Sharing the spirit of Kalevala with the world
TEXT: NDÉLA FAYE | PHOTOS © NORTHERN LIGHTS SPIRITS OY
While studying biochemical engineering, Moritz Wüstenberg set up a small distillery in a disused barn. Fast-forward nearly a decade, and he runs the successful Kalevala Distillery, producing handmade organic gins. Named after the Finnish poetry epic, Kalevala gin offers the perfect balance between old traditions and new innovation, with a hint of magic thrown into the mix.
Wüstenberg first took an interest in distilling because of the history of his mother’s hometown, Kitee, in easternmost Finland: the town is renowned for having been a major bootlegging hub during the 1930s prohibition in Finland. He decided to name his gin after the Kalevala, the poetry epic that consists of Finnish folklore and mythology. “I used the Finnish national epic as a source of inspiration for Kalevala gin, because its story is based near here, in Finnish Karelia,” Wüstenberg explains.
Kalevala gin has a four-strong team, consisting of, in addition to Wüstenberg himself: Kirsi, in charge of bottling and labelling; Tatyana as head of production and product development; and Pantteri the cat, who has been assigned the title of head of happiness. In recent years, Finnish gin has gone through a bit of a boom. However, Kalevala is the only organic spirit made in Finland, and the gin is handmade from start to finish: even the water used in the distilling process comes from their own well. In addition to juniper, ingredients used in Kalevala gin include sea-buckthorn, blackcurrant, rose bud and Jerusalem artichoke. The main aim is to source as many ingredients as possible from the Karelia region.
The company is also launching a barrel-aged gin later this year, as well as a birch-sap vodka – all handmade and made from organic local ingredients, and produced in small batches, of course. “The birch sap was collected from local birches last spring. Gin is incredibly versatile: juniper is used as a base, but the sky is the limit when it comes to flavouring gin with botanicals,” Wüstenberg explains. His gins have gained success and a following around the world, and the company is always looking to expand its horizons further. “We’ve had a lot of success in the far East as well as the Nordic countries, and we’re keen to share some of the legend and the spirit of Kalevala with the rest of the world,” he concludes.