Episode 3 of A Map to Anywhere is from my travels to Myken, Norway and more specifically, the Myken Destilleri.
You may have seen the original video of my trip to the island, but if you haven’t, let me set the scene.
Imagine getting on a boat in Northern Norway. The boat, more specifically, is not a ferry. It’s a small, fast boat that speeds you towards a tiny island with about 16 permanent residents and walking paths, rather than roads made for vehicles.
Most of us would never consider living in a place so isolated, so remote. You can’t, after all, order a pizza, go to the gym, take a long drive, or go shopping for anything other than necessities.
You can, however, be in the middle of the drama of the seas and the stillness of the silence. Of that, there is an abundance.
What was once a prosperous fishing island, was quickly dwindling into a ghost town.
For Jan Hellstrøm and his wife, the island was a haven and a new vacation spot. Together with the locals, they discussed how the island could possibly survive without the fishing industry that had previously supported it.
It started when Jan was considering retiring from the financial business. At this point in his career, the thing to do was normally become a board member, be a consultant, and take life at a more relaxed pace.
But then there’s that thing about ideas appearing at the right time. He started to think and realized that it was possible to do something totally different. And that idea took on its own life, working with Myken locals on sailing trips and other forays into tourism before realizing that to keep the island sustained, they would need something bigger.
One of the neighbors commented that Myken is very similar to the Scottish Highlands, where they make an excellent whiskey. The weather, the drama of the sea and the salty wind itself, all add to the flavors that are distilled into each barrel.
The idea seemed to fit the island. It was an industry that moved slowly and patiently, working with their turbulent surroundings, rather than against them. If the seas were rough for several days and boats couldn’t enter or exit, the product wouldn’t suffer. If the winter was especially hard, the whiskey could weather the weather and even be better for it.
The thing about whiskey is, it takes time and patience.
The thing about Myken is, it takes everyone on board to create something new.
So with the entire village and lots of time and patience, Myken Destilleri has taken shape. The first 3-4 years, no money was made, because whiskey takes time. But with some ingenuity they Jan began selling barrels for future delivery, giving tours to tourists in the summer, built a restaurant and distilled some gin to keep things moving in the meantime.
Today, the Myken Destilleri is an excellent and respected Norwegian whiskey, led by one man and supported by an island.