Norwegian Chef Eyvind Hellstrøm was part owner of the two stars Michelin restaurant Bagatelle in Oslo and president of the Bocuse D´Or Europe, but also a TV personality, who in 2013 developed his own aquavit. The Norwegian-Italian design company Olssøn Barbieri was asked to design the bottle.
By the end of December same year, when Christmas-time was approaching, a new chapter was added to the Scandinavian assortment of liquors.
Aquavit has for a long time been a part of Norwegian traditions and it is usually consumed on special occasions and national holidays, such as Christmas and the 17th May (Norway’s constitution day). The name stems from Latin, ‘Aqua Vitae’, meaning ‘the water of life’.
In modern times Christians is celebrated all over the world. It is believed that this date was chosen to offset pagan celebrations of the Winter solstice, occurring in the northern hemisphere during the coldest season of the year. Although winter was regarded as the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the coming of lighter days after the winter solstice brought on a festive mood. The return of light (life) was a reason to celebrate that Nature’s cycle was continuing. At this time, the animals for slaughter were the fattest, flour had been processed, all the work of autumn was completed, and it was time to celebrate.
The ‘Primstav’ is an ancient Norwegian perpetual calendar stick. After Lutheranism was introduced into Norway this calendar changed its function and became agricultural almanacs, where the signs representing the Catholic saints acquired new meanings, now related to housekeeping and agriculture.
What differentiates Norwegian aquavit from that of its neighboring countries, Denmark and Sweden, is that it is based on potatoes and not grain, and it is matured in oak sherry barrels.
Aquavit can be both clear and golden, and generally has an alcoholic volume of around 40 %. The main spices used are caraway and dill. There are many varieties of Norwegian Aquavit. The different types depend on the spices used for flavoring, the length of its maturity, and the barrels within which they are stored.
Hellstrøm’s liquor, named Juleakevitt or ‘Christmas Aquavit’, reaffirms the ancient Norwegian symbols with former glory as they are enameled in gold on the bottle. The symbols on the bottle are loaded with century-old wisdom in the form of a pattern transmitting both a festive mood and a vast heritage connected to nature, farming and conviviality. Hellstrøm’s Christmas Aquavit is stored in sherry barrels for at least 12 months, and is a well-rounded aquavit.
About the bottle designers
The multidisciplinary design agency, Olsson Barbieri was founded in 2005 by Henrik Olssøn and Erika Barbieri, specializing in brand identity and packaging design with particular focus on wine/spirits, luxury, fashion, culture and art industries. Founded with the intention of working independently and without compromises in regards to conceptual development and quality of execution, the company evolves by pursuing new standards of design through research and experimentation. The company´s projects range from brand creation, visual identity, illustration and packaging design to brand design strategy and creative direction. At Visuelt 2013 the beautiful Hellstrøm Aquavit bottle was awarded the Gold price.
Norwegian Christmas Aquavit, written by Tor Kjolberg