Akevitt is the National spirit of Norway.
Are you going to go to Norway? Learn how to toast like a Viking with Akevitt!
The Old Norse toast associated with Aquavit originated with the Vikings.
— Skål (or skoal) — is now the standard toast that’s shouted when drinking Aquavit, kind of cheers that references a drinking cup or bowl that the Vikings used. When lifting your glass to give Skål, it’s traditional to maintain eye contact. This custom stems from the Viking sensibility of keeping the eyes on others (and potential threats) at all times, even during a celebration.
The great history of Akevitt
For hundreds of years, barrels of caraway-spiced aquavit from the north have traveled the seas around the world.
The birth of Nordic Akevitt was first recorded in a letter from the Danish Lord Eske Bille of Bergenhus castle, to the Norwegian bishop Olav Engelbrektsson in 1531. With the letter, Bille sent a spiced liquor that he promised would cure any illness known to man. Although the belief in the healing powers of aquavit has faded since the bishop received his gift, aquavit is still considered a wise choice to help digestion after large, fat meals during the festive season.
Calling all caraway lovers.
If you believe nothing compares to a quality loaf of rye bread, chances are you’ll love aquavit. A neutral spirit distilled from potato and, sometimes, from grain, Aquavit is most commonly flavored with caraway as its dominant spice. Sorts of Aquavit vary and often include a range of other spices as well, such as dill, fennel, coriander, citrus, anise, and even seaweed.
Akevitt varies depending on the region.
The specific herbs and spices used to flavor aquavit are determined by local preference and cuisine. Swedish and Danish aquavit is usually distilled from grain, while Norwegian Akevitt is traditionally made from potatoes. Some Norwegian regions Aquavit leans heavier on dill, coriander, and caraway and is enjoyed as a quick chilled shot at dinner.
In the Eastern region of Norway, Akevitt features more anise and fennel flavors but is also downed in one go, often followed by a beer and meal of smoked salmon. It’s quite different in the western part of Norway, where Akevitt is meant to be sipped slowly to experience its barrel-aged quality and diverse aromatics like cumin and citrus peel.
Norwegian Akevitt is especially well-traveled
Denmark and Sweden consider Akevitt as a clear spirit, but in Norway, there’s a strong tradition of cask-aging.
Norwegian Akevitt matures in sherry oak casks that give the spirit a golden color and full-bodied character with hints of vanilla. Linie Akevit is one of Norway’s most famous because of its unique aging process that was accidentally discovered in the early 19th century. Linje means “line,” as its oak barrels are loaded onto ships that cross the equator twice, supposedly enhancing the spirit’s flavor and smoothness due to the barrels’ constant rolling on the ocean and temperature fluctuations.
The Norwegian state-owned producer Arcus wrote this fascinating story on Linie’s homepage:
Heinrich Meincke, a trading manager and his sister, Catharina Meincke, commissioned a brig named Trondhjems Prøve in 1798. In 1805, the boat was loaded with stockfish, hams, cheeses and what was otherwise considered to be of interest in Batavia (Indonesia). Onboard was a cargo of five casks of Norwegian Akevitt.
The captain failed to sell his cargo of spirit. Drinking customs and taste were different in Batavia, with rum and arak distilled from coconut milk as the staple drinks. Home again in Trondheim in December 1807 the barrel bungs were extracted and the goods sampled once again. The changing conditions inside the oak barrels had a marked impact on the spirit – thus the principle behind linje Akevitt was established.
In 1821, Jørgen B. Lysholm founded a distillery at Lysholms Minde, near Trondheim. The works were later relocated to the city. In the late 1830s, the direct export of dried cod to Rio de Janeiro and other South American markets was started. Batches of Akevitt stored in oak barrels were regularly stowed on board. Lysholm Linie soon became the company’s leading product and bestseller.
Although sailing ships are now a thing of the past, Linie still crosses the equator twice. Every month fresh batches of matured oak barrels depart on a 19-week passage visiting more than thirty-five countries. The equator is crossed twice and it is always a ship from Wilhelmsen that is used for the freight.
The Akevitt, which has a 60% alcohol content, is stored in oak barrels on deck in containers. During the passage, fluctuations in temperature and humidity influence the maturing process, while the constant motion of the sea swirls the aquavit round in the barrels. More than one thousand barrels of Linie are at any given time maturing as deck cargo on the world’s oceans.
Each bottle of Linie aquavit carries a description of its worldwide sailing route via Australia on the rear side of the label, stating the departure and arrival dates. Each drop of Linie harnesses memories of the sea passage. The maturing process is vital and starts with the import of 500-liter oak sherry barrels from Jerez.
The barrels were previously used for producing oloroso sherry for ten to fifteen years. The barrels give the aquavit its golden color; the residual matter from sherry provides a pleasant sweetness, and the white American or Spanish oak adds tones of wood and vanilla.
Uniktur`s Note: Alcohol advertising is totally banned in Norway.
Uniktur publishes this article showing a small part of Norwegian cultural history.