Here’s a thing: I knew next to nothing about Kyrö Distillery about four months back. And why would I? I mean, it’s not as though Finland is top of people’s whisky destinations. But as we have maintained on Malt, in recent months, Scandaweigian whiskies are proving to be excellent, so it was only a matter of time until Kyrö did get waved under my nose.
But they actually popped up on my radar through a Whisky Magazine review. These would have been blind samples, don’t forget, so until the magazine went to print (I think it was the same issue in which I slagged off Highland Park for being lazy, without knowing it was them; but that did not surprise me given Highland Park’s decline in quality – a rant for another day, another post, possibly even one of Jason’s rants) I had no idea that this little boutique distillery in Finland even existed, and was producing, of all things, a stunning rye whisky.
When I found out who it was who’d produced this ace dram, I googled them, landed on their website and was confronted by pictures of bare-arsed frolicking Finnish folk.
Naturally, as an Englishman, my instincts are to frown heavily on such behaviour, but I understand our European neighbours can get carried away with nudity from time to time. Even Jason can get a bit lairy when he’s had an Irn-Bru. (Although, my views on Europeans are largely informed by Eurotrash.) That said, this distillery was dreamt up in a sauna, so they claim, so my views seem legitimate. Their branding is a little different than your average whisky brand; it has a very progressive air about the whole thing, more energy and fun, especially on social media, which is far more to my liking these days than wanky bottle branding and liberally using the word “luxury” (which usually means it isn’t a luxury, but is the lazy marketer’s name for some random fourth-fill nonsense found at the back of the warehouse).
Kyrö Distillery makes not just rye whisky, but also gin, which I tend to think makes a distillery a touch more input and spirit focussed. As a point of interest, it’s one of the most northerly distilleries in the world. The distillery itself is based in an old dairy, in the rather remote village of Isokyrö. Kyrö’s whisky is made from 100% malted wholegrain rye – at the time of writing, I don’t know much about the grain, but I can only assume it’s local given that eating rye is pretty much the national pastime.
I can’t find a whole load of information about today’s dram, largely because it’s so rare it wasn’t available outside of Finland. What else can I say? Not much. I mean, just what’s even going on with the name? It looks like a Scrabble board has vomited all over the header.
But a previous Kyrö rye – indeed, the one I believe I reviewed for Whisky Magazine – was aged in virgin American oak casks, then in first-fill bourbon casks and also ex-Marsala wine casks. Active casks, which gives you some idea of what they’re about: flavour. And when you make good spirit to begin with, then marvellous things happen in active wood.
This particular release was bottled in 2017 for Finland’s 100 Years of Independence, at 50% ABV. Price? Who knows. You’d be lucky to get your hands on a bottle. (However, good news for UK drinkers is that Maverick Drinks has taken on distribution, so in theory, the whisky will be more widely available in the near future. Just not this bottle.)
As you can see by the photo here, all sorts of bits and pieces came my way, including a “moisturyeser”, as sent very kindly by the folks at Kyrö. We’re happy to be transparent about things like this on Malt, unlike a few other major whisky sites, because we’re confident that being sent things does not exclude a brand from getting a kicking. We’ve done it often enough, and got ourselves kicked off many a Christmas card list in the process. C’est la vie, in the words of B*Witched.
Just so happens that this whisky is brilliant, and I benefit from having extra soft hands with which to type this tasting note.
Kyrö Distillery: Suomi 100 Ruisviski – Review
Colour: tawny, pretty dark.
On the nose: hefty, gorgeous bright plum sauce with toasted notes underneath. Herbal: fennel, aniseed notes, with coriander. Pine needles. Fruit eau du vie, raspberry perhaps. Caramel. Slightly woody. Nutmeg. Cranberry sauce. A little HP Sauce, come to think of it.
In the mouth: voluptuous spirit, gorgeously made. And a perfect balance between the warming woody, herbal, cinnamon notes, peppermint, aniseed, and just a touch of sweetness: not too much, more a heather honey, mellow kind. Muscovado sugar. Coffee and dark chocolate. Plum jam. The spice is so, so gentle, and with time all the flavours aren’t as fun (curiously it’s more entertaining when freshly poured). But put a lot of that aside and it’s one of the most easily drinkable, pleasing whiskies I’ve had in ages.
Kyrö Distillery is one of world whisky’s best-kept secrets. Simple as that. Finnish rye, distilled by nudists. Who’d have thought it? (Yes, why not start that rumour.)
And I just can’t say it enough: if you are interested in flavour (and as readers of Malt, I’d hope you are interested in flavour, and the things that influence it) the whisky world appears to be far more exciting outside of Scotland these days. Time to start exploring.
Keep an eye out for these fellows (especially if they’re naked).