Another World Whisky Wednesday is here and I’m sitting outside on a fantastic Irish summers day, soaking in some sun. That’s not a joke, it is seriously sunny and wonderful today, and it gets me thinking about different countries and their climates, and how much I love a bottle from a hot sunny country I enjoy trying something from a colder country as well. And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got myself a bottle of something quite northern nearby. Today I’m looking at the Rye Malt of Kyro Distillery, Finland.
While undoubtedly grain spirits, in particular vodka, have been popular through Finland’s history in recent years they’ve turned their attention to whisky. From what I can tell the first Finnish whisky came about in the early 80’s, courtesy of Koskenkorva distillery. While this operation ended after just shy of two decades, It wasn’t long until others sprang up to try their hand at it as well, though curiously these distilleries for the most part were using either a pure or portion malted barley base. Enter Kyro distillery, dreamt of in a sauna in 2012.
I’ve no idea if this is said Sauna
During the Whisky Show, Buffalo Trace Master Blender Drew Mayville handed a glass of Thomas H Handy to Miika, transforming Miika from a Single Malt man into a Rye Raver. Years later, after he and other founder Miiko, Kalle, Miko and Jouni had finished a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye in a Sauna and a drunken plan began: dropping their careers and becoming Rye distillers. Who hasn’t had that idea after a bottle?
Swiftly starting their with trials in a friend’s parents’ basement, they then upgraded to an old stone dairy outfitted with three copper pot stills and fired them for the first time in 2014. People seem to be catching rye fever, and in late 2019 Kyro expanded with a secondary site next to the original distillery, increasing their capacity from 85000 LPA to 350000 LPA, slightly more than quadrupling in size.
Of course, there have been difficulties along the way. While you can malt rye, its not an easy grain, requiring plenty of work to keep it consistent. Prewash, washing, mashing, everything along the way takes care, and the northern placement of the distillery results in a very variable maturation climate, between -30C to 30C. To help out set the zero impact the colder months have, Kyro has joined their maturation and distillation areas, pumping hot water from the distillation through the maturation area to help riase the temperature during the colder months.
While this is good for the colder months, in the warmer months the Finnish Government has stepped in with a regulation decreeing that the warehouse can be no warmer than 22C. How did Kyro solve this problem? Simple, they put air conditioners through the warehouse. Somewhat of a blessing in disguise, this does allow Kyro to experiment with varying temperatures.
Through the video we got to chat about a lot of things and I loved having him on, though occasionally I was lost in what I was sipping, Kyro’s Single Malt Rye Batch 8. What goes into the whisky I wondered? Unfortunately I’m unable to source the full details, but what we do know is that its 100% wholegrain rye, matured in ex-bourbon and virgin American Oak with a small dash of Oloroso Sherry thrown in. The best way to figure out what goes into a whisky is to taste it however, so lets get nosing!
Beautiful day, beautiful whisky
The nose starts with crumbling granita bars and rye bread straight from the oven, piping hot but wonderfully fresh before the spices start to snow down, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, all settling in an open pot of honey. Next up is some bitter sweetness with some spicy caramel and a bar of chilli dark chocolate before some softer, earthy floral notes, a touch of daisies and some raspberries. Then coffee cake, followed by surfboard wax and lemon grass before thick vanilla custard with sultanas with some spice and brown sugar mixed through, melted treacle and pfeffernusse.
The palate is light at the front with the flavour coming through in the middle and back, iced coffee with some spice, pepper, sultanas come back once again, then heading to some almonds and back to the rye bread now with some spiced honey. A hint of cola icy poles as well, then heading into liqourice, aniseed and some clove rock. The finish is long and spicy, a complete dance of flavours across the mouth; raspberry and strawberry liqourice into toasted rye, a dollop of cream and a hint of glühwein.
This has to be the…. Third? Fourth Rye whisky I’ve reviewed? There’s been some good and some bad but the Kyro really blows them away. I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a release ever since I first tried them at the London Whisky Show in 2018, and was so excited when this bottle arrived I even dug up my old notes from that first meeting!
My hand writing has not gotten better
Despite everything, the work they have to do with their rye, the government stepping in, and people assuming they were stark raving mad, Kyro have managed to create a whisky that you owe to them and yourselves to try.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any company, Kyro or other, and is entirely the words and work of Somewhiskybloke.