hand smoke, tobacco and liquorice.
About 80% of the whiskey is stored in former bourbon barrels of various sizes, with former sherry and other ex-wine barrels as well as new barrels made from Hungarian, Swedish and Japanese oak being used. In turn, the special local climate plays an important role in ripening: the location as far north ensures greater temperature fluctuations over the course of the year, with over 30 ° C in summer and down to almost -40 ° C in winter, although this usually lasts five months . This leads to a much more intensive exchange of aromas between whiskey and barrel, an expressly desired and welcome process.
The current production volume is around 100,000 liters of pure alcohol (LPA), although there are already plans for further expansion which, once implemented, provide for a capacity of up to 300,000 LPA.
High Coast Distillery Character
Perhaps more than many other distilleries, High Coast distillery is primarily characterized by its geographic location. The temperature fluctuates relatively strongly, which allows the wood of the oak barrels to work and leads to an intensive exchange of aromas with the distillate in them.
Another factor is the icy Ångermanälven river that runs past the distillery. The water, which is only 2-6 degrees cold, is used to cool the alcohol vapors when distilling. In order to be able to produce a good distillate, the evaporated and condensed alcohol should be cooled as quickly as possible, which works very well all year round with the very cold water of the Ångermanälven
The distillery itself is in a very idyllic location on a small headland that juts out into the Ångermanälven river. At this point, this already widens somewhat towards the mouth and then divides into two arms before it flows into the Gulf of Bothnia, the northern part of the Baltic Sea. The Ångermanälven is Sweden’s most watery river (485 m³ / sec) and its water originates in the Norwegian Børgefjell National Park and brings very clear and cool water.
The Fourth Most Northern Distillery in the World
High Coast distillery is Sweden’s northernmost distillery and the fourth northernmost in the world. The northernmost is the Myken Destilleri on the island of Rødøy in Norway, the second northernmost is the Eimverk Distillery on Iceland, in third place is Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, from Trondheim in Norway, which has been making whisky distillate since 2016.
What we really like is that all High Coast whiskies are neither chill-filtered nor colored. The transparency with which High Coast whisky is produced is, as far as we know, unique. All of Box’s single malt whiskey recipes can be viewed online and even the dates of all the casks used for a batch are published. A batch consists of many individual barrels, the contents of which are married together.
The majority of the oak barrels used at Box previously contained bourbon whiskey or sherry, much like Scotland. There are some exceptions however as some, such as the Quercus I Robur single malt where the raw distillate was stored in 200-liter first-fill bourbon barrels from Kentucky for a little over four years, followed by a 7-month finish in very small 40-liter barrels made from Swedish pedunculate oak to experience. These small medium toasted barrels were specially made by Thorslundkagge, the only cooperage in Sweden.
The Swedish “High Coast Distillery” was originally founded in 2010 as “Box Destilleri AB” and is located just outside the small village Bjärtrå (approx. 350 inhabitants) on the Ångermanälven river and exactly at 63° north latitude. Bjärtrå is part of the large municipality of Kramfors with about 20,000 inhabitants and is located about 450 km north of Stockholm on the east side of Sweden and is relatively sparsely populated with only about 11.5 inhabitants / km².
Box Distillery Name Change To High Coast
Swedish whisky distillery Box changed its name to High Coast distillery in June 2018 to avoid a ' brand collision’ with Scotch whisky blender Compass Box.
The new name comes from Box’s location in Adalen on the High Coast of northeastern Sweden. The distillery is located on the banks of the Ångermanälven River in the building that housed the power plant for the old Box AB wooden box factory, which is where the original name came from.
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