Opland Aquavit Challenges Whisky and Cognac

Opland_Aquavit_miljoe_01

Salmon, cheese and the culinary arts put the Nordic kitchen on the map, and aquavit has made an entrance into some of the world’s best bars in cities such as Paris, Berlin and New York. Now is the time to strengthen our international presence, and the re-launch of Opland aquavit marks the start of these efforts.

“The ambition of the re-launch is to establish Opland aquavit abroad as a premium brand and compete directly with exclusive single malts or cognac,” says Arcus CEO, Kenneth Hamnes.

A homegrown favourite for international markets.

Arcus is the world’s largest producer of aquavit and owns many of the traditional brands. Opland aquavit has long been the most popular of the aquavits among Norwegians, topping the sales charts at Vinmonopolet year after year. Kenneth Hamnes is confident that Opland’s round, complex flavour will also be appreciated abroad.

– In addition to its renaissance in Norway, we are also seeing a growing interest in aquavit abroad. The German and the US markets in particular have discovered this Nordic drink, he explains.

The 24-month maturing process in sherry casks gives Opland a round flavour and complexity that is different from other aquavits. The man who has put his signature on the bottle, master blender Ivan Abrahamsen, thinks Opland is an aquavit that should be enjoyed year-round.

– The long maturing process gives Opland a complex composition. Many people connect aquavit and Opland with Christmas, but Opland aquavit is the perfect alternative to cognac or whiskey any time of the year. And, of course, it’s delicious with traditional dishes, particularly lutefisk, he adds.

Opland

New design

To prepare Opland for the international market, London-based Stranger & Stranger, a design agency with an excellent reputation, was given the assignment to redesign the traditional bottle. The agency had previously worked with well-known spirit brands such as Martini and Jack Daniels, but this was the first time it had taken on an aquavit bottle.

– We’ve really enjoyed partnering with the Opland team at Arcus to repackage this definitive aquavit. The team were very open minded from the start, giving us total creative freedom to do what we do best, design! The refreshed packs are designed to give a greater competitive edge, creating a strong recognisable stand-out on shelf and back bar while increasing the quality premium craft cues of the brand, says Ivan Bell, Managing Director at Stranger & Stranger.

The entire Opland aquavit portfolio, including Edel and Single Cask, was given a new look. The bottles now have a more modern appearance that will appeal to Norwegians as well as old and new aquavit enthusiasts all over the world, but many of the brands’ characteristic features have been kept as well. Everyone who loves Opland aquavit will still recognise their beloved brand.

 

Lysholm No52 – Radical Innovation Within Norwegian Aquavit

Lysholm52 bilde med kryddere

Master blender Ivan Abrahamsen and his team at Arcus has developed the perfect aquavit for cocktails. Thus, everything is set for a further development of the aquavit category internationally.

Aquavit, Norway’s national liquor is traditionally served neat together with food or beer. However, aquavit’s versatility in cocktails has lately been discovered by bartenders around the world, and has quickly gained recognition internationally. Today aquavit in cocktails has emerged in big cities like New York, London and of course Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. As a response to the increasing demand of an aquavit for mixology, Arcus created Lysholm No52, especially composed to work well in cocktails.

– This actually turns out to be the greatest innovation within Norwegian aquavit in recent time, says Master Blender Ivan Abrahamsen. He hopes the new product eventually will become a permanent resident in bars and homes around the world.

Lysholm No52 is a fresh and complex aquavit, with a distinguished taste of citrus. It contains 11 different botanicals, including Norwegian caraway, star anise, coriander, bitter orange peels and ginger. The latter is not commonly used in aquavit, but gives Lysholm No52 its fresh spiciness, which is perfect when mixing cocktails. Compared with other Norwegian aquavits, No52 is more spicy and stronger in flavour as it has to pass through all the other ingredients in a cocktail.

– Compared to the Norwegian cask matured aquavits, No52 does not have the round, sweet oak flavours and vanilla notes you get through cask ageing, explains Master blender Ivan Abrahamsen.

Lysholm No52 is a tribute to Jørgen B. Lysholm, one of the great Norwegian innovators when it comes to spirits. Jørgen B. Lysholm has been a great inspiration for Arcus’ product developers when composing the recipe for the new aquavit. The recipe was number 52 in the series of recipes the team developed before the finding the right flavour, hence the name No52.

Try it yourself:

Aquatonic:

1 part Lysholm No52
2 parts tonic
Lemon or cucumber

Fill up a longdrink glass with ice. Pour in Lysholm No52 and fill up with tonic.
Rub a lemon or cucumber slice around the rim of the glass and put it into the glass. Stir and serve.

Linie

Linie (2)

Aquavit.

Ever come across the name?

It’s not the most common of spirit categories here in the UK compared to the likes of whisky, rum or gin, but if you’ve ever visited any part of Scandinavia you will have more than likely drank some form of aquavit, the local tipple of choice. Aquavit itself is a distilled spirit from either grain or potatoes within pot stills, then redistilled with the likes of anise, coriander, dill or fennel, filtered with charcoal and then bottled without ageing. It is interesting then that when I visited Sweden to attend the Linie Aquavit Awards this year, I not only came across aquavit for the first time, but also an aged aquavit.

The Norwegian brand of Linie can trace itself back to 1780 when Catharina Lysholm built the brig Trondhiems Prøve with her brother and sailed towards the East Indies in 1805. Within their cargo hold were five casks of potato spirit alongside other types of merchandise, hoping to open a trade route which ultimately failed. However due to the storing of the potato spirit within the deck cargo, it was discovered when the ship came back to Norway in 1807 that the spirit had vastly improved in flavour. Keeping this close to their chests, Jørgen B. Lysholm rebuilt his fathers soap factory into a distillery, before moving the distillery and offices to the centre of Trondheim and the creation of Linie aquavit. The unique maturation of the Linie aquavit has meant that for the last 200 years, the spirit embarks on a four and a half month journey, taking in 35 countries and crossing the equator twice. It’s interesting to note that at any given time, more than a thousand Linie aquavit casks are maturing as deck cargo.

So how does Linie fare? Well below I give to you my tasting notes, as well as two further expressions I had the opportunity to try on the awards evening mentioned above –

Linie Pre-Journey – unknown abv

Rich on the nose with glazed fruits and fresh vanilla combining well. Very thin on the palate, with light flavours of aniseed bringing a lingering dryness to the finish.

Linie – 41.5%

Matured within Spanish Oloroso sherry casks for 16 months. Plenty of honey on the nose, with fragrant meadow scents coming through slowly. A thin texture on the palate, with light flavours of kummel and aniseed drawing a dry finish.

Linie Double Cask – 41.5%

Aged for a further 6 months within selected port casks. Rich oak and soft port notes on the nose blend well, with the richness following to the palate. A boldness develops over time, with caramel flavours giving the finish a sweet, long experience alongside the heavy port notes.

Three very interesting expressions here, with the main Linie expression perfect for these recipes –

Complement Cocktail
Complement Cocktail

Complement Cocktail

Glass – 

Martini or Cocktail

Ingredients – 

45 ml Plymouth gin
20 ml Linie
2 dashes Maraschino liqueur
1 sprig Dill

Method – 

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice. Add the gin, aquavit and liqueur; shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with dill.

Or perhaps,

Swedish 60
Swedish 60

Swedish 60

Glass – 

Champagne flute

Ingredients – 

45 ml Linie
15 ml freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
85 ml Sparkling Wine

Method –

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the aquavit, lime juice and simple syrup. Shake well, then strain into a Champagne flute. Top with the sparkling wine and garnish with the twist of lime peel.

Linie aquavit is commonly drunk at room temperature within a tulip shaped glass, accompanying smoked salmon or marinated fish dishes, which shows off the versatility of this traditional Scandinavian spirit. A bottle to shake up your evening meal perhaps, or impress your friends with something a little different, or indeed head to your local bar as Linie is starting to push its way around the UK’s bartenders to really shout about the Norwegian flavour spectrum.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Look At The Linie Awards 2015

Linie Awards

Last week saw myself attend the annual Nordic extravaganza, the Linie Awards 2015. The event is the culmination of the best that the Nordic countries have to offer from the world of food and drink, with respective competitions to find the number one dish and cocktail for the year. In its 10th year, 2015 saw it being held within Stockholm, Sweden for the first time, away from its usual seat in Norway as the main support comes from the Norwegian aquavit brand Linie, but this was to show the growth of the brand across Europe, and for the first time included Germany within its proceedings.

Held within Stockholm’s City Hall, the evening consisted of some of the best VIP’s, bartenders, chefs and journalists from across the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, as well as Germany attending, with a splash from the United Kingdom as my own country starts to take on the quite underrated category of aquavit.

The first finals of the evening saw each winner of their respective country heats go head-to-head behind the bar, aiming to create a signature serve that will highlight the Linie aquavit. Sondre T. Kasin from Morgenstierne in Oslo represented Norway with his creation Valkyrie, seeing a shaken mix of homemade quince puree, Linie that came infused with blackcurrant leaves and stems, green Chartreuse and Norwegian honey syrup, served over a large ice cube and graced with a blackcurrant branch. Jere Vihervaara of Son of a Punch in Helsinki represented Finland with his serve Hamask, seeing Linie mixed with egg, seasoned sour milk syrup, celery bitters and a sprig of rosemary, all served in a classic coupette glass and a burnt sugar cane and absinthe lit rosemary sprig.

Rolf Bender from the Oak Room in Norrebro in Denmark came to the final with a recipe he names The Scandinavian Flip, seeing fresh red currants, homemade red currant syrup, Pedro Xeminez Fernando de Castella sherry, Linie and egg come together with a garnish of freeze dried red currants. Moritz Billina of Falk’s Bar in Munich put together his Punainenmeri which saw cloudberry jelly, Belsazar dry vermouth, Manzanilla sherry and Linie shaken and served within a cocktail glass. This came garnished with a flick of Belsazar red vermouth for decoration.

The winning cocktail by Charlotta Berggren - Linie in Sight
The winning cocktail by Charlotta Berggren – Linie in Sight

It was to be Sweden though that took home the crown of the best cocktail of the evening, as Charlotta Berggren of Svartengrens in Stockholm impressed with her creation Linie in Sight. It saw Linie, punsch (a traditional liqueur in Sweden produced from arrack), lemon juice, carrot juice and sugar syrup combined and shaken, then served into a coupette glass.

A three course meal was entwined with the finals, which also saw Finland take the crown for the chefs via Taneli Myllyvirta of Restaurant OLO in Helsinki. On hand through the night were three expressions of Linie itself; the pre-journey, regular and double cask port expressions, going alongside last years winning recipe from Oskar K.J. Johansson with Kumminjanne. 

Winning her first ever cocktail competition, Charlotta has said this has given her the confidence to branch out and contribute to other competitions in Sweden and become a force within the industry. I say good luck to her, and It will be interesting to see how the UK takes its palate to aquavit in the next year or two, especially when you have the likes of Monica Berg, bar manager of Pollen Street Social in London and Oslo native flying the flag here with her new Linie Honorary Award.

So aquavit. Have you tried it yet?