The Finns are a rye-crazed bunch; everything from bread, to sausages, to the base spirit of August’s Napue Gin is made from this nutty-flavoured grain! In fact, rye bread (or ruis as the Finns call it) was even named the national food of Finland in 2016. But why is this grain in particular such a massive part of Finnish culture?
Finns and rye go way back – back to the Iron Age, in fact. With the ability to thrive in various soil types and cold temperatures – and full of fibre and nutrition – rye was an important grain for those living in the harsh Finnish climate. Rye bread, made with just four simple ingredients, quickly became a hearty food that all Finns could enjoy, particularly the poor who did not have access to many ingredients. Finnish bread is much less moist and less sweet than its German or Scandinavian counterparts, giving it a very distinct and unique flavour that Finns have grown to love.
Another big reason behind rye bread’s position as a vital component in the Finnish diet has to do with its nutritional value. Not only is rye bread relatively easy to make (and has an almost infinite shelf life), but it also is a major source of fibre, and researchers are discovering all the time new health benefits that this grain can provide. With 100% whole grain content, low gluten content and loads of fibre, it’s a bona fide superfood for the Finns. An ancient farmers’ adage even said: “ruis puts power in the wrists”!
Each village and part of Finland has its own type of bread, from chewy reikäleipä to loaves of limppu, and it’s served with almost every meal, making it a huge part of Finnish life. In fact, Finns have such a strong connection to ruis, they frequently send and bring the bread as gifts for Finnish friends abroad. But it’s not just bread that’s spurring the Finnish hyste-rye-a. “Rye is like a religion in Finland,” explains Miika Lipiäinen, the CEO of Kyrö Distillery Company. “We eat a lot of rye bread and a lot of rye porridge, but not many people know about rye-based spirits.”
Outside Kyrö, not many distilleries are using rye as a base for their gins. Unlike other base spirits, rye isn’t entirely neutral – it gives gin a bit of spice and has a specific mouthfeel, not unlike gin’s predecessor, genever. It’s also one of the most difficult grains to distil; but the team behind Napue Gin are determined to keep to their roots, making all of their spirits with home-grown rye local wild botanicals, foraged just a few miles away from their distillery. With its delicious, unique taste and Finnish rye experts behind the wheel, you can rest assured that you’ve got one incredible spirit in your August Gin of the Month box.