JUICE in Finland

WELCOME TO FINLAND!

Back in December, JUICE was very gratified to play judge and official magazine to the Finlandia Vodka Cup Malaysia 2008. The first event of its kind here in Malaysia to be hosted by Finland’s premier vodka brand, JUICE was not only able to savour some of the most amazing cocktails created by some of the most exciting behind-the-bar talents of Malaysia, we were also invited, by the generous people of Brown-Forman, to the 11th International Finlandia Vodka Cup. In Lapland! Finland!

Yes, that’s a real big deal. And not just to the Finnish, who take pride in their annual quest to hunt down the world’s best bartender. But to JUICE. Because JUICE is the ONLY member of the Malaysian media invited to this prestigious event. So not to waste this once in a lifetime opportunity, we’ve arranged to have daily updates sent to us from within the Arctic Circle (no really!) from our man on the ground/permafrost, Matt Armitage, who is probaby making friends with reindeers as we write.

Travelling with Malaysion champion bartender Abdumubin Ismail from Villa Danieli at the Hotel Imperial Kuala Lumpur, who won the Malaysian leg of the competition, RM2000 in cash and a shiny trophy, it was a long ardous Finnair flight that finally saw the Malaysian pair arrive at their final destination at the swanky Euro jet-set magnet, Levi Spirit in Levi, Lapland. Yes, Lapland – where Santa is from!  Now ensconced in their respective luxury villas where it’s warm and toasty inside but below up to -40C outside, Matt sent us these snaps.

The opening pix is of the very design-savvy Rovaniemi airport. Santa Claus Village and Santapark are located a mere 3 kilometres away!

More from the desolate airport – HALLO!!… Hallo!… hallo….

Onboard the bus for the 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Levi to catch the last of the dying rays. They only get 9 hours worth of daylight (per day) in Finland in February. Levi is one of Finland’s largest ski resorts, where you get around by cable car, ski lift, skimobile or husky-drawn sleigh.No popping out to 7-Eleven for a quickie then….

Inside the Finlandia Experience Lounge. Here your nuts are served as cold as your vodka. And we don’t mean the nuts that grow on trees.

The Levi Cable Car.

Okay. We know it ain’t much right now, but Finland is 6 hours behind us and Matt is still a little groggy from the jetlag, nut-numbing temperatures and last night’s reindeer stew. More to come tomorrow (pix and story, not stew). Just so you know what you’re in for, the itinerrary includes naked saunas, reindeer games, and a whole lotta Finlandia vodka appreciation to come. Stay tuned!

For more on Finlandia and the competition, go to www.finlandia.com. To have Matt put in a good word to Santa, mail editor@juiceonline.com.