How was the beginning of Nagu? Was the original plan to start with gin producing, and now whisky? As there's the saying "we make the gin we like to drink", does this apply to whisky as well?
Nagu as you might already know is the Swedish name of Island we live on and also where the Distillery is located, Nauvo in Finnish. The whole idea with the distillery was that both of us ( Jonathan and Anton ) have been living outside Nagu and wanted to return home, but it's not easy to find good jobs here. Because Jonathan's father already owned a small distillery only for family restaurant purposes, the idea to upscale the business and make a living of it became the obvious choice. The dream and plan have always been to make whisky, but to make it you need time. Whiskey must be stored in oak barrels a minimum of 3 years before it can legally be named whiskey. The concept of "we make the gin we like to drink'' was mainly because we were very bold in our recipes and wanted to bring our archipelago into the whole experience. So, in the end, it's a very different gin profile we have, but we like, and feedback has also been very positive from all over. I would also like to add that we won silver in IWSC 2019 in London with our first gin, this, we, of course, are very proud of and also another proof that we are doing something right!
How is the "local" aspect decisive in the production and selling of your products? Do these characteristics, of small-batch and local ingredients and production, have a final implication in sales? Do customers look for locally-made gin?
The local aspect is huge. We are the only Swedish speaking distillery on mainland Finland. But we are also the only one around Turku and the Archipelago. With everything we do, we are trying to be as local as possible, but some things are obviously impossible to source locally. Many of the ingredients we use, we handpick ourselves, we are born and raised here, all our families are here. We are very proud of Nagu and so are everyone else living here. There's always something special about local products, especially when you know the place and people behind it, this is why I think local is important. You can feel you are part of it because of this.
Gin is experiencing a massive presence in bars and the cocktail world, as all the world now drinks G&T. Your gin won an international award, but how is the Finnish consumption and perception of high-quality gins?
Finnish people are more and more interested in quality over quantity. Perhaps before the price versus alcohol percentage was more important. Now we can see people engaging more and making their own cocktails and experimenting at home as well. Gin & Tonic has been booming for over 10 years abroad and maybe 3-4 years in Finland but I believe it is still the number 1 drink in the world. The beauty with Gin & Tonic is that it is so simple to make, but the selection of gins and also tonics out there are crazy, there are thousands and thousands of ways if you want to find the perfect GT that suits you!
As companies like Nagu can't advertise their products for the strong alcohol content, how important was it to invest in branding, in a cool design? Is this a way to make also the bottle more interesting-looking in a store like Alko, and online stores?
Branding is key, especially for the reasons you just mentioned. As we cannot advertise our products we need to find other ways to sell ourselves. One thing is, of course, the name. Nagu is our island, our company and our product. We can advertise our company and our island as much as we want and that way associate things to our products. Bottle and design are also very important. We want to deliver quality products and therefore the outside is as important as the inside. The feedback we are receiving for our bottle and label is amazing.
Being a small-batch distillery, how do you think the legislation and consumption of distilled beverages will be? Do you think there'll be in the future less strict laws on alcohol sales, and even on marketing for the larger audience?
We can always hope there will be some changes, however, I don't see this is happening any time soon, unfortunately. The way the alcohol laws are in Finland it is not easy to compete with other markets. By the fact that our company is registered in Finland, we need to follow Finnish alcohol laws not only here, but also abroad! Our biggest issue here is the marketing aspect. As you can understand it's hard to sell a product we cannot show or do advertising.
Photo: Nagu Distillery