An Aromatic Tradition

Vodka is the undisputed number one choice when foreign visitors buy Finnish alcoholic beverages to take home with them. Also very popular is a liqueur made from an aromatic berry that grows wild in the country's Arctic regions. It is called the Arctic stone bramble (Rubus arcticus), but the Finnish name, mesimarja or literally "honey berry", does it far greater justice. The leading manufacturer of the liqueur is the Lignell & Piispanen company of Kuopio. It has been in business for over a century.

Founded by two pharmacists in the last century, Lignell & Piispanen has been making mesimarja liqueur since 1882. The only break was from 1919 to 1932, a period in which prohibition was in force in Finland. Lignell & Piispanen has long belonged to the concern Oy Gust. Ranin, which began manufacturing alcoholic beverages in Kuopio in the 1860s.

Finland's accession to the European Union at the beginning of 1995 brought new alcohol legislation, which deprived State-owned Alko of its monopoly role as a liquor manufacturer. Lignell & Piispanen had prepared well for the change. It revived Savon Wiina, a brand of schnapps that had been absent from the market since prohibition began.

Savon Wiina is made using the same traditional recipe with which Oy Gust. Ranin began in 1869. The raw material is grain spirit, and the product contains no sugar. The schnapps is drunk neat, but is also a good cocktail ingredient. It is soft and has a very distinct aroma. The recipe is a closely-guarded secret.

Managing Director Hemmo Rossi says that Savon Wiina, in its time highly appreciated as a quality product by Finnish consumers, is now being aimed at the export market as well.

The expansion of Lignell & Piispanen's product range is not stopping with Savon Wiina. Another product from the pre-prohibition era is called Hieno Konjakki ("Fine Cognac"). Rossi points out that the name Cognac cannot be used unless the product in question comes from a particular region of France. Lignell & Piispanen's French partner Maison A.E. DOR manufactures the beverage, which is then filtered, warehoused and bottled in Kuopio.

"Maison A.E. DOR and ourselves have been manufacturing alcoholic beverages for about the same length of time," says Rossi. "In matters like this, traditions have a surprisingly great deal of importance."

The Lignell & Piispanen production palette comprises 30 different brands: from liqueurs and wines to strong spirits like schnapps, whisky and brandy. Exports account for around a third of the company's total turnover of 20 million markkas (8.2 million Euro).


Lignell & Piispanen
Hemmo Rossi
PL 32
FIN-70101 Kuopio
Tel. +358 (0)17-261 4641
Fax +358 (017)-261 4559