The Aquavit and Whisky Festival was established in 2017. Due to the pandemic, there was no festivals in 2020 and 2021. This year’s festival, held on 11th June, proved that the Aquavit og Whsky Festival in Southern Norway has established itself as one of the most exciting festivals in Norway.
Det Norske Brenneri (The Norwegian Distillery) in Grimstad could once again focus on its exquisite selection of the most celebrated names in the industry. The festival showed beyond doubt to be popular to seasoned experts as well as curious newcomers, everyone celebrating aqauavit’s strong tradition in Norway whilst unveiling the exiting new styles and award-winning gins and whiskys.
The extensive program was in itself an award-winning mixology, local food vendors, cutting edge musicians – the Aquavit and Whisky Festival in Southern Norway left everybody feeling inspired by the contemporary and experimental nature of Norway’s national drink.
Related: Norwegian Friends of Aquavit
Festival artist of the year was Bjørn Tomren also known as Polka-Bjørn, winner of NRK’s (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) Star-War 2021, and festival participants could broaden their horizons at the «Masterclasses» for aquavit and whisky, hosted by some of Norway’s greatest experts.
Det Norske Brenneri (formerly Puntervold / Agder Brenneri) has its production and barrel warehouse in Grimstad in Southern Norway. Various aquavit brands and apple spirits have been produced there since the production monopoly in Norway was dissolved in 2005. It was the first private distillery in Norway after more than 80 years of monopoly. Grimstad has a history dating back to the 1880s when it comes to the production of liqueur wines, through the Fuhr brand.
Today, Det Norske Brenneri is best known for its craft products; the aquavits Arvesølvet, Arvesølvet Helt Klar, Høvding and Hellstrøm. In 2012, the distillery launched Norway’s first single malt whiskey, called Audny. The sequel, Eiktyrne, came in November 2015. That year, a new Norwegian gin – based on Norwegian berries and herbs, Harahorn, was launched.
Related: Scandinavian Aquavit Made in the USA
The English name of the creature that adorns the Harahorn bottles is jackalope. Douglas Herrick was the name of the man who ‘invented’ the first jackalope in 1932. In short, he found a dead rabbit next to a deer horn. With the help of his brother, the deer horn was attached to the rabbit, and jackalope was a ‘fact.’
For many centuries, hunters and mountain men have sworn to have seen the harahorn. Harahorn is also the name of a Norwegian Mountain. From that mountain plateau, beneath the northern lights, the wonderful juniper berries for the Norwegian gin were harvested. Tracing the Harahorn’s tracks through abandoned mountain farms a special quality rhubarb was discovered and blueberries were harvested in the deep forests of the Norwegian lowlands. And there you have it: A handcrafted small batch gin. Palate: F
A big surprise at the Festival was the announcement that the distillery’s Lyng Botanical Gin had won this year’s Bartender Spirit Award, one of USA’s most prestigious competitions for spirits from around the world. Impressive 99 points, and best in show! The judges were simply super impressed with the Lyng gin from Norway.
Related: The Gin of Success from Norway
“We are overwhelmed, and this was real fun. Now we will celebrate the victory,” said general manager at Det Norske Brenneri, Odd Johan Nelvik and added, “What characterizes Lyng Botanical Gin are the gentle floral tones. We have used 33 herbs, spices and flowers to bring out the ultimate experience, and obtained plants from mountains and forests”.
That being said, the distillery has its own herb garden a five-minute walk from the premises, cultivating 22 herbs under supervision of botanist Anita Knutsen. Festival guests could enjoy guided tours to the garden.
“We place great emphasis on barrel storage and use only the best Oloroso sherry barrels from Spain,” says Nelvik. “So far this year we have purchased 148 barrels,” he adds. “We now have over 1.300 barrels. A barrel can be used for 25 years. We purchased several fortified wine barrels from France, Spain and Portugal, but also cognac barrels from Bourbon among others.”
I don’t think I’d ever been so excited to go on a trip. I was going to Grimstad – that magical village where they make aquavit, whisky and gin like no other and was going to mark the releases of several new ones.
My trip to Grimstad wasn’t just about visiting a distillery. For me, it was about visiting a small village where aquavit, whisky and gin play such leading roles, a village teeming with history. And now, every time I drink an Arvesølvet aquavit, I think about that trip, and it brings back many happy memories.
Aquavit and Whisky Festival in Southern Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Tor Kjolberg / Daily Scandinavian