I had the incredible opportunity to continue my journey in part 2 of my trip to Ukraine! The gracious owner, Pavlo Panasuik, of MacLev Distillery in L’viv, invited me to witness and understand their remarkable process.
Preface about the city
Before I get into the details of whisky production, I would like to comment on my experience of the city of L’viv. I had certain expectations about a city in an active war zone, but what I encountered was profoundly different. The resilience and unwavering spirit of the people of L’viv left me in awe. Despite the challenges they face, they refuse to let the war that Putin waged upon them define or hinder their lives.
The grocery stores are still lined with food, and the malls in the city are very modern! The Сільпо (Silpo) Supermarket was still lined with cured meats, cheese, fresh veggies and more!
And the craft beer labels have been kept up to date as well!
The malted barley and malted wheat are from Belgium, and the milling and mashing are done onsite.
The wort undergoes a fermentation process with distillers yeast from Lalamend, lasting 4-5 days. The resulting distillation passes through a tall and thin pot still, inspired by Glenmorangie‘s pot still shape. Subsequently, the second distillation continues in a short and low-rectification column still, producing a light style of spirit.
One of the highlights of the visit was observing the ageing process in bespoke casks, expertly handmade by Arpad himself (featured in the post about his coopering in part 1). The dedication to craftsmanship truly shines in every aspect of their whisky-making.
Moreover, MacLev distillery is actively exploring the use of Ukrainian malt and peat. Additionally, I had the opportunity to taste the result of their trial run of malt smoked with Ukrainian peat to 15ppm, showcasing an exceptionally distinct and exciting flavour profile. They have released make an unpeated Popgold whisky as well as a lightly peated Old Copper whisky!
During my enriching experience in Ukraine, I came across the Ukrainian word “ремісник”. The closest translated meaning in English is “artisan craftsman who have honed their skills to the utmost ability”. After spending time with Arpad at the cooperage and Palvo at the distillery, I can confidently say that they epitomize the essence of ремісник! Their dedication to their craft and the level of skill they have honed are genuinely exceptional and awe-inspiring.
It was an eye-opening experience to witness how the pursuit of excellence in whisky-making can transcend challenges, and not even an ongoing war will stop them. I am honoured to have been part of their journey and cannot wait to see what they accomplish next!
I would like to thank Kateryna Panasuik for arranging and making this trip possible for me: the accommodation, the documents needed for the visa and the never-ending translator role!
The end of an era
So I did lose my panda in Ukraine before visiting the distillery. It happened 6 hours after the missiles hit L’viv, killing 6 people. Slept through air alarms. I would like to think that Panda took that for me. But Panda had a glorious end, in L’viv, Ukraine of all the places in the world it’s been to. I will be toasting a dram to my old friend!