The water of life
Distilled spirits and monasteries share a long history – it was monks who brought distillation to Europe from the Arabs in the 11th century. Distilled alcohol was used not only as a drink to stimulate the mind but also as a life-saving disinfectant, which is largely where the name comes from. The water of life. In Europe, the monasteries held exclusive rights to the production of distilled alcohol up until the reformation in 1504.
In addition to distilled alcohol, the roots of whisky made from grain are also deeply entwined with monastic tradition. Whisky has a long and varied development history and nobody’s sure of the precise origin of the drink. Its earliest form is said to have been invented either in Ireland or Scotland, or perhaps even in both countries at around the same time. What we do know is that monks in Ireland had begun alcohol distillation in the 13th century. As wine was expensive in the north, they attempted instead to distil beer. This is why Irish monks are generally believed to have begun whisky’s journey to its modern form and later on, to aging whisky in oak barrels. This beer-based aqua vitae was known as “uisce beatha” in gaelic, and then usquebaugh, which is where the modern word “whisky” comes from.
Later on, monasteries stopped making whisky. At Valamo’s distillery in Finland, this centuries-old tradition is finally returning to its monastic roots. The distillation of malt whisky truly began in Valamo in 2015, preceded by more than four years of dedicated development.
Premium-quality raw ingredients – pure spring water and northern barley – are found in the local environment. Light nights under the northern midnight sun provide a growing environment for barley to thrive, which means that Finnish barley is in high demand at distilleries in Scotland, the other homeland of whisky.
Good things come to those who wait
The soul of a drink is born in barrels. They provide the final product with an individual flavour profile. The majority of the world’s malt whiskies are aged in bourbon barrels made from oak or in dessert wine barrels, most commonly sherry barrels.
Valamo’s speciality is its one-of-a-kind whisky aged in monastic wine barrels. The union between smoky malt whisky and monastic wine has proven heavenly.
Select a type of barrel:
The grape-based monastic wine used as communion wine is sweet, fruity and ruby-red in colour. Monastic wine is aged for a long time in European oak barrels, and over time this noble drink is absorbed into the wood, giving the barrel a beautiful red hue. Once this holiest of wines is ready, we give the barrel a new lease of life by using it to age whisky.
The refreshingly fruity, even nectarine-sweet monastic wine creates an entirely new, dignified union with the whisky. This gives the whisky dark, fruity tones; chocolate, coffee, sweet berries and exotic fruitiness. This interaction lasts years, and results in a completely unique beverage.
It’s in our nature
Plants and herbs
Throughout the ages, learned monks have acted as pharmacists, developed recipes and grown useful and medicinal plants in their herb gardens. For example, sage and medicinal butterbur arrived in the north along with the monks.
Wild mint plants have been used for millennia for medicinal and culinary purposes. According to old books on herbs, mint helped with coughs and stomach upsets, calmed the nerves and warded off evil. There are more than 1200 different kinds of mint worldwide. The light, fresh flavour of mint in Valamo’s Menthe forms the delicate core of the distillate.
Sage has been used worldwide in food, teas, cosmetics and as a medicinal herb. The plant’s name comes from the Latin “salvare”, which means to cure, and “officinalis”, which means to be used as a medicine. It reduces blood sugar levels, so diabetics used sage before the invention of insulin. Now this fantastic herb loans its camphoric aroma to Valamo’s gin.
The Arctic environment gives and takes. Only extremely hardy plants and berries thrive in the north. They hibernate under a blanket of snow in the velvet darkness of midwinter, waiting for the summer sun. When summer arrives, so does the midnight sun, which does not set at all, providing berries with a short but intense growing season.
Due to the bright summer, nature provides us with stronger aromas. Green herbs are bursting with aromas and give off enchanting scents in the summer nights. The midnight sun fills the Arctic berries with flavour and nutrients. That’s why they are delightfully delicious.
Valamo uses the treasures of northern nature as raw ingredients in its products. The enchanting juiciness of the Arctic berries lives on to see the next midwinter in our monastic wines.