How about some rye whisky for a change? I would call myself a rye whisky enthusiast, but really that’s mostly based on my love for the Millstone 100 Rye. I keep promising to review it on Words of Whisky, but still haven’t. I absolutely will at some point. So, let’s focus on the Kyrö 2016 from the Nordic Casks series by Berry Bros & Rudd.
This is the last of the four Nordic whiskies from Berry Bros, and all others have been absolutely delightful so far. The High Coast had an enormous complexity, the Myken had so much to offer as well, and the Fary Lochan was just different than anything I had ever tasted. Produced in Finland, I suspect Kyrö will deliver as well, if not in quality at least in uniqueness.
This Berry Bros & Rudd release is the first-ever independent bottling of Kyrö. The whisky is 100% rye distilled in pot stills. It first matured in new American oak and then transferred to an ex-bourbon barrel.
“We are all malt whisky lovers, but also rye lovers”, explained co-founder Kalle Vallkonen during the virtual launch of the Nordic Cask series. “I think our whisky is kind of a combination of both worlds. I tend to say it is kind of the lost cousin of Scottish malt whisky and American rye whiskey. Because there was no tradition of making rye whisky in Finland, we had the challenge and also the freedom to choose our own way of making rye.”
As has become legend by now, the idea for Kyrö first came up in a sauna in 2012. The founders of Kyrö then went on an educational run throughout Europe to learn all they could about the distilling craft. “I think, for us the introduction to fellow Nordic distillers and the European distilling scene was a great one”, said fellow co-founder Miika Lipiäinen. “We really got the feeling it is a communal business. Everybody is out there to help everybody else.”
Kyrö employs a fermentation of six days and their spirit cut is very wide. “Because we have a beautiful fermented mash already”, said Kalle. “When we chose to do a 100% rye, we knew we had to something that is not just a punch in the face. There needs to be more to it. There is so much unleashed potential in rye which we are wanting to experiment with in the future.”
Rye whisky is hugely popular in the United States. While rye whisky is certainly gaining a larger audience on this side of the Atlantic, there’s still sometimes scepticism in Europe. But Miika and his friends have chosen not to care about that. “We care about quality and making exceptional whisky in our own way. We hope that people will get in on it. But we also recognize that, let’s say you’ve been a fan of Lagavulin or Ardbeg, we’re not going to tell you that we’re better than the Scottish or American tradition. We follow our own path.”
Nose: So luscious and rich, there’s plenty of crème caramel, fudge and meringues, but also dark chocolate and pine resin. Lovely spices too, with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg as the highlights. Touches of tobacco, oranges and damp oak, as well as a whiff of aniseed and rye bread. What a triumph. Taste: Thick, sticky and oily with oranges and pine needles, but also warm toast, melted butter and cracked pepper corns. Whiffs of oak, fennel and toffee too, with finally some sunflower seeds. Finish: Long. A hint of milk chocolate, peanut skins and sweet rye bread.
What's not to like about this Kyrö by Berry Bros & Rudd? Sure, if you've never tried rye whisky, this'll take some getting used to. But it's extremely worth it. Now how about an Old Fashioned?