February 20, 2024

Skeppets Whisky

Not Skeppets Whisky, but a Viking ship

Between 1955 and 1966, a unique and now rare Swedish whisky was produced that holds a fascinating history. The whisky, known as Skeppets (meaning: The (singular) Ship’s Whisky), was a blend made from two distinct ingredients. 45% of the blend was comprised of the Skeppet single malt, meticulously crafted in Södertälje. The remaining 55% was plain spirit produced in the renowned Åhus distillery, which would later gain fame for creating Absolut Vodka. Interestingly, both of these distilleries were owned by the governmental spirit company AB Vin- och Spritcentralen during a time when the independent production of strong alcohol was prohibited in Sweden.

Skeppets whisky, despite its current recognition for its “quite okey” quality among those lucky enough to taste its rare remains, faced a different fate during its heyday. It never gained widespread popularity, which is surprising considering the praise it receives now. One of the factors that contributed to its lack of popularity was its atypical peaty nature. However, during that era, the most popular way to enjoy whisky was on the rocks in a Tumbler-type whiskeyglass, and this divergence from the norm may have been a contributing factor to its limited appeal. In many ways, Skeppets was ahead of its time, and its fate can be seen as one of posterity’s tragic missed opportunities.

An intriguing rumor surrounds Skeppets  whisky during the 1960s when a transport strike disrupted the supply chain, causing off-license stores to face depleting stocks of whisky. Amidst this scarcity, Skeppets was reputedly the last whisky to run out of stock, a testament to its enduring demand and perhaps a glimpse of what could have been if circumstances were different.

Skeppets’ story serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities of the whisky world and how certain gems may remain hidden from the spotlight for reasons beyond their quality. Yet, even in its relative obscurity during its production years, Skeppets managed to carve its place in history as a distinct and memorable whisky, destined to be cherished by those who recognize its true value.

Cheap back then, expensive now!

Production of Skeppets came to an end in 1966, and the last bottle was sold in 1971. Remarkably, when it was introduced to the market in 1961, a 0.75-liter bottle of Skeppets was priced at a mere SEK 24:50, which was less than £2 at the time, making it the most affordable whisky in Sweden. Today, these bottles have become highly sought after, fetching thousands of pounds at auctions. Approximately one million liters of this strange whisky were produced before the stills were dismantled.

Skeppets Whisky, ©Spritmuseum
Skeppets Whisky, ©Spritmuseum

The fascinating story of Skeppets extends to the distillery itself, which included three used 18th-century stills purchased from the mothballed Scottish Lowland Bladnoch distillery that had been inactive since 1938. This acquisition brought a piece of Scottish distilling heritage to Sweden, adding further intrigue to the whisky’s background.

With time, the original wooden washbacks used in the production of Skeppets began to deteriorate. To ensure the continuation of the whisky’s legacy, new stainless steel washbacks were installed after a few years, blending modern technology with traditional craftsmanship.

Throughout its existence, the Skeppets brand was  manufactured and owned by the Swedish governmentally owned alcohol company “AB Vin & Spritcentralen.” This affiliation with the state further underscores the significance of Skeppets in Sweden’s distilling history and cultural heritage.

As the years go by, Skeppets continues to gain recognition and reverence among whisky enthusiasts worldwide, solidifying its place as a treasured gem of Sweden’s whisky legacy. Its limited availability and the remarkable story behind its production make it a truly  collectible spirit, cherished by those lucky enough to experience its taste and unique historical journey.