Different types of sauna whisks

This article covers the differences of different sauna whisks. The sauna whisk ritual and tradition is discussed in another article on this page.

Birch whisks

The birch whisk is the most common whisk type in Finland. There are three main types of birch trees in Finland:

  • Rauduskoivu (Silver birch, Betula pendula)
  • Hieskoivu (Downy birch, Betula alba)
  • Vaivaiskoivu (Dwarf birch, Betula nana)

The dwarf birch only grows about one meter tall and the leaves are very small. This one grows on Tundra so if you ever end up to a sauna in Finnish Lapland, bring your own vasta (BYOV) from the south.

As far as the other two types go, the Silver birch is commonly used for making the whisks. Downy birch emits more nice aroma but the leaves tend to get loose easily so the pros sometimes tie a few downy brich branches in the middle of the whisk and silver birch branches on the outer rings.

The best part of the birch whisk is the aroma they emit in sauna. Pour the water where the whisk sits on the stones!

Juniper

Juniper whisks are more rare but not unheard of. They are used sometime during Finnish Christmas sauna because they are evergreen. The juniper whisks should be treated with boiling water for about an hour before use to soften the branches and especially the needles. You should also use these whisks more gently.

I have tried juniper whisks a few times and they feel almost like acupuncture treatment. The water emits fantastic aroma when poured on the stones.

I’m growing juniper in my garden so the official review with pictures is due in December.

Oak

Oak whisks seem to be more popular in Russia and Eastern Europe than in Finland. My experience is that they feel pretty similar to birch whisks. The aroma is different and I prefer birch but oak whisks probably feel a bit softer on skin.

Eucalyptus

I’ve been always wondering, how eucalyptus oils and eucalyptus whisks made their way to Finnish sauna. If you look at the map, you cannot get much further away from Finnish saunas than by going to an eucalyptus forest.

Never judge before trying though so I tested these. The whisking experience wasn’t bad. It was interesting and I would assume rowan or fern might be quite similar (to be tested later). The leaves are long and pointy and quite sharp from the edges. They didn’t cut the skin though. The aroma wasn’t very similar to eucalyptus oil, which was surprising. I used dried whisk though.

The leaves got loose easily too but luckily they were easy to clean.

Another interesting thing was that the whisk colored the water very black. I poured the water on the stones. Not great but not horrible either. My verdict is that if I didn’t have another whisk around, I would use eucalyptus rather than nothing but I wouldn’t spend the same money to buy eucalyptus whisks if I could get birch.

Linden

Etsy.com was selling dried linden whisks that I had never heard of. I decided to give it a go.

The aroma is pleasant: not very strong and not very exotic for a Finnish guy either. I still prefer birch aroma but this one was very nice too.

After soaking the whisk for a good hour or two, it weighted probably around five kilos. The whisk was very thick too so the whole massaging experience was different. It felt like a warm wet towel in a good way: intense but soft at the same time. I noticed that this whisk warms up very fast during preparation (see the The Saunavasta (sauna whisk) Tradition post) probably due to thickness. All in all, this was very positive surprise and I will certainly order more of these!

One downside of this whisk is that the leaves come off rather easy so there’s some cleaning after the sauna session.

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