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Introduction: Koskenkorva Vodka, Finland’s top-selling spirits brand, is on a mission to show the world – and the travel retail community – its sustainability credentials.

Late last month, brand owner Anora Group brought 150 guests from 15 countries across the beverage and retail industries to the Finnish village where Koskenkorva is produced to share an immersive brand experience. Our senior editor, Mark Lane, was one of them.

‘Vodka From A Village’ – Koskenkorva offers a growing range of pure, flavored vodkas and liqueurs, including its most environmentally friendly expression, Climate Action (left)

“Koskenkorva is a brand for those who make a conscious choice. Whether you’re 20 or 55 doesn’t matter to us, it’s the consumer’s mindset that matters.

About Koskenkorva

Koskenkorva is distilled in the village of the same name in Southern Ostrobothnia, some 355 km from the capital Helsinki.

In Finnish, the name Koskenkorva refers to a place next to a fast flowing river. The Koskenkorva estate, near the Kyröjoki River, is one of the oldest in Finland with a history dating back to the 1600s.

The estate was established on its present site in 1870 by a member of the Koskenkorva family with the distillery added in 1938, beginning full operations in 1941.

The words of Anora’s Duty Free & Travel Retail Group Director, Bo Madsen, underline an urgent principle that underpins the company’s ambitions for its best-selling Koskenkorva brand: sustainability.

During an exciting experience offered to guests over three days, Anora underlined its commitment to being recognized as the owner of the most sustainable vodka in the world. From farm to bottle, concern for the environment guides every step.

The Koskenkorva distillery aims to have all production fully carbon neutral by 2025.

Korskenkorva Vodka uses 100% of each grain of barley – what cannot be used for vodka is used in animal feed and barley starch. The rest is used as fuel to run the distillery’s bioenergy plant.

The travel retail contingent arrives as part of the final intake for the Koskenkorva Vodka Village experience. In the photo, from left to right, Olli-Pekka Lappalainen (Anora Group), Max Meuleman (B&S), Katju Vuorio (Dufry), Sea Eklund (Dufry), Henrik Ladefoged (Anora Group), Faye Bartle (TRBusiness), Martin Olsen (Scandlines), Mark Lane (The Moodie Davitt Report), Markus Hasler Sveen (Fjord Line) and Sanna Sundin (Anora Group).

Remarkably, the brand uses 15% of all barley produced in Finland, underlining the focus on sustainability.

In 2020, Finnish farmer Jari Eerola pioneered the first batch of regeneratively grown barley. His Setälä-Eerola farm produced 50 tonnes of the variant, which was distilled to make Koskenkorva Climate Action, the world’s first vodka to be made with 100% regeneratively grown barley.

Koskenkorva Vodka Distillery is located in a beautiful setting that reflects its green credentials

The main sustainability benefits come from using this type of barley in the manufacture of spirits. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic cultivation method designed to convert fields from sources of emissions to significant carbon sinks, mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity.

By improving soil health, these methods increase carbon sequestration in agricultural soils while allowing for better harvests and mitigating land erosion. Aurora Group intends to have all of its barley contract growers learn about regenerative agriculture by 2025.

In pursuing this goal, the company is assisted by the Baltic Sea Action Group, which works to restore the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea.

Travel retail ambitions driven by fundamental values

Koskenkorva Climate Action has been a key phrase in helping Anora reach 26 national travel retail markets. The brand’s holistic environmental focus is designed to help it achieve much more in a channel where sustainability has become a primary consideration.

“Operating in the travel retail circuit, which by its nature presents several long-term hurdles and challenges to being considered fully sustainable, it is critically important that we as producers take responsibility and do our best to help operators in all aspects. [of sustainability]says Bo Madsen. “Koskenkorva is already a world leader in this field.

“As an industry, we need to focus on better and more environmentally friendly brands and consumer offerings. Koskenkorva Vodka has for many years advocated honesty and transparency in our production methods, and sustainability is a natural aspect for us.In the village of Koskenkorva, we are pioneers of the circular economy.

Madsen says he views any environmentally conscious liquor consumer as a target for Koskenkorva. “In terms of target groups, we don’t work towards very specific age groups. We work to ensure that consumers share our spirit and respect sustainable brands that are true to their authentic voice and their originality.

Koskenkorva dominates the Helsinki Duty Free range at Helsinki Airport

He concludes: “Our medium to long-term ambitions are to grow the Koskenkorva Vodka brand outside of the Nordics and become an internationally known and relevant brand for consumers, as well as a recognized leader on the sustainability front within of global travel retail.

“We are evaluating our route-to-market model in the various GTR zones, in close collaboration with our international business unit and our export team, in order to optimize our efforts and investments. We all have a super exciting time ahead of us.

Koskenkorva Vodka Experience guests learn about the distillation process from production manager Arttu Kivi

Production of Koskenkorva Vodka

Koskenkorva is made with the northernmost barley in the world, using varieties such as Saana and Elmeri which were developed for Finland’s short growing season.

The Koskenkorva distillery deploys a state-of-the-art distillation process that offers exceptional material efficiency. The process uses 100% barley grain.

Koskenkorva vodka is produced by continuous distillation, where barley mash is continuously fed into a unique distillation process that uses nine columns. Distillation occurs in five of these columns, each with their own roles and functions.

Four support columns recycle the fusel alcohol from the main distillation, increasing efficiency up to 99% and creating the characteristic smooth taste of Koskenkorva vodka.

The spirit is completed with the addition of pure untreated spring water from Rajamäki, a village in southern Finland, also where Koskenkorva is bottled.

The experience of the village of Koskenkorva in pictures

The Koskenkorva Village Experience begins at Seinäjoki Station, where Koskenkorva’s Global Brand Ambassador, Mikael Karttunen, greets guests. Trains no longer run to Koskenkorva, but for the three days of the experience, a vintage train was ordered from the Haapamäki Museum Locomotive Society to take guests to the village. The carriage is an old Dm7 train, a model that was produced by the Finnish company Valmet between 1955 and 1963 and withdrawn from regular transport in 1988. Below, guests disembark from the train at Koskenkorva.

During the ‘distillation experience’, guests are introduced to Arttu Kivi, Koskenkorva Vodka’s production manager, who has been on the job since 1998 and has seen the brand’s sustainability journey firsthand. Below we see him taking guests on a tour of the distillery where he explained the distillation methods that ensure 100% barley is used.

Guests visit a farm in Koskenkorva for the “farming experience” leg of the village tour, a typical place where barley is grown for vodka. Farm owner Osku Ketola is pictured addressing guests (above), while below we see Noora Aila from Ailakorpela Farm discussing regenerative agriculture. Her farm, which she runs with her husband, produces regeneratively grown barley that will be used in an upcoming batch of Koskenkorva Climate Action Vodka.

Mikael Karttunen (right) discusses the merits of regenerative agriculture with Moodie Davitt Report editor Mark Lane. According to Karttunen, if all the farmers in the world switched to regenerative agriculture, up to 322 billion tons of CO2 could be removed from the atmosphere, which is equivalent to ten years of emissions.

Guests travel in a vintage bus for the ‘Forest Experience’ with Anora Group Commercial Director, Exports Pontus Forth (second from left)

Mikael Karttunen explains that when Anora Goup and Koskenkorva think about the flavors of vodka, their first inspirations come from Finnish forests. He pointed out the many plants that can be found there freely, such as the blueberries that grow next to the juniper and the wild raspberries that are found among the pine trees. These create the flavor combinations for Koskenkorva products such as Blueberry Juniper and Raspberry Pine.

Guests are invited to pick their own plants from the forest and then use them as garnishes for vodka cocktails. After foraging for food, Mark Lane (below) tries his hand at making a Moodie Davitt special (Image: Sanna Sundin).

An evening of great entertainment was provided for the guests by the Koskenkorva family at the Koskenkorva Trahteeri, run by Jaakko Koskenkorva and his wife Sari. In 1938, Jaakko’s ancestors sold the land for the distillery, which is now adjacent to the family residence and business. Here Jaakko presents the story of Koskenkorva and her family, while below we see the superb cuisine prepared for the guests.

Koskenkorva Vodka cocktails are expertly prepared for guests by Sampsa Tukia. He is co-owner of Delorean in Jyväskylä, arguably Finland’s best cocktail bar and a pioneer in sustainability.

Mark Lane discusses the marketing of Koskenkorva Vodka with Inka Vettenranta, Head of Communications at Anora Group

A musician provides entertainment before a Finnish “sauna experience” at the end of the day, without which no visit to Finland is complete

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