Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Around The Whisk(e)y World In 7 Days - Tuesday


Distillery: Tevsjö Destilleri
Location: Järvsö, Sweden
By: Erik Hasselgärde


Anna Larsson is a seventh generation miller–managing the Tevekvarn mill in Järvsö, a 1500 population village 300 kilometers north of Stockholm. In 2009 Anna and her then soon-to-be husband Jonas started to think about how to grow their business as to include more parts of the grain cycle. Doubting the success of Jonas becoming a baker, they instead decided on distilling, which was a common use of grain surplus, and also a childhood dream of Jonas.

The farm property that the couple owns already had most of the resources needed, and after about a year of getting everything ready, including installing the German-made Carl-stills, the production began. The Larssons gathered their very first drops of alcohol off the still on 12/12/12.

The Tevekvarn mill, with working machine parts from 1897, was integral in the creation of the distillery. “Without the mill, there would be no distillery”, Jonas says. “It’s like a living museum”. There, grains from both local farmers and their own fields are processed in the same way as a hundred years ago–with power from the nearby river.

Speaking of museums: Jonas collects old private stills, once used for moonshining. Many of the sixty stills he’s collected were given to him from local old-timers, and he is hoping to open a moonshining museum on the premise.

Today, a restaurant and a small store selling products from the mill and local products from nearby producers are vital parts of the operations.

“One thing serves the other”, Jonas tells me. “We get grains from the mill to use in the distillery, products from the distillery we can serve in the restaurant, and the restaurant brings visitors to the mill and the distillery.”.

Unfortunately, visitors are not able to buy bottles from the distillery on-site. That’s not legal in Sweden. But the Larssons are hopeful–convinced it’s no longer a question of if, but when.

But through the legal means offered today, sales are not a problem for Tevsjö. “We’re pushing the limit of demand”, Jonas tells me and continues: “we’re distilling two shifts, six days out of the week”.

With over sixty different products, among them vodkas, gins, punches, and liqueurs both under their own brand, but also licensing to others, they are now looking into increasing production which would enable around-the-clock distillation.

Producing locally but reaching globally, Tevsjö Destilleri is looking into exporting their products as well, hoping that a larger market share enables growth of the brand: “We have a really cool story to tell here”, Jonas says. “If you want to do something, you can do something. You learn as you go, and it takes time–but it’s possible”.

Bourbon:

Among the many spirits made at Tevsjö Destilleri, one is especially important to Jonas: the first Swedish bourbon: “...or whatever we’re going to call it. We probably can’t call it bourbon, but apart from not making it in the USA, it’s by the book”.

“I love bourbon and so I wanted to make it”, Jonas explains, and when a local farmer offered them corn they got started right away: “We picked and peeled all the corn right there, by hand”.

Researching his own favorites and experimenting with the mash bill–he settled on 70% corn, 5% rye, 5% wheat, 10% barley, and another 10% malted barley.

The first batch was made in 2014, used local grains. “Corn isn’t supposed to grow up here”, Jonas laughs, then telling me they’ve lately instead used corn from southern Sweden. Although just under a day’s car ride away, Jonas almost sounds disappointed–maybe a sign of a personal standard set extremely high.

The fermented mash is distilled to just under 80% and then cut to 62,5% before aging. The barrels are charred 30-liter new American white oak, imported from the USA by Swedish cooperage Thorslundkagge. “You have to be careful when aging in smaller barrels”, Jonas warns me. “Especially ones with new oak”.

As of today, the product is only offered by sale of private barrels, and the first ones filled and sold are under European law not far from the legal age to be commercially sold as whiskey: three years.

Not excluded from grand expansion plans, Jonas hopes to ramp up production to put away a substantial amount to bottle and sell to consumers. Fascinated by blending and finishing, he excitedly talks to me about sourcing bourbon stock from the USA and also different barrel types for finishing.

Doing all this with American style whiskey in Sweden is completely uncharted territory, but Jonas seems inspired more than anything else: “Absolutely, it’s going to be an exciting time!”

To learn more about Tevsjö Destilleri, check out their website here

Article By: Erik Hasselgärde
Photos By: Tevsjö Distilleri 
Graphic Art By: Seth Brown

(SOWC has kindly been granted permission to use the photos in the article)


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Regular readers of The Son of Winston Churchill properly knows who Erik Hasselgärde is, but for anyone new to this blog; My name is Erik Hasselgärde. I’m from the northern part of Sweden, and I’m currently living in Stockholm, working with musicians. A state monopoly, heavy taxation and a non-existent market makes for a frustrating interest, but after falling in love with bourbon from the first sip–I didn’t really have a choice.
I opened a bottle of Bulleit bourbon one warm summer weekend and, when experiencing that rich spicy whiskey while the sun was going down, it clicked with me. I’ve been nosing, tasting, reading, experimenting since then, and recently also started exploring the bourbon community on social media–writing and sharing experiences with some of the best people out there.
These days – if I’m picking – I go for the complex, sweet, oaky bourbons, and I drink them neat or in a stiff cocktail. I try my best to preserve personal bottles of Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel, Noah’s Mill and Booker’s and try to keep a bottle open at all times of Wild Turkey 101, Four Roses Single Barrel and Evan Williams Extra Aged.
I post pictures on Instagram as @northernbourbon, and I also write personal articles about bourbon and Swedish alcohol history on the Medium publication Northern Bourbon.
At best I hope to add a Nordic perspective on bourbon to the Sons, and if nothing else then some guidance and opinion of the whiskey that I love!

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Make sure to check back in tomorrow, where we are heading to American Spirits Works in Atlanta, Georgia, USA with Seth Brown

Want to read our previously distillery visits? Click the link below!