|Early 20th century wine and spirit store in Turku (Marli)|
|One of the first Finnish whisky ads 29.5.1904|
The English traders complained in 1901 that customs of Finland were not fair as imports of cognac were allowed, but not of whisky. It was until 27.5.1904 the senate declared that whisky was not a neutral spirit and the imports should be allowed. Just in the next couple of days there were over a dozen of traders advertising their whiskies in the Finnish newpapers. The first companies with big advertising budgets were Buchanan's, Dewar's and The Distillers Company Ltd (DCL) with different brands, such as King George IV, White Label, Highland Club, House of Lords and Perfection. Several Finnish wine traders advertised their own whiskies, often unbranded at the beginning of the century. Kinahan's Irish "L.L." Lord-Lieutenant Blended Whisky (without the 'e') was imported from Dublin (before its liquididation in 1910) and some unbranded American ryes and bourbons were available.
Below is is quite an impressive piece of early Finnish whisky journalism, published in the newspaper Otava 2.6.1904, just a week after the legalization of whisky, written by "Kimmo".
(Very) Roughly translated to English (sorry, Kimmo): "... Despite these original forms of civilizations [referring to the distilling of paloviina] we have been flooded with western European civilization in the form of cognacs, wines and liqueurs. Mostly this European civilization has been French, German and partly Hungarian. Therefore no-one can claim that Finland would not be European enough. Only English civilization has been an unfamiliar and a forbidden fruit for us. We have imported machinery, cloth, many useful tools, even noble ideas and exported butter, timber and reels, but civilization in the form understandable to Ananias Piirakainen, we have not received. The English do not have
anything else than the whisky-civilization, but the Finnish government have until now counted whisky as a neutral spirit and therefore have prohibited the import, as we do have enough of our own domestic civilization of illicit distilling. But now has the change come, now have the doors of whisky-civilization been opened for us, too! According to the senate it is now allowed to import whisky and it will be handled equal to cognac in the customs. Hardly was the decision signed when the Helsinki papers were filled with big whisky adverts. In this era of electricity, whisky was probably flowing through the cables as soon as it was allowed to enter the country. But let us see now what the former forbidden fruit is! The word whisky (pronounced uiski) is derived from the gaelic words "uisge beatha", which mean the water of life. It is a spirit burnt from malted barley. It was first distilled and drunk in Ireland and Scottish Highlands only, but later it spread to England and the world. As early as in the 14th century the Irish have been said to be able to distill whisky. Just as we have many sorts of spirits, so does the whisky come in differnt sorts. The most famous are the "L.L." (Lord Liutenant) made in Dublin and "Scotch Whisky", which tastes peculiary smoky. In the Northern America whisky is mainly made of rye and corn. "Rye whisky" is made mainly of rye, "malt whisky" of bare malts and "bourbon" of corn and malted rye. In addition there is "whisky cordial", which is a liqueur made of whisky. Well, that's enough for the time."
Uusi Suometar (29.5.1904) magazine knew that whisky was made with malted barley, with sometimes oats added, and that it was more expensive than cognac because of the longer maturation time and that the average proof was 53% abv.
The sales of whisky in Finland did not increase as expected. In 1904 there were only some 6000 litres of whisky imported and the next year it fell below 5000 litres. It was a tiny amount compared to the sales of other legal spirits of over 400 000 litres per year; paloviina sales were just below 200 000 litres and cognac over 100 000 litres per annum. The whisky sales increased slightly from 1908 to 1911; 6367 litres, 8568 litres, 11083 litres, 12959 litres, respectively. During the First World War 1914-1917 alcohol sales were allowed only in first class hotels and pharmacies, and as a result the Finnish consumption of alcohol per capita was the lowest in Europe. The Finnish senate passed the alcohol prohibition law in 1907 and again in 1909 and 1911. However it was not confirmed by the Russian goverment until 1917 after the Russian revolution and just before the Finnish independence in 6.12.1917 and it was until 1.6.1919 that the Finnish prohibition law took effect.
|Glen Grant ad from 1932|
|Whiskies available for medicinal purposes in Finland 1926-1927|
|Whiskies available in the Finnish Alko 5.4.1932, prices in FIM|
|Viski-Viina, product n:o 2|
|Vatting tanks in Salmisaari|
First real attempts to produce Finnish whisky in Alko started in the 1950s. The experiments were made in the Rajamäki distillery, which at the time had four different stills in use: two versions of the French double column Barbét still, a ten fold Savalle still and a Guillaume rectifier. Most likely the old Barbét still was used. Pyynikki brewery provided the peated barley malts and the distilling expertise of Sami Suominen, who had been studying brewing and distilling in the USA. Production was 60-70 000 litres per annum and after nine months of maturation in Alko's own imported sherry casks the whisky was considered "as good as an excellent American whiskey". For some reason the whisky did not get into market, but was rather used as a flavour component in Tähkäviina, a spiced spirit manufactured by Alko in 1960-1999. Another "own" whisky production by Alko was the Lion Blend, a retake on the unsuccessful Viski-Viina, a blend of Scottish whiskies and unmatured Finnish grain spirit, blended and bottled in Finland (1969-1990).
|Whiskies for sale in Alko, 1972|
|Cooper in Salmisaari, 1950s|
Alko's own whisky distillation started in 1975 in Rajamäki with an old spice still. The peated malts came from Lahden Polttimo maltings. Later quite substantial amounts of these peated whisky malts were exported to both Scottish and Japanese whisky distillers in the 1970s and the 1980s. Today Lahden polttimo produces malts for Teerenpeli and Macmyra under the name of Viking malt.
|Malt exports from Lahden Polttimo (tons of barley)|
|Old spice still in Salmisaari|
|A diagram of a Barbét double column still|
|Alko Whisky (1981-1994)|
|Viski 88 (1983-1994)|
In 1982 Alko started to develop a stronger and more "Scottish" whisky, based on the success of Kolmen Leijonan Whisky (three lions), which was a Scottish blend bottled and partly matured in Finland since 1932. Viski 88 was released in 1.11.1983 and it became quite popular, being the most sold whisky in Finland during the 1980s and the the early 1990s. It was a blend of Scottish and Finnish whiskies with a total malt whisky proportion of 40-50% and matured in Finland. The name was chosen in the celebration of the founding year 1888 of the Rajamäki distillery. The label presents Väinämöinen (the leading character from Kalevala, the national epic poetry of Finland) as pictured on the wall of Vanha Ylioppilastalo (Old Student House) in Helsinki. Coincidentally, that is where the recent Uisge festival has been organised in 2012 and 2013. After the accession to the European Union in 1995 the name of Viski 88 was changed to Double Eight 88 and the production was discontinued in 2000 as the Finnish whisky ran out.
|Alko 50-years anniversary bottling|
Several independent Finnish whisky distillers have been starting production in the new millenium. Brewery restaurant Beer Hunter's in Pori was founded in 1998 and small batch whisky production started 8.11.2001. Holstein stills and mixture of Spanish sherry casks and new Portuguese casks are used for the Old Buck whisky. Teerenpeli beer restaurant was founded in 1995 in Tampere. Whisky production started in 2002 in pot stills and the first batch of 3yo whisky was released in 2005 and now an 8yo is available. Brewery restaurant Koulu (School) in Turku began their distilling in 2009 in Tuorla and their first ex-bourbon oak matured whisky named Sgoil has just been released as a 3yo. Hermannin Viinitila has recently distilled whisky in co-operation with the monastery of Valamo.
|Alko Whisky 10yo 1994-2000|
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING:
Hahle, P. Apteekit alkoholinjakelukeskuksina kieltolain aikana. 1988
Häikiö, M. Alkon historia. Otava 2007
Kallenautio, J. Kieltolaki ja sen kumoaminen puoluepoliittisena ongelmana. Gummerus 1979
Kaukoranta, A. Sulfiittispriiteollisuus Suomessa. Polar 1981
Kauppila, O. Rajamäen tehtaat. Painokaari 1988
Kauppila, O. Viinejä ja väkeviä. Gummerus 1990
Kauppila, O. Koskenkorvan polttimo ja sen edeltäjät. Painokaari 1988
Kula, K. 25-vuotias Alko tänään. Alko 1957
Morewood, S. A philosophical and statistical history of the inventions and customs of ancient and modern nations in the manufacture and use of inebriating liquors. 1838.
Mäntylä, I. Viinissä totuus. Otava 1998
Mäntylä, I. Suomalaisen juoppouden juuret. SKS 1985
Mäntylä, I. Suomalaisen juoppouden kasvu. SHS 1995
Peltonen, M. Kerta kiellon päälle. Tammi 1997
Peltonen, M. Remua ja ryhtiä. Gaudeamus 2002
Peltonen M, et al. Alkoholin vuosisata. SKS 2006
Pullat R&R. Viinameri. Tammi 2012
Sillanpää, M. Kansanhuollon keittoa ja tikkuviinaa. Martinpaino 1997
Simpura, J. Vapaan viinan aika. Kirjayhtymä 1982
Tuominen, U. Suomen alkoholipolitiikka 1866-1886. SHS 1979
Vehviläinen, O. Lahden Polttimo 1883-1983. Lahden Polttimo 1983