Miika Lipiainen – Napue
Miika, Miko, Mikka, Kalle and Jouni are lifelong friends with a passion for spirits, who established Kyrö Distillery in 2014 with a desire to make a truly Finnish whiskey. The abundance of locally grown rye already gives the country’s base spirits a uniquely Nordic accent, so when the quintet decided to branch out into gin they stuck to this theme, filling their still with locally grown meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, cranberries and spruce wood. We caught up with co-founder Miika Lipiäinen to see how the team are keeping up with increasing demand.
For those who don’t know you – who are you and what do you do within the Kyrö team?
Hi, I’m Miika Lipiäinen. I used to work for a large pharmaceutical company before I took up alcohol on an industrial scale with four of my friends in 2014. I’ve got the overly fancy title of CEO, but what I actually do is sales, making sure we’ve enough money on our account and try to make work easier and more fun for everyone else.
You’ve grown rapidly, how big’s the Kyrö team now?
We’re now a total of 16 people and always seem to need more. A lot of litres to produce, transport and sell, not to mention getting the word out on our product in Finland and now 17 other countries as well!
Napue had a huge boost in 2015 when you won the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s 2015 spirits award for your G&T. Has the success continued into this year?
Have you had to continue expanding the operation to keep up with demand? Whenever we see your production videos thing look pretty bustling.
We’ve just recently split up our rye whisky and rye gin production lines in order to keep up and create even more potential for the future. Also we have been blessed with fantastic new Kyrö team members who make this all possible.
How are you dealing with the fact that almost half of your ingredients are foraged?
Lots and lots of summer interns and also something called ‘kökkä’ around our part of the world. It means people getting together for a community effort.
Is it hard to forecast how much you will need?
Yes! Neither your production size or stock size is never just right. Or if it is, it’s just a case of a broken clock; twice right every day, but not for the right reasons.
In your opinion, what do you think makes Napue a compelling gin and one worth seeking out?
We are separated from all other gins by a combination of the following: spicy Finnish rye base, compound pot distilling of fresh ingredients and a Finnish, very human core in the story and visuals. This comes together to form a gin with a taste like the essence of Finnish summer, which is made by real people for real people.
You also make a barrel aged Gin – what’s the reception been like for it?
Our cask-aged rye gin Koskue has had a fantastic reception, especially among bartenders and whisky lovers. Our philosophy on barrel ageing a gin is that the ageing process must make the gin a product on its own right, not just a twist on something that exists. That’s why we created a gin recipe to match the american oak barrels we use.
And what’s the next big frontier for Napue? Can we expect to see any other variants?
Napue will stay as a stand-alone product, but we are developing some variants within the gin category. We are launching a new series called Studies, where we put out interesting (and sometimes crazy) distillates that might stay as studies or might develop into full-fledged products. In one such upcoming gin release we’re studying the maceration of Finnish berries in an even more intensive form.
How have you found growth in the UK specifically since your launch?
We’ve seen more and more growth, particularly after the summer with both consumers and bartenders finding our product. It’s a full market out there, but we’re confident that anyone tasting our product can taste the difference and might be persuaded to have another sip of Finland in a bottle.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started that you know now?
So, yeah…Scaling up a gin distillation process, where we macerate some of the botanicals, vapour distill others and then separately distill all the fresh ones… Would always do it like this, since we get a damn fine gin, but would reserve more time for any increase in production!
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