“Why,” I asked, as pointedly as you can through the medium of a Facebook group message, “am I looking at a gaggle of Viking types belting through a field sans undercrackers?”
Jason was more enthused, chirruping about some idea it had given him for the Malt 2018 calendar he’s making for our Patreon supporters.
As it transpired, it wasn’t the press image for a Highland Park “The Pasty” bottling. Nor a shot of the Cadenhead’s set when they’ve heard there’s an Ardbeg in the outturn. It wasn’t even a pre-Downing Street pic of Theresa and friends in their famous wheatfield. It was, almost inevitably, to do with some new Scandiwegian thing that Mark had come out in panegyrics over. In this case, a rye whisky from some Finnish fellows called Kyrö.
Through my trademark blend of whining and emotional blackmail, I extorted half of the sample Mark had been sent. And I thought it was rather good. Excellent even. But since there wasn’t a drop of Kyrö whisky on UK shelves at the time I sort of put it out of mind. Until I bumped into the CEO and the head distiller at the World Whisky Forum and extorted a sample out of them too. (Incidentally, I can confirm that they do, in fact, own clothes. Or had at least hired some for the event so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the timorous English).
If you’re not familiar with these guys, I suggest you look them up. Even if you can’t get hold of their whisky yet. Because they’re doing interesting things. Thinking in interesting ways. Their speech at the forum was about the importance of embracing the diversity of rye in the same way that we embrace the diversity of barley. It doesn’t always have to be treated to the MGP/Alberta formula. Rye makers should experiment with different strains. With pots as well as column stills. With casks other than the ubiquitous virgin American white oak.
And that’s what Kyrö do. Their rye strain is picked for its small, concentrated, more flavourful grains. And they ferment for an outrageous six days. That’s longer than Springbank. It’s longer than Waterford. In fact, when it comes to whisky, I can only think of Westland who match it, off the top of my head. They’ve played about with different smokes – I gather peat’s on the “to do list”. Their rye is malted and distilled in pots. And then they age it in a whole range of casks.
All of which is great stuff. One quibble. It’s not on their website. Which isn’t the end of the world per se, but it seems counter-intuitive to do all sorts of trend-bucking rye alchemy, to advocate diversity of ingredients, processes and techniques, and not to bellow about it all over your digital space. Perhaps worth their marketing gang taking a squint at the Box – sorry, High Coast – or Spirit of Hven websites for inspiration. Because it’s worth getting the word out.
Which is what we’re doing here, with a review of batch #4 of their flagship rye. It’s vatted from a mixture of ex-bourbon and virgin oak casks and was bottled on the 11th April this year at 47.8%. Don’t have a clue how old it is, though I’d guess somewhere between three and five years. Which, as we’ve said to death, doesn’t matter a jot if the spirit is well made and has been put into high-quality barrels.
Kyrö Batch #4 – review
Colour: Deep Amontillado
On the nose: Deep and dusky. And very malty. Branflakes. Rye bread – no, rye toast. Coffee and tonka bean. Old book covers and dusty furniture. It’s very cereal-forward but so deep and robust are the notes that it feels mature and complete.
In the mouth: Unexpectedly sweet, juicy palate. All the aromas manifest themselves on the tongue but are overlaid with muscovado syrup and a rich, dark nuttiness. Walnuts. Almost cigar tobacco. Towards the end, some nutmeg appears. The profundity of flavour and oiliness of body mean that there’s barely a burn whatsoever. Alcohol? What alcohol? I could drink a lot of this …
Apparently, as many as 60 bottles of this might flutter onto UK shelves in 2018. If you are a lover of rye – no, of good whisky – I suggest you go full Black Friday in muscling folk out of the way to get one. Don’t be afraid to deploy an elbow.
This really is brilliant stuff. Perhaps a small notch down from the Suomi 100 Ruisviski, but I’ve a notion it’s a large notch down in price. Whatever. The nudists have smashed it again.
P.S. I’m obligated to tell you that the conversation at the start of this post didn’t actually take place. But I have a team snotty upstart position to defend from Alexandra, and must sometimes resort to libel.