I had such a good time as the guest of Helsinki Distilling Company. I had tried their fab nordic gin a year ago in the hip alfresco cocktail bar when I had just returned from Koh Phangan. Already then, I was impressed and wanted to know more about this company. After getting to know more about this Finnish enterprise, I can certainly say that it’s one of the best things to see in Helsinki.


The History of Helsinki Distilling Company

It was a super sunny day in Helsinki, for once, and we started the tour outside, admiring the beautiful, old factory building. HDCO is situated at Teurastamo which  I have included in my 25 Free Things to Do in Helsinki post. This old abattoir is a hub of various activities and the scene for cool city festivals. The area is namely known for its good quality foodstuff, restaurants and cafes but also artisans.


Anyway, we heard a bit about the history of the area, the building and a bit about distilling in Finland previously (this is not the first time it has been done, unlike I thought). The tall chimney is an impressive landmark but apparently, nowadays, it remains just as a reminder of the past and is not in use anymore.


Helsinki Distilling Company is situated here, in an old fabric milieu with an old tram and flowers in the front

Helsinki Distilling Company is located at Teurastamo which is an old fabric yard

Once we got inside, we learned what actually sparked the idea for this distilling company and Finnish rye whiskey. It started from the realization that apparently, the Finnish rye is so good that even the US whiskey producers prefer importing it to make theirs.


The owners of Helsinki Distilling Company (just mates back then), Séamus Holohan, Kai Kilpinen and Mikko Mykkänen were wondering why no-one was making Finnish whiskey even though we have the superior raw material for it. Fast-forward some time and still, nobody appeared to have fulfilled this fantastic yet time-consuming project. For these guys, it was time to make their dream a reality and so the story of Helsinki Distilling Company was born.


How Finnish Gin and Whiskey Are Made?

Big bronze equipment for the distilling

This is where the magic happens

After the intro, we learned a lot more about the materials used to make whiskey and the actual process. The tanks and equipment are pretty impressive even though they are nowhere near the biggest in the whiskey-making business.


In the next room, we went through all the products that these skillful artisans make. Since whiskey-making is time-consuming (you need 3 years at least) there are other drinks too which require less time to make, such as Applejack which is made of Finnish apples, Akvavit, and a few long drinks.


The various products or the bottles of the Helsinki Distilling Company

The products – I love the crisp and clean-lined design labels too


It was interesting hearing about the differences the products have. For instance, bourbon is reserved for products made in the US but Scotland and Ireland nowadays allow whiskey as a product name to be used globally. In addition, if a product is matured less than 3 years, it can’t be called whiskey. They use White Dog instead. Helsinki Distilling Company has its own White Dog obviously too.


The Nordic Whiskey and Gin Tasting

After the informative bit, it was time for the much awaited tasting part. Some of the guests only took part in the first half but I’d strongly recommend doing the tasting too. We walked through the restaurant/bar to a smaller mezzanine cabinet. First, we went through the products we would be tasting and we could also smell some typical aromas that are used for these drinks, such as juniper.


View down to the restaurant from he cabinet

The rustic factory vibes meet cozy and modern atmosphere in the Distillery Bar


There were 3 products plus their own quality Tonic water, nicknamed Muteman, after its founding father, Mikko Mykkänen, whose name in Finnish loosely translates to being a mute. I’m a big gin & tonic fan so it comes as a no surprise that to me, this Finnish gin, the Dry Helsinki Gin, was the best part of the tasting. Another one that I really enjoyed was the crispy and not too sweet Lingonberry  Gin Liquor which brought in the flavors and memoirs of Finnish forests with a hint of juniper, pine and obviously lingonberry.



3 tasting glasses with drinks

The tasting part


While it was fine as such, I liked it even better with a splash of Tonic water. It would make a unique and refreshing summer drink, something out of the ordinary! To me, the Helsinki Whiskey was a bit heavy (am I allowed to reveal that I’m not a big whiskey drinker anyway) but my date complimented it and said it was a very fine whiskey. Throughout the whole tasting, we could ask or comment on anything and the atmosphere was very relaxed overall.


The whole tour lasts about 90 minutes. If you are not keen on doing the tasting, it takes only half of this. Our amiable host can apparently do the tour using 3 languages (Finnish, Swedish, and English) but we were fine with just English this time. I was really pleased that I and my date, as Finns, were a minority in this mixed nationalities group. It’s nice to know that these unique Finnish products interest people from all around.


Me in the old tram

Selfie time in the old tram

Tislaamo Cocktail Bar

After the tasting, we got one more long drink that was included in the package; the pink grapefruit Helsinki Long Drink. Since the weather was superb, we decided to outside to quench our thirst. However, if you wish to soak in the atmosphere of the hip restaurant/bar called Tislaamo or just Distillery Bar, sit inside and try one of their quality cocktails (this you can do outside too, in summer).


The cocktail menu changes seasonally and really is full of exciting flavor combos (I’d really want to try Sea Mist which included eg. sea buckthorn, trendy mezcal, and ginger beer). Moreover, to make it a whole meal, you can get small dishes coming from the kitchen.


Recently, they’ve received an old Helsinki tram on display on the yard and it suits this environment just perfect! And it’s not just for the looks. Apparently, the tram will be used to host various events, such as showing a movie, for poetry and so on.


the factory area with the super tall chimney

Here you can see the impressive chimney


Once again, I’d like to encourage you to visit this cool Helsinki sight at Teurastamo or supporting our locally made products (drink less but quality, I’d like to add). In my opinion, it’s one of the most unique things to do in Helsinki at the moment. Thank you so much Helsinki Distilling Company for hosting me and my date. We really enjoyed the afternoon with you!


More info about Helsinki Distilling Company and the tours here: https://hdco.fi/


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