Napue (pronounced Na-pu-eh) and Koskue (Kos-ku-eh) gin hail from Finland and like all good Nordic stories, the idea for making rye whisky came to the founders while they were taking a sauna. The five friends, Kalle (master distiller), Miko, Mikko, Mikka and Jouni set out to create the best Rye Distillery in the world, their motto being “In Rye We Trust”.
Rye whisky is traditionally American, but when you understand the deep cultural significance of rye to the Finnish, it’s entirely appropriate that the team from Kyrö Distillery should choose to create spirits from it. Rye has been growing in Finland for over 2000 years. It’s well suited to the climate as it ripens quickly during the short Northern summer and is adaptable in difficult soil conditions.
A former dairy factory in Isokyrö is home to the Kyrö Distillery. Isokyrö itself is a mysterious place. Archeologists have found ancient human remains in the local Leväluhta well which turns red every spring. Weird.
Like many distillers before them, the challenges of cash-flow while whisky matures gave rise to the creation of gin. Experience has taught me that using spirit bases most generally associated with whisky production (like malt) when making gin, does not always create a positive outcome, with most tasting more like genever than anything else. After trying to create the base for the gin themselves without success, the Kyrö team sourced a 100% un-malted neutral rye spirit from elsewhere.
London dry botanicals including juniper from Slovenia, angelica, and lemon and lime peel form the base of Napue. These ingredients are macerated overnight before distillation.
In addition, foraged local botanicals: sea buckthorn, wild cranberry, meadowsweet and birch are individually distilled and then blended with the other distillate. Using this method, the seasonal variations encountered using foraged ingredients are countered slightly.
How does it taste?
A nice whiff of juniper and fruit on the nose. On the palate, fruit, pine from the juniper and birch followed by citrus notes and a little jam before a punchy peppery finish. Mouthwateringly good. Napue won the inaugural Best G&T gin at the IWSC in 2015 and it’s easy to see why. Great mouth feel, great flavour and finish plus a 46% ABV means it stands up well mixed, but is also delicious over ice.
I went full gintonica (Spanish style gin and tonic) for my G&T using my favourite garnish of rosemary with a wedge of fresh grapefruit.
After winning the IWSC accolade, the team decided to created a barrel-aged gin. They use Napue for the base minus the sea buckthorn and with fresh orange peel and black pepper added. The gin is rested in new American Oak barrels for 6-12 weeks.
On the nose, as you’d expect, there is plenty of vanilla, but also orange. Taste-wise there is the familiar oakiness associated with aged spirits, with vanilla, orange and a pleasing peppery finish. I found a freshness in flavour that isn’t always apparent in longer aged gins. If I had to pick a signature cocktail for using Koskue, it would have to be a Negroni (although it’s been suggested that it’s also good in a breakfast martini). Koskue gin is also delicious over ice or in an old-fashioned.
Undoubtedly, a great gin success story from Finland, Kyrö Distillery only produced 5000 bottles in 2014. Last year their total gins sales topped 350,000 bottles! Keep your eyes out for future projects, this is certainly a distillery to watch.
Country of Origin: Finland
ABV: 46% (Napue), 42.6% (Koskue)