Infused with nature - Finlands premium drinks industry goes global

Infused with nature - Finlands premium drinks industry goes global

Picture the scene: a man walks into a bar and says to the barman, “give me a drink from Finland”. Until recently, he would have probably received a shot of vodka, which has some of the most widely known brands, and a strong association with the homeland.

In fact, premium vodka products are found not only in bars but airport duty free shops as well, with innovative flavours like coconut, mango and tangerine complimenting more ‘typically Finnish’ flavours like cranberry and raspberry.

But now many Finnish drinks brands are breaking through into other countries. Take Hartwall’s gin long drink for example. It first gained popularity at home during the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. Now, it’s being exported to Sweden, and available in all the Systembolaget state-run alcohol shops: a new export market for a traditional Finnish drink.

Finnish drinks are winning awards as well. And this yearKyrö Distillery is getting a lot of buzz for its new products. Founded in an old cheese factory in Finland’s Ostrobothnia regionby whisky enthusiasts, Kyrö will produce its first rye whisky in 2017: double distilled, and aged in American white oak casks. And what does it taste like?

“Sweetness and light spicy rye are present on the nose, but really come to the fore in the taste” say the master distillers at Isokyrö. “After an initial dryness, notes of licorice root and a light touch of aniseed appear, before giving way to the sensation of lightly spiced traditional Finnish rye bread”.

Aside from the whiskey, Kyrö has been making a big splash in the drinks world with its award-winning gin which is now available in Finnish Alko stores and also in London. And this is where the clean fresh flavours of Finnish nature really shine through — with judges and discerning palates alike. The distillery uses pure Finnish water as part of the production process, and ingredients from the countryside.

“The gin’s key components have their roots in the very heart of Finnish nature” says Kyrö Distillery. Meadowsweet, sea-buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves give the scent and flavour of a misty Finnish meadow early in the morning. The finished product tastes “herbal and sweet with essential oils of meadowsweet and gentle citrus on the nose… ending with notes of pepper of rye on the tongue”.

Another drinks maker that infuses the natural world into their premium drinks is Lignell & Piispanen, a Finnish company with a long history of producing quality berry alcohol beverages. The company dates back to the 1850s, and is still today family owned by the 5th and 6th generation.

The Kuopio-based company finds inspiration all around from Finnish nature. “Finland has one of the purest and cleanest water in the world. We are the country of thousands of lakes and Finnish people respect nature and it’s cleanliness” says Harri Nylund, Lignell & Piispanen’s Managing Director. “Clean, pure, natural high-quality ingredients with the local know-how is the key to the success” he adds.

“Finnish berries grow within the arctic area, which gives a lot of taste and color for the berry” explains Nylund. “What is very important is of course the nature: the midsummer sun, which is shining 24/7 giving the energy and vitamins; and the arctic soil, which gives the flavor, minerals and structure for the taste”.

And, going a step beyond merely ‘organic’, Lignell & Piispanen mostly uses wild hand-picked forest berries in their products so you can be assured that the fresh flavoursome goodness of ripe Finnish berries are included in every last drop.

For most Finnish drinks manufacturers, the domestic market is important but the international market is a much more lucrative place to be. Companies are looking for new territories and always planning their next expansion. It’s no different for premium berry alcohol producer Lignell & Piispanen.

“Our focus is on the European and Asian markets, especially China, Japan and Korea at the moment. The next step will be the North American market, Canada and selected US states” says Harri Nylund.

So far, the level of interest is high, with customers at all points in the chain appreciating what the company offers. “Consumers and importers do respect and value our history, story and premium packaging with premium ingredients” says Nylund. Some of the most valued selling points are the company’s organic credentials, and the current popularity of clean Nordic tastes.

“Green values, as well as Scandinavian cuisine is an increasing trend at the moment, and we see that we can provide tasteful new experiences for the consumers” explains Nylund.

“Brand development takes time of course, but for a 163 year old family company this is not an issue. Our mission is to offer new experiences and lifestyle for the consumers all around the world”.