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a lot of good press through the nomination to be the gin for a gin and tonic,” he says. Many other awards followed. In 2016 the San Francisco World Spirit Competition gave Napue a gold. In 2017 the San Francisco competition gave Koskue a gold and IWSC gave it an Outstanding Silver. Such accolades are all the more remarkable when you consider that gin wasn’t even a part of Kyrö’s original mission. The principals launched the company as a rye whiskey distillery. “Finns love rye, we have a very special relationship with rye,” Valkonen points out. “It was the most important crop back in the nineteenth century.” Rye acreage may have receded since then, but the country’s love affair with the grain certainly has not. When Finland celebrated the centennial of its independence, the country selected rye bread as its national dish. Kyrö’s founders even hatched the idea for the distillery while sipping rye whiskey in a sauna, baffled that no one was already producing it in their rye-mad country. In the EU, a spirit needs to mature for three years before a distillery can call it whiskey. They started producing it in 2014 and, like most whiskey distilleries without deep pockets, realized they needed a secondary product to generate revenue while the whiskey sat in barrels. “Gin was the obvious choice,” Valkonen says. But the founders were committed to staying true to their mission of being an all-rye distillery and that meant the gin had to be derived from that grain as well. For the gin base, though, they source grain neutral spirit from Estonia. Valkonen and his colleagues were a bit blindsided by the success of their gin after it started gaining international acclaim in 2015. It created a challenge at first, as they were working with only one still — which meant when they were producing gin, they could not be making whiskey simultaneously. Kyrö expanded with a second still in 2016, so now it’s able to produce both without disrupting the production of either. But the whiskey remains mostly a domestic product for Kyrö, as it’s yet to have enough finished stock on hand to export it. So it’s likely that the world outside of Finland will get to know Kyrö as a gin producer, despite its whiskey-making origin story. And the same is likely to happen at home. Since 2015, Kyrö has grown its share of the premium gin market from about one percent to 10 percent. “There are now some more distilleries in Finland producing Finnish gin and there have been some good things happening in the gin and tonic culture here,” Valkonen observes. “Previously, gin and tonic was something your grandmother used to drink, but, since 2015, it’s become a fairly popular drink — and a celebrational drink — for young people as well.”
Kyrö Distillery Company is located in Isokyrö, Finland. Visit www.kyrodistillery.com for more information
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