Isokyrö is a mystical place. A tiny municipality tucked away in the Ostrobothnia region of western Finland with an eventful and bloody history. Archaeologists discovered over a hundred ancient skeletons dating back to the iron age in the local Leväluhta well, where the water still runs red every spring, and the memorial of the famous 1714 battle of Napue can be found just along the Kyrö river. Isokyrö is a place where both people and spirits come with character.
The story of the Kyrö distillery began quite some time after the iron age, in 2012, when five friends decided to go to the sauna, taking with them, a healthy amount of rye whiskey. As both ideas and drinks continued to flow, they ended up wondering why nobody was making rye whisky in Finland. After all, Finns consume six times more rye than the world average and rye bread was even named as the official national dish! So from that fateful sauna session came the idea to build an all-rye distillery in the most peculiar of locations: in the most famous cheese factory in Finland. After being closed down for five years, it was ready to be refurbished, and in 2014, the distillery finally roared to life. Since then, the Kyrö Distillery family has grown exponentially and their unique rye spirits are now enjoyed across the globe, from Tokyo to Berlin to London.
Rye is a truly Finnish ingredient, being integral to much of their cooking and brewing processes. As soon as the idea of founding a distillery began to form, it was clear to everyone involved that they would only be using rye. Rye is the most demanding grain to distill, especially in the world’s northernmost gin and whisky distillery. Kyrö makes sure to only use Finnish wholegrain rye, as it grows up north with a lot of sunlight and mild temperatures, giving it a distinctly intense edge. The Finnish summer only lasts from June to August, but in this time there is nearly a full day of light (In Lapland, from June to July, the sun never sets.), meaning that the grain is smaller but bursting with flavour. As well as using the incredible flavours from the rye, Kyrö adds in local wild botanicals like wildflowers, sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves – all of them hand-picked from the old Napue battleground.
The Napue battleground was where the Finns and Swedes met with Russia for the great North War. It is also the namesake of Kyrö distillery’s Napue Gin, which has been dubbed ‘The World’s Best Gin’ at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, and for good reason. The gin’s key elements are deeply rooted in the very heart of Finnish nature: cranberries, sea buckthorn, birch leaves and wild, floral herbs give the scents and flavours of an early morning, misty Finnish meadow. Kyrö Napue is best experienced with plenty of ice, a spoonful of cranberries, a twig of rosemary, and tonic water. The gin itself is both herbal and sweet, balanced with tartness of birch and gentle citrus on the nose, its full bodied herbal flavour ending with hints of pepper of rye on the tip of the tongue.
It’s more than just gin…
But Gin is not the only spirit Kyrö Distillery makes. They have also created the first ever Nordic single malt rye whisky made from 100% wholegrain rye. The whisky is double distilled and aged in American white oak casks in their famous old cheese aging storeroom at the dairy. In addition to the Single Malt Rye they will also be producing a yet unnamed whisky variant from smoked rye, which will have 50%–80% of traditional smoked grain rye and 20%–50% malted rye.
The distillery is located 5 hours drive from Helsinki and in addition to the distillery tour, you can also stop by to sample local delicacies and homemade cocktails in their bar Kyrön Matkailun Edistämiskeskus (Finnish for Kyrö Tourism Board).