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The journey continues

10 years later with new goals in sight

Even this day the sun is shining when in my car I am approaching Borlänge, and see the tower of Stora Tuna Church in the distance.

I feel the inspiration in my body to relive the memories from when I used to explore Borlänge with surroundings as a little chap, and I remember how big the city was when I came from a little town like Mariefred to the “big city” where my mother grew up.

Here you can find large factories and lots of big stores, if I recall correctly. Then there is Maserhallen, Borlänge, which made a huge impression on a little boy.

But most exciting of all was probably when I, as a kid, by myself would walk to Uncle Stig, who lived in Bullermyren, from aunt Irma’s apartment down by Soltorget. An exciting walk, and if you were lucky, a large train would pass by for you to watch before you could cross the railroad tracks.

My uncle Stig worked at the Kvarnsveden paper mill and used to tell stories about his job and the big rolls of paper. He and my mother came from a family of sheet metal workers with many children where, sadly enough, the father Axel had passed away way too soon, which meant that the brothers in the family at an early age had to take on the responsibility for supporting the family.

Nevertheless, this didn’t stop two of them from becoming successful and well-known. One was the eldest brother, Erland, who later invented Andersson’s bark removal machine, which is still in use in many sawmills. The other one was Arne Andersson, who used to box for BK Masen and Borlänge Sportklubb before he moved to America. However, he returned to box in Sweden on a few occasions, and even won a Swedish Championship medal.

It wasn’t until much later, that I came to spend a great many of my own years in America, with Arne and his family in Florida.

I decide to park the car in central Borlänge and walk Hagavägen up toward Soltorget and then Bullermyren. As I pass by, I stop at Hotell Galaxen, where a Beer & Whisky Festival is planned to be held in the late fall.

While I’m walking, a mix of new and old impressions fly around in my head, many changes since my childhood memories from the mid 60s, but on a side street I recognize the Björke family’s house. I will never forget the big model railroad the son had in the basement.

A lot of people are out this beautiful day, pottering about in their gardens. In my inner pocket I have a photograph of what I think is my mother’s old school, which I thought I’d find out if it is still there. I stop and ask a few people who are out, but no one recognizes it and I don’t really know where it was situated, since the family had moved around in Borlänge and its surroundings.

All of a sudden it occurs to me, that it is now 10 years since I decided to start making vodka after a visit to my father’s childhood home, a product and a business who have given me so much joy and amazing connections.

I take the car to Mellsta Camping, where we used to have our camper parked, and sit down with a java. My thoughts start spinning again with bilberries, lingonberries, forest, spruce shoots and juniper shrubs – and there we have it!

Runa is going to make a gin which smells like when you open up the tent canvas a spring morning and breathe in the scent of forest. It should of course, like the other products of Runa, mainly be enjoyed pure and have its own characteristics.

Swedish nature

A little later, I turn to Sankta Anna’s distillery, to ask if they want to make our gin.

It is of great interest, and together we develop a Runa Small Batch gin. At the same time, I find out that the entire production is being moved to Mockfjärd.

Could it be any better? This means that Runa Gin will be produced in Dalecarlia, just like I wanted!

In the spring of 2015, Runa Small Batch gin was introduced to Systembolaget’s order selection, and everyone was given the opportunity to experience the wonderful taste and smell of an organic gin.

However, I want more, and influence the board of Runa Vodka AB to let me make another unique gin, based on refinement of old seasonings and new ideas.

This means that Runa is taking the first step towards a yellow gin, which will be matured to get just the right character and color. To my knowledge, in the spring of 2015, no other manufacturer in Sweden had adopted the idea of developing the old processes of aging yellow gin, which dates back far in time.

A yellow gin is aged until a certain desired character is reached. There are no limitations as to which barrels should be used, or for how long.

I chose to age the gin in Juniper wood, since it gives us the character we seek. After 7 months of maturing, we were pleased, and the first tapping of 324 bottles took place in Mockfjärd.

Since the idea was born in Borlänge, with my mother’s school photo in my inner pocket, the choice of name for this product was simple; Runa Old School Yellow Gin, because that’s exactly what this refined product is:

“The old-school manufacturing process of a yellow gin”

Everything Has a Beginning

The story begins in 2004 in the little picturesque town of Mariefred, situated in the center of Sweden. The clock has struck 1 this warm summer afternoon in June. I have just finished lunch and am riding along on winding roads, straddling my Road King. Magnificent views of lakes, forests and plains meet me wherever I look.

The old chateaus and mansions succeed each other in the Sörmlandic idyll. I am approaching the avenue leading up to my father’s childhood home, Vappersta manor, which I haven’t visited since I was a little boy. I take off my helmet, ride without it the last part of the way and let the wind run through my now greying hair.

My thoughts go back to the time when my father used to take me hunting on the property. He would tell me stories about life on the farm and about the people living there, going all the way back to the era of the Vikings. The heat from the sun makes me start daydreaming and reminisce.

I remember the biting cold and the beautiful sparkling snow surrounding us, as my father and I plodded through the snow in pursuit of game one winter day. Suddenly, I feel a twinge in my stomach, just like when it happened when I was a little boy, from the memory of the shot going off when a hare suddenly appeared in front of us.

I stop at the old rune stone that our forefathers once erected, turn off my Road King, take my leather jacket off and for a while look at the strange inscriptions. As I sit down, leaning against the big stone, I feel the wing strokes of history spreading in my mind and thoughts. I glance into the chrome of the bike and the sun’s rays blind me for a moment, sending my thoughts back to the time of the old Scandinavian Vikings’ again.

I try to imagine what life could have been like during their merchant trips, voyages of discovery and pitched battles. Tough, strong and with great stamina these people must have been, in their simple world and with their proud ships travelling from land to land, country to country. Who were they, who chose to settle and practice trade in the old sites of Mälardalen? Who were they, who travelled far and wide to explore the world or fight in a battle?

Did they, as they rounded the cape of a new country, feel the same way I feel when I speed around a curve of the road, or over the brow of a hill, not knowing what to expect ahead? Or did they perhaps feel the same eagerness and zest for life, as the people who first set their foot on the moon or in outer space? Did they get an exhilarating feeling in their stomachs, just like me, when the prey fell to the ground? Were these Scandinavian Vikings happy? Did they feel love toward their families and friends? Or were work and the hunt for food just toil and moil? Were they at ease in body and soul? The questions, which scientists and story-tellers have yet to answer, are many and give room for both imagination and dreams. What if history one day could give us the answers!

Gripsholm Castle
Gripsholm Castle

When I later wake up from my imaginary world, I feel this energy in my body, an energy that makes me want to somehow share the feeling and story of this wonderful idyll, which cannot be described in words. I straddle my Harley again and ride it slowly towards home in the lovely summer night, when I’m struck by the thought! How can I pass this wonderful feeling on to others around me? The thoughts keep turning in my head as I ride in the night. I pass the avenue leading to Gripsholm Castle and the distillery belonging to it. I stop at the side of the road, turn off the engine and watch the beautiful surroundings in the warm summer night. Deer have come out from their hiding at dusk, and I watch them walk along the water, looking for food. Yes, we are all God’s creatures, and, in one way or another, in constant search for food for survival. Man as well as animal. Once again, I turn the ignition key and feel the rumble from the engine embracing me the way it always does.

We are one, my Road King and I.

I continue my journey, and I find myself heading home, to my own driveway. I turn back the key and the magnificent rumble from the engine is silenced. The only sounds in the summer night are the chirping of the birds and the flapping wings of the bats. They, too, are busy looking for food for their young ones, who will later pass life and history’s development on.

At this point, I am exhausted, but sleeping is the furthest thing from my mind after this wonderful trip down memory lane. I go inside the house and straight to the refrigerator, fill a glass with ice and delicious cold vodka, and while listening to the crackling sound in the glass as the ice cracks, I sit down on my veranda to enjoy the calm of the night. While sitting there, my thoughts go to my cousin on the other side of the globe, who once asked:

Can you find a way to share the Scandinavian feeling,
the way you describe it? Can you describe the feeling of beauty,
courage and purity that history tells it?

The distillery at Gripsholm Castle
The distillery at Gripsholm Castle

It felt as if his question was as taken right out of my own thoughts. The one I had asked myself this beautiful day, while I was taking a trip down memory lane and to the world of the old Scandinavians: How can I find a way to describe this amazing experience to other people? I take a sip of the cold vodka, and warmth spreads slowly throughout my body and soul. My thoughts wander back to the old distillery by the chateau and the clear water of Lake Mälaren.

I think about the old Scandinavians and their experience in making their own vodka, and their vast knowledge of flavouring the liquid with herbs and plants.

Could I do the same thing?

The research on plants and herbs that the botanist, Carl von Linné, performed, has given the Scandinavians more knowledge, experience and interest for flavouring and spicing their vodka and foods than in many other cultures. This knowledge and experience have been passed on, from father to son and from mother to daughter, for many generations. These thoughts lead me in to everything I have learned from my father and my mother; the love for your fellow beings and animals; how to stand up for what is right and wrong; how to appreciate and care for what God and nature have given us.

I want to do it. I will do it!

The thoughts keep chasing me until about a week later, when I meet my dear friend, the designer, Malin Mattsson. I tell her about my thoughts and my travels from ancient to present times. I tell her about my thoughts and wish to share the feeling with my fellow beings. To bring out a product, in the shape of vodka, and its flavour and message would give my fellow beings in other countries, far from Sweden, a taste of my Scandinavian heritage.

So, get started then! What are you waiting for?
The time is now, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Now!

Malin says laughing. The discussion continues while we each enjoy a glass of deliciously cold vodka on the rocks. A few days later, Malin calls, cheerful and full of expectation, and invites herself over. She says:

I have something for you.
Something you have been waiting a long time for.

Malin arrives, sits down on my couch opposite me, while holding a roll of parchment in her hand. She looks deeply into my eyes as she hands me the roll and says:

We care for one another, don’t we, dear old friend?
I am giving you this from me and your father,
whether you will use it or not.

Still not understanding, I start opening the roll of parchment, which turns out to be a deed of gift. The letter reads:

Dear friend, the name you seek has always been around and close to you. The name you will use is RUNA, which is the Old Norse word for runic inscription, and also in our times the origin of the name Rune, which was your father’s name.
Your devoted friend, Malin Mattsson

... and the product Runa Vodka was hereby born and named!