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The Kyrö Story
Rye has been cultivated in Finland for at least 2,000 years. The grain’s adaptability to various soils and an ability to ripen quickly suited the country’s all-too brief summer. Unsurprisingly, therefore, rye bread is extremely popular amongst the Finnish population. In fact, it was voted “National Food of Finland” at the centenary celebrations of the country’s independence in 2017.
It is perhaps a little strange then, that no-one had thought to make whisky from the stuff. That is the very issue five friends found themselves pondering whilst enjoying a dram of American Rye Whiskey in a sauna one evening. Inspired, they soon found themselves planning to open their own distillery.
Miika Lipiäinen, Mikko Koskinen, Kalle Valkonen, Miko Heinilä and Jouni Ritola had no experience in distilling so they took some time to tour micro distilleries and visit still manufacturers, slowly building their knowledge base.
Of course, in order to create a distillery, you need a location. At first the team considered an old farm but it was decided that the premises wouldn’t be suitable. Just as they were about to go back to the drawing board, however, they stumbled across a dairy factory, built in 1908 on the banks of the River Kyrö. Soon building work was underway to convert it into the country’s first dedicated rye distillery.
The stills were heated for the first time in 2014 and some early spirit managed to find its way to Whisky Live in London where drams were poured for anyone that showed an interest. The positive feedback only served to encourage the team and they returned to Finland more certain than ever that they were on the right track.
Kyrö uses 100% Finnish rye for everything it does: whisky, gin and other spirits. It’s nice to see local ingredients being used. I want whisky to offer me a credible taste of the place it was made. What would be the point in a Finnish distillery producing a whisky that tasted just like it could have been made in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter? Local ingredients mean the whisky is a product of the climate, the geology, the people and the culture of Finland. That is what gives a spirit real personality and character.
I’ve been aware of Kyrö for a while without having tasted any of their stuff. I’ve been looking forward to trying it because I liked the brand almost immediately, mostly thanks to the sense of humour they display in their advertising…
“Like half of the Finnish population, the idea for this all-rye distillery was also conceived in the sauna.”From the Kyrö website
Fortunately, thanks to a free sample included in a recent purchase from Master of Malt, I now have a chance to see if the quality of the booze matches the quality of their marketing.
*Full disclosure: The sample featured in this article was sent to me free of charge as a wee bonus with a purchase I made from Master of Malt. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion about the whisky and the value for money it represents.
The whisky is distilled in a 1200-litre still and matured in a combination of new American oak and ex-Bourbon casks. It’s bottled at 47.2% and retails at £50 in the UK.
Smell: My overwhelming impression of this dram is “woodwork shop”. Lots of oak and sawdust. Even some varnish and solvent notes. There’s also a wee bit of charcoal in there. Besides that you get all the spices you’d expect, especially pepper and clove. Also honey, caramel, apple and pear. Almond marzipan. Dark chocolate. Coffee beans.
Taste: Toffee caramel arrival. Vanilla pods. Lots of spices: clove, nutmeg, pepper… Rye bread. Oak char. Honey. Apple juice. Orange zest. Chocolate again, only this time more like Milk Chocolate. A splash of water took the heat of the spice down a notch but sacrificed a bit of mouthfeel along the way.
Thoughts: There’s some serious flavour on offer here. It’s got depth and intensity in spades and the rye character lingers with good length in the finish. Perhaps a little too full-on for those not already acquainted with Rye whiskies but fans of big, bold drams should get on just fine.
Value for money: Good quality whisky for the price. Woody, spicy and delicious. A good buy if you’re looking to try something a wee bit different.
You can buy Kyrö from Master of Malt here:
*Please be aware that this is an affiliate link and as such I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make.
**Other retailers are available.
For more on Kyrö visit the website: