I said a mellow goodbye to Sober October with a fruity friend from the Languedoc. The well-named Lâchez-Vous! is a full-bodied Syrah/Grenache blend, red-purple in colour with the scent and taste of black and red berries. Dry and smooth, it went down very easily as I said hello to November.

The next day, on a casual wander through Colchester, I visited a (relatively) new off-licence at Fenwick, just to browse. Winter is coming, so I headed to the whisky section which, though compact, had interest. There, late to the game (the distillery, Mackmyra, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year), I discovered that Sweden produces whisky.

Thanks to an attentive sales assistant, I also discovered that Sweden produces good whisky. She noted my interest and asked if I would like to taste two of those Swedish whiskies they had in stock. I agreed and she fetched the bottles.

The first, Svensk Rök, is a smoky single malt whisky made exclusively from Swedish ingredients. Flavoured with juniper, it’s light, mildly spicy and peaty in character. The second, Mackmyra Äppelblom is also a single malt and is finished in Calvados-saturated oak casks from Christian Drouin. It has a richer dry-toffee-apple character. I enjoyed tasting both, but, if I had to choose, would take the Äppelblom for an autumn-into-winter drink. The apple and the Calvados are very persuasive.

So, cheers, dear reader, wherever you are and however you mark this season – here’s a toast to new discoveries – lâchez-vous!

Mackmyra Whisky



My Back Yard

Long ago and not so far away, was my first home: 47 North Hill, Colchester, Essex, UK. It was there that my sister was born, and there that I was raised to realise that we are our stories. There, too, I learned to respect other stories, others’ stories: to understand that history is always in my back yard.

I was reminded of this, last weekend, when a friend and I visited Colchester on the first of this year’s English Heritage Open Days. After a backstage tour of the Mercury Theatre, and before a tour of 3 West Stockwell Street, we braved the crowds to enter Colchester Castle Museum. I’ve loved the Castle ever since I can remember, but I hadn’t been in to the museum for four years. On Saturday, entry was free for the English Heritage Open Day, but a ‘special offer’ to local residents, of 13 months entry for £6.50, was irresistible. I shall now be a regular visitor. My ancestry remains on display, here the mosaic removed from the garden of what became number 47, previously the site of an extensive Roman villa. There, glimpses of the Boudiccan Destruction Horizon, glints of the recently uncovered Fenwick Treasure, and gasps of: Colchester, surrender?

To which, of course, I answer: Never!