It all began in a sauna, where an unusual idea developed into a distinct vision. “When there is no tradition to follow, your product will be unique,” explains Sanna Dooley, CCO of Kyrö Distillery Company. With a focus on using 100 per cent Finnish rye, these trailblazers have turned a daring dream into a hugely successful business, producing exceptional, award-winning Finnish spirits.

During a typical sauna session, a group of friends were chewing the cud over a rye tipple and reflecting on the fact that there was no such thing as a local rye whisky, despite the prominence of this grain in Finland. They set out to produce a truly original and thoroughly Finnish rye whisky, using only local raw materials.

Kyrö Distillery Company: daring to dream

Kyrö Distillery CCO Sanna Dooley. Photo: Veera Kujala

Rye on the money

“For most Finnish people, rye is synonymous with our country, and ryebread is our national dish,” says Sanna. “In Finland, we produce and consume more rye per capita than anywhere else in the world,” she continues. The rye used in Kyrö’s products are all 100 per cent Finnish and this has allowed the distillery to tailor the distilling process to get the best out of this notoriously hard-to-process grain.

This passion for distilling the essence of Finland and never compromising their vision makes for a winning formula. Their spirits have been well-received both on home turf and all over Europe, with a second office branch now opening in London. The boldness and vision of the founders is inspiring: they have created something never seen in Finland before, and every aspect of Kyrö is unique.

Kyrö Distillery Company: daring to dream

Kyrö Wood-Smoke. Photo: Kimmo Syväri

The importance of a good story

The most recent addition to their portfolio is the Kyrö Dairy Cream, made with local cream and rye whisky. It started as an in-house joke but has become a wonderful homage to the old dairy in Isokyrö, which houses the distillery. Like everything they do, it sprang from a small idea and a ‘why not?’ attitude that incorporates skill, humour and excellent taste buds.

“The core ethos of our company comes down to daring to dream,” says Sanna. What initially might have seemed like a crazy idea concocted in a sauna is now a multi-million-pound business – though it didn’t happen overnight and has taken a lot of grafting, focus and faith. “We think it is important to share the stories behind our products and how they are made,” Sanna says, underlining that Kyrö Distillery Company is about more than just a whisky or a gin, and much more than a business.

A whisky distillery at heart

But what would cement their reputation internationally was more of side-thought. “Distilling whisky takes time; you can’t rush the process and you have to be patient,” Sanna explains, with evident passion and insider knowledge. “Our first gin sprang from an idea of what to do whilst waiting for our whisky to distil, and so we started out with a 100 per cent rye-based gin,” she continues.

This is unusual in the gin world but, nevertheless, in 2015 Kyrö won the IWSC award for Best Gin for Gin & Tonic. The gin is flavoured with local botanicals picked in the gardens, forests and meadows near the distillery, such as sea buckthorn, birch leaves and meadowsweet. It tastes like the very essence of summer in Finland.

“We produced 20,000 bottles of gin that year, which felt ambitious,” Sanna says. But after winning the award, demand went through the roof, and by the end of the year they had sold 100,000 bottles. “The gin became so popular that it took over the entire production, but we continue to be a whisky distillery,” she continues.

The company now employs 41 staff, with the majority working in the distillery alongside head-distiller, Kalle. They work as a team and everyone supports each other in their different roles, the key-ingredient being the right attitude and a desire to learn. Their approach to the process and the products is uncompromising: “we never take any short-cuts but do everything with complete conviction and passion,” Sanna says. This runs through every single product and will continue to be at the heart of Kyrö Distillery Company.

Looking ahead, the future looks bright, exciting and full of new ideas. “We are looking to increase production, and currently have 1.2 million litres of whisky aging in barrels,” Sanna explains enthusiastically. “We look forward to showcasing what we have learnt about rye distilling, and are planning to play with barrel finishes, single cask and vintage releases,” she continues. This will no doubt cement their position in the marketplace as well as allowing the whole team behind this unique and quirky distillery to continue daring to dream.

Kyrö Distillery Company: daring to dream

Left: Kyrö Napue with cocktail. Photo: Kimmo Syväri. Right: Kyrö Distillery aerial view. Photo: Kimmo Syväri

Instagram: @kyrodistillery
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