Is Finland the new Ginland? Interview with Moritz Wüstenberg from Kalevala Gin.
Kalevala Gin is our first gin from Finland. We chatted to Moritz from multicultural Kalevala about chemical engineering, their official Head of Happiness, and distilling in Finland.
When and why did you first start making gin?
I initially obtained a permit to experiment with distilling in 2010. From here it developed over the years into an actual business. The company that produces the gin now was founded in 2012, but became operational only in late 2013.
You trained as a chemical engineer, how is gin distilling similar or different to that?
Distillations is one of the key (if not "the key") process in chemical separation technologies, therefore I had a lot of theoretical as well as some practical experience from my time at university.
The largest difference may be that when we produce gin it depends more on the "human touch". With this I mean that we smell and taste the product. In the lab you would not this, but rather use only other analytical methods.
How popular is gin in Finland?
At the moment gin is quite popular, but this is a fairly recent phenomenon. In Finland unflavoured white spirits are mostly more popular. (Finland’s national phenomenon is Lonkero – or the ‘long drink’ – typically made from gin and grapefruit soda. The long drink came about when the country hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics shortly after prohibition ended and welcomed many foreign visitors. The Government allowed the sale of alcohol during the event only as this pre-mixed drink with a relatively low alcohol to mixer ratio. Since then, gin has become a staple of Finnish drinking, albeit it a relatively recent one.)
Could you describe the location of your distillery? Is it near any of the beautiful forests on your website?
The distillery is located around 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the small city of Kitee (population of 10.000). Kitee is known was known as the bootlegging capital of Finland during the prohibition of the 1930´s. We are pretty much in the forests, there is a gravel road running by.
Your business partner, Tatyana, is also your photographer, what does she photograph when she's not doing shoots with your products?
Tatyana is actually a lawyer by training, she does this as her hobby. She actually wrote her master thesis on Finnish alcohol law.
When Pantteri the distillery cat isn't studying ornithology, what part does she play in the distilling process?
Pantteri is the head of happiness, which means that she makes sure we all maintain a positive attitude throughout the day. This ensures also that the quality of our gin remains high.
When you're not drinking gin, what else do you drink?
I am a big fan of Czech beer.
(Czech beer is incredibly popular all over the world, just like it is in the UK, with brands like Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen being available in pubs and supermarkets everywhere.)
What Finnish, Russian or German foods would you recommend people try with your gin?
This is the first time that I have been asked this. I guess the traditional Finnish Karelian pie with egg-butter would be quite nice. For German food – and also considering the season – asparagus with butter.
(Karelian pie has a rye crust and is usually filled with rice, and covered with ‘egg-butter’, which is boiled egg and butter mixed together.)
To enjoy Kalevala like the Finnish do, serve it over ice with a mixture of grapefruit juice, lemon juice and club soda.
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