Gyrup Gaard – Thy Whisky
Copenhagen is still asleep when we hit the road on this warm August morning. The R&D team is heading to Jylland in Northern Denmark to visit Gyrup Farm.
By the time we arrive, the farmers have been up for hours, milking and caring for the 190 cows that make up the family dairy farm. They produce 4000 to 5000 liters of organic, single estate, non-standardized milk everyday. They are the heart of this thirteenth century farm, owned and operated by the Nicolajsen family for eight generations.
Andreas, our guide for the day, moved to Thy four years ago to help his father-in-law Nicolaj run what is now Gyrup Malt. Much like us when we started Empirical, Andreas knew very little about grains and malt when he decided to trade a career in engineering in Copenhagen for that of a farmer in Jylland.
Expanding as a malt farm and malt house has been a logical result for this self-sufficient farm with a goal to provide quality ingredients to the local community. Micro breweries have been struggling to find local malt as very few malt houses remain in Denmark. Gyrup has brought back a much-needed craft and every year 600 tones of a local organic alternative with total traceability is produced.
The malt we use in our spirits comes from Gyrup. We’re looking forward to expanding our partnership and experimenting with the various toasting profiles and grains they grow, including heirloom varieties.
On top of these farming practices, Gyrup also operates as a distillery. Nicolaj Nicolajsen has been experimenting with whisky and grains spirits for a few years, but it was only when his other son-in-law, Jakob, moved to Thy that the project of a scalable distillery took form. What was a side passion became a new opportunity to showcase the hard work they do every day in the fields.
Jakob’s approach to making whisky is ingredient-focused, with a goal of reaching quality over uniformity. He is pushing different flavours within the restraints of whisky-making, using a wide array of grains and malts coming from Andreas’ experiments at the malt house.
We were lucky to taste several of his whiskys and spirits and were able to witness the singularity of each bottle.
Thy Øko Bær
Fruit and berry ferments have been ongoing projects in R&D, so we also took the opportunity to visit Thy Øko Bær, an organic family-owned farm a few minutes away from Gyrup.
They grow a wide range of berries, including red, white and black currants, as well as sea buckthorn and aronia, the last of which were of great interest for the team. Aronia berries are deep, robust, slightly earthy and tannic. Naturally, we came back with a car full of those.