Sharing a whisky with friends can lead to deep conversations and some very interesting questions being asked. This is how the idea to start the first Rye Whisky distillery in Finland, the land of Rye, came about; with a group of friends sitting in a sauna and drinking Rye whisky (as they often do in Finland), asking why there wasn’t already a Finnish Rye Whisky? In the cold light of day, it still seemed like a question worth answering, so the journey of kyrö Distillery began…
It was five guys (not the burger guys) that started out on the journey to create Finland’s first Rye whisky distillery in 2012, with the ambition to always use 100% Finnish Rye for all their products. Kalle, the head distiller, used his parents’ home whilst they were on holiday as the location for the first fermentation. Without their own set-up at this time, they had to transport their fermented spirit several hundred kilometres to Finland’s first craft whisky distillery in Pori, to use their pot still and produce their new make spirit. Then to test the market with their new make, Miika smuggled some into The Whisky Show London and gave out samples everywhere, even in the toilets, to gain the valuable feedback they required and understand that what they had was a very good product. They then fired up the stills in The Old Dairy for the first time in 2014, made some award-winning Gin in 2015 while they waited for their whisky to mature and sold more hand sanitizer than Gin in 2020, as they adapted their business to the changing world conditions. They are very passionate about Rye and love sharing this passion and their story to capture the hearts of others. Now an award-winning distillery, with a growing team of 46 people within the Kyrö family and selling their whisky and other spirits all around the world.
The Distillery is called Kyrö (pronounced Kuro), which is short for Isokyrö, the town where the distillery is located. According to Wikipedia it is the most motorised municipality in Finland, located in the southern half of the country around 27 miles inland from Vaasa that sits on the western coastline. Whilst on their way to dinner and drinks, or what they would call a ‘planning session,’ the guys stumbled across The Old Dairy near Isokyrö, which although at the time was filled with cars, would offer them everything they required to build their distillery.
Finland is an extraordinary country, with 22 hours of sunlight during the summer months, but an extremely short growing season. Because of this, Rye is one of the only grains that can be grown here, producing a very small but very flavourful Rye grain that forms the base for most of the countries baked specialities. The founders love for Rye whiskies and the abundance in Finland lead them down this path, but it is a very temperamental grain and the hardest to use for distillation, so it takes a great deal of effort and time to ensure the fullest of Rye flavours are captured. There is no husk (outer layer) on Rye, so all of the flavours (caramel, liquorice, floral and syrup) are captured on the outside of the grain and Kyrö use a ‘whole grain’ Rye method; they don’t filter, separate, or remove anything, it all goes right through the process to ensure the maximum Rye taste is captured in their spirits.
For their whiskies, like all their products, they use 100% Rye that is locally sourced from around Isokyrö. In the Malted Rye Whisky, they use 100% malted Rye and in the Wood Smoke Rye Whisky they use 50% malted Rye and 50% Alder wood smoked Rye. They use an extremely long fermentation time of over 140 hours (whisky industry standards are on average around 48-60 hours) to ensure they can extract all the flavours from the Rye and then use double distillation in copper pot stills (a 7000 and 9000 litre still). The cut is fairly long to ensure they get more oily characteristics that enhance the Rye flavour, and they use more of a Scotch whisky-based process to distillation instead of the classic American Rye process, to create their own tradition of Rye Whisky-making.
In their very first (sauna) meeting, they came up with the values they all felt very passionate about; ensuring they built a legacy focused on sustainability (social, ecological, and economical) to protect it for future generations. This starts with a focus on keeping their energy consumption at the new distillery to a minimum; using biogas from wasted pork manure and waste, 99.9% of the energy in the Distillery and the visitors centre (a green key-certified site) is produced through renewable energy sources, and the waste from the distillation process is fed to cows and the methanol generated is used to clean local sewage.
They are continually working to ensure visitors also have minimal impact on the surrounding environment, developing a scheme to offer bikes made of recycled materials for visitors to use to see the local attractions. They are also all about equality, not only with a very diverse family of employees, but they work with local equality associations and provide food aid to those in need within the local community.
kyrö Malt Rye - uses 100% malted Rye that is locally sourced, and a cask mix of New American Oak and Ex-Bourbon, with an age range of 3.5 to 6.5 years old.
The sweeter tones from the cask mix blend perfectly with the caramel, liquorice root, and dark sweet undertones of the rye. But this whisky doesn’t have the spicy or peppery qualities you might expect from a Rye whisky, this is Finnish Rye and probably a taste you cannot place, but will want to explore.
Awesome neat or over ice, but is exceptional in a highball, particularly a Cherry Rye Ball using cherry soda. Rye bread and butter is a very simple, but unbelievably delicious pairing with this whisky, along with Chocolate and mature cheeses also working well as pairing options.
Kyrö Wood Smoke
Currently in pre-release, this whisky uses a mashbill of 50% malted Rye and 50% smoked Rye. The smoked Rye is created through storing in a barn with a continually lit bonfire that uses Alder Wood, which produces much sweeter, slightly minerally, mellow tones that translate in to almost nothing on the nose, but a very delicate smoke on the back of the palate. Notoverpowering like peat smoke can be, this is wood smoke and gives hints of a recently distinguished bonfire, rather than a roaring campfire.
Again, wonderful to enjoy neat, but also goes well in a number of cocktails. An amazing pairing with smoked fish (a Finnish speciality) or anything you wish to pop on the grill.