Given that the idea for Kyrö distillery was conceived by a ground of friends drinking rye whiskey in a sauna, it’s perhaps no surprise that their flagship event, Kyröfest, is all about having laid-back fun in the beautiful Finnish countryside. And no matter whether you’re a habitual visitor of distilleries or the idea of gazing lovingly at bits of copper has never occurred to you, this delightful festival is well worth considering for your August 2024 travel plans. Read on to see what we thought of this year’s event.
So what exactly is Kyröfest? It’s a one-day festival in the grounds of Kyrö distillery, boasting two live music stages featuring local indie bands, as well as art workshops, food stalls, cocktail workshops, ridiculously good drinks and the chance to tour the distillery. Your tour might even be led by one of the founders, many of whom enthusiastically help out on festival day in a way that demonstrates the company’s ethos that all its employees are equal.
As you’d expect from a festival in a distillery, the drinks are somewhat of an upgrade from the overpriced cans of lager you can pay a small fortune for at some music festivals. Attendees can visit one of several bars serving delicious, freshly-prepared cocktails and Kyrö’s canned long drinks, or the whisky bar dedicated to showcasing all of the distillery’s drams — including some of the sold-out limited editions.
As UK visitors, the drinks highlights for us included the chance to try several of the whiskies due to launch in this country later this year – watch this space for more details! – and the ridiculously refreshing LongKyrö canned drink, which balances their unaged and aged gins with cranberry and ginger without, as many canned spirit drinks do, resorting to a bucketful of added sweetness. We also discovered the moreish combination of Kyrö Dairy Cream and cold brew coffee, which you can make at home for a indulgent iced drink that will work in any weather.
Being whisky geeks we jumped at the chance of a tour with Kyrö founder Mika. The distillery is housed in a building which is older than Finnish independence: an old dairy built beside the river in 1908. Kyrö has inhabited this building for the past decade, and although the outside remains traditional, the distillery is entirely powered by wind energy and biogas. When they first started producing spirit in 2014 both the gin and rye were made in the old dairy, but today the rye production has been moved into a new facility across the way.
A passion for rye is at the heart of Kyrö, which was founded to showcase just how well the Finnish rye food culture can translate to spirits, and this new facility gives them the space to perfect their craft. All of their equipment is solely used to spirits from whole grain winter rye, a grain which — thanks to the days of 22-hour sunlight in Finland prior to harvest — is packed with sweet honey and molasses flavours.
After a six-day fermentation period, the liquid is passed through a 9,000-litre wash still and then a 7,000-litre spirit still, both from Speyside Copperworks. It flows from there into a spirit safe which, while unnecessary in Finland, adds an extra aesthetic touch. Both this and Kyrö’s sleek, clean bottle design were created by esteemed Finnish designer Mikko Laakkonen, who wanted to reflect the purity of the spirit in his designs for the distillery.
Not only did we get to look round the distillery but, just a short walk away from the happy crowds and pulsing music, we were also able to tour one of the three warehouses and learn about how the Finnish government mandates that the temperature within is always kept below 23 degrees Celsius. Rather than simply keep the temperature constant, Kyrö is making use of this restriction by experimenting with the effects of different temperatures, airflow and humidity in the warehouse’s three climate controlled segments on its whisky.
Unusually for a building full of delicious casks of rye whisky, the outside of this warehouse was just as exciting as the inside — named Concrete Building of the Year 2017 (yes, that’s a thing), the facade is a beautiful recreation of the wooden barn which previously stood on the site, made by taking negative concrete moulds of all its wooden beams.
Back at the festival there was much more to explore. The art side of the festival was hugely interactive, and the make-your-own-flower-crown stand provided a great chance to really get into the festival spirit. The atmosphere of the event was wonderfully relaxed, and it was refreshing to see that the audience was pretty evenly split between women and men. After the music had finished a firework display reminded us that it was time to head back to reality, but not before we’d firmly decided to come back and do it all again next year.