Interview with Flóki Whisky

Flóki is the first Icelandic whisky ever made. The producer, Eimverk is located in Garðabær, just outside of Reykjavík and the company was established in 2009. The first single malt was released in 2017 but up until then they’d released their “young malt” which is too young to be called Single Malt as Eimverk have chosen to honour the Scottish traditions of whisky making, not naming their produce “whisky” until it has spent at least three years in oak.

An immense amount of time, effort and work went into perfecting the recipe and finding the right casks. A total number of 163 experiments were made until they found the right method and recipe. Production of Flóki whisky finally began in 2014 after years of developing the right recipe for the first Icelandic whisky.

The first single malt from Iceland is matured in reused cask, as is the case with most single malts. What’s a little bit unusual, other than its ethnicity is that Eimverk is producing its own re-used whiskycasks. Flóki Young Malt is matured in fresh, American oak for a few months, and once the liquid has been extracted from the casks, Eimverk fill them up with their new make to mature there for three years at least to make their single malt.

Viskíhornið paid a little visit to Eimverk distillery recently and had a wee chat with the producers:

How come you decided to make the first Icelandic whisky?

The idea had been hanging around for ages as we thought it was about time that someone made the first Icelandic whisky. Nowadays quite a lot of barley is grown in Iceland at similar conditions as there were back in the day in Scotland when whisky developed into how we know single malts today. Also we have an abundance of clean water and energy here in Iceland along with highly talented and knowledgeable people.

Who are the people behind Eimverk Distillery?

Eimverk is a family business and we are fortunate enough to have a wide variety of familymembers who all contribute to the production in different ways. Egill Þorkelsson is the Master Distiller, Eva is in charge of quality control and production management, Sigrún takes care of finance and foreign markets, Þorkell and Björn grow (and  sometimes smoke) the barley on their farm and Halli is the Manager.

Where does your barley come from?

All our barley is 100% Icelandic and quite a lot of it comes from the family farm at Bjálmholt, but we have also sourced top quality barley from nearby farms such as Þorvaldseyri, Sandhóll and Vallanes.

Can you talk us through your production process of Flóki?

Flóki whisky is double distilled malt whisky, loyal to the production methods in Scotland.

From the start we decided to make an authentic, Icelandic malt whisky with locally sourced ingredients and distilled in classic pot stills as used in the production of Scottish Whisky.

What separates us from anyone else is obviously that the ingredients are all Icelandic with 100% Icelandic barley which gives a very strong, spicy taste.

We do not separate the malt during mashing which gives an even more rich, oily and spicy taste.

We distil a little slower with more reflux which results in a more mellow spirit than most scotch for example.

The maturation of the Young Malt takes place in fresh, American oak barrels in a heated warehouse, dry and rather warm which speeds up the maturation, and gives a very woody and spicy taste, but also gives the angels their share. Flóki Single Malt, however is matured in un-heated warehouses in the rural, Icelandic countryside, a dunnage type of warehouse loyal to the Scottish way of maturing Uisge Beatha.

Instead of using peat for our smoky whisky, we use sheep dung, a very traditional Icelandic smoking-process normally used to smoke meat and also for heating.

So far we have produced two different types of the Young Malt, unsmoked and smoked. Our first single malt was released in November 2017

Where do your casks dome from?

We get fresh oak casks from the Speyside Cooperage and use them for our Young Malt first, then fill them up with what will become our single malt. That way we have perfect control over our own re-used casks.

Do you have to abide to the Scottish three year old rule? As whisky has never before been made in Iceland, couldn’t you just make your own rules?

We could, but we won’t. We have a lot of respect for whisky traditions, Scottish in particular and the traditions that they have developed there through the years. We will, and have been experimenting a lot with different processing methods and maturations but our Single Malt will always be matured in oak for at least 3 years.

What qualities does the Icelandic barley have?

Icelandic barley works quite well for whisky making, it grows slowly and has a lot of flavour.

Who’s in charge of design?

That’s just teamwork within the family.

You just produced a sheep dung smoked whisky which is very exciting and different. How were the results? How is Icelandic peat? Have you done any experimenting with it?

We were very happy with the results, the sheep dung smoke rhymes perfectly with that flavourful Icelandic barley. The dungsmoke gives a really nice spicy and smoky taste that you won’t see anywhere else.

Peat, and also sheep and horse dung, has been used as fuel for heating here in Iceland for centuries but in the last century or so that has slowed down a lot for obvious reasons. Icelandic peat has quite a lot more ash in it than elsewhere so the drying and cleansing progress is a little more difficult and costly. However we have been doing some experimenting already but we’ll see when they’ll see the light of day. We thought the sheep dung smoke went better with the barren, rough, rich and tasty Icelandic barley and were very happy with the results.

What has the reception been like so far?

It has been absolutely great, people are really interested in whisky from up here and our Young Malt is now sold in many markets all over the world and there is a lot of interest in our first malt whisky released later this year, based on how well our Young Malt has been received.

A whiskey with unique character. Many whiskies appear similar in character to me. Floki stands out because of its individuality. It bursts with herbs and flavour that you will not find anywhere else. I love this whiskey because of this – its unique character. It should be in your collection because of this very reason. Love it or hate it, you certainly will not mistake it. I love it.“ – Quote from a happy customer in the UK

How would you describe Flóki whisky? Is it for example, like a highland Scotch?

If we should compare, it’s somewhere between a Scotch Highland and an Irish whisky, with a nice, sweet, spicy bourbon-y edge.

How are the distillery tours going?

They are going really well and our customers are super pleased. Our distillery is not very  traditional which adds to the experience. We offer daily distillery tours for max. 10 people but on busy days we have welcomed around 130 guests in a day.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Anything you would like to add?

Thank you too. We welcome all whisky enthusiasts and novices and all in between for our tour and look forward to seeing you! You can book online on our website but we are also open to accept group visits at any time. Send us an email and we’ll do all in our power to make you feel welcome and sample some of our produce.

Viskíhornið is very grateful for Eimverk’s time. Click HERE to book a tour at Eimverk distillery in Iceland.

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