Distillery museum in Vissefjärda
The distillery museum Kyrkeby Bränneri is located on the outskirts of Vissefjärda in the south of the municipality of Emmaboda Kommun. It represents a fully functional distillery from the 19th century, which has been preserved in its original state.
Kyrkeby Bränneri, which was declared an industrial monument in 2000, is Sweden's oldest distillery. Its origins date back to 1771, when the small distillery received royal permission to distil potato brandy. In 1855, the present distillery was built next to the old distillery, which is still preserved today, with around two dozen outbuildings.
The end of the distilleries
The new Kyrkeby Bränneri soon reached 100 times the production volume of the old distillery with around 4,000 litres of potato spirit per day and was operated as a private distillery with almost unchanged facilities from the 19th century until 1971. In that year, the 28 private distilleries in Sweden that still existed at that time were closed down by government order and the entire production of high-proof alcohol was centralised in a new large distillery (today Absolut Vodka) in the municipality of Kristianstad in the province of Skåne.
Most of the private distilleries that were closed down fell victim to the wrecking ball quite quickly as a result, but the owners of Kyrkeby Bränneri chose a different path. They closed the doors of the distillery and mothballed the business as it was in the hope of better times. In 1988, the owners gave the distillery as a gift to the local heritage association Vissefjärda Hembygdföreningen, which has since then maintained Kyrkeby Bränneri and its buildings on the extensive grounds and made them accessible to visitors.
Kyrkeby Bränneri becomes functional again
In 2000 the idea of making Kyrkeby Bränneri functional again was born and a group of technically interested members of the association restored the old plant in countless hours of voluntary work. In 2005 the distillery was put back into operation for the first time after more than thirty years of slumber. Following the old recipe, 4 tons of potatoes were processed once and 1,771 bottles of flavoured potato brandy were filled under the name Kyrkeby Citron. After only three days, the bottles distributed via the state-run liquor stores were sold out.
The technical heart of Kyrkeby Bränneri is still the old steam engine from 1875, which drives the pumps and agitators via transmission belts – paired with the equally old steam boiler, which supplies the steam for the steam engine and the process heat for the mash tun and the eight metre high copper distillation apparatus.
The production process begins in the cellar of the distillery, where the delivered potatoes first pass through a special washing machine and from there through a bucket elevator into the 52 hectolitre steam-heated pressure cooker on the upper floor.
The barley malt, which is also produced in the distillery itself, is added to the starch mash in the mash tun to add sugar and the mash is cooled down with constant stirring, for which purpose the tun is generously equipped with copper cooling coils. The mash is then mixed with yeast and pumped into four fermentation vats dating from the 1930s, each holding 25 cubic metres, where it ferments for three days until distillation.
Further information about Kyrkeby Bränneri
Among the well-preserved outbuildings on the factory site there are some dwellings of former workers, warehouses and also two strikingly large stable buildings and large brick basins. In these basins the very protein-rich residues of the mash, which were left after distillation, were collected and used to feed the pigs and dairy cows kept in the large stables. The excrements of the animals were then spread as fertiliser on the potato and barley fields belonging to the distillery and the cycle was closed.
Since 2017 there is again a small regular production of potato brandy at Kyrkeby Bränneri, which in 2018 was even awarded a prize by the Swedish Spritakademien. It is produced for only a few weeks a year and the assortment, which consists of a pure potato spirit and several flavoured varieties, is regularly sold through the state alcohol retailer Systembolaget.
The old company premises are freely accessible and the distillery building can be visited during regular opening hours as part of a guided tour. In addition, guided tours can be booked for groups of at least ten people during the period from April to October. These group tours can also be arranged with schnapps tasting – see website for prices.