Aged Spirits  

Fahrenheit 173 - Aged Spirits

"If it's not good enough to drink slowly, then it's not worth drinking"

Aged akvavit

 01 Jun 2008  

In my search for aged spirits I've looked at more and more exotic drinks, from places further and further away from my native Sweden. I've tried Grappa from Italy, rum from the Caribbean and tequila from Mexico... but the other day something struck me. I realized that there is a kind of oak-aged liqour made in my home country! I'm not talking about Swedish whisky - no, I mean the tra­di­tional Scan­din­avian fla­voured vodka called akvavit.

Akvavit is fla­voured with herbs and spices and some brands are aged in oak casks, usually old refill sherry butts. Of course, aged akvavit spends a much shorter time in wood than whisky or cognac, for instance.

For fun I decided to do a tast­ing where I nose and taste akvavit the same way I compare single malts or aged rums. Also, I might provide hints for people shopping for akvavit to drink on e.g. "midsummer's eve", the tra­di­tional Swedish holiday when akvavit is imbibed during dinner amid toasting and singing!

The process of aging akvavit is most common in Norway, where most brands are aged in wood. In Sweden only a hand­ful akvavits are aged. Denmark is a large producer of akvavit but I've only heard of one Danish oak-aged akvavit: Aalborg Nordguld. I haven't found that one, but I did buy 14 (!) Norwegian and Swedish akvavits for the tast­ing. All minis, though! =)

After tast­ing these akvavits I must admit that the best ones are really good. Good enough to drink at room temperature, sip by sip, rather than slugging them back ice cold which was how I used to drink akvavit!

My favourites - all of them from Norway - are:

Simers Oslo Aquavit:
Rather nice nose with notes of oak, orange, lemon, mint and aniseed; mild, complex palate, sweet and fruity with notes of caraway, oak and vanilla (84 p)

Gammel Reserve Aquavit:
Mild, spicy nose with notes of fennel, vanilla and rum; nice, bal­anced palate, fairly sweet with lime offset by spicy notes (83 p)

Gilde Taffel Aquavit:
Nice nose with notes of caraway and orange peel; nice, fresh, fruity palate with more orange (blood orange this time) joined by aniseed in the finish (83 p)

Gammel Opland Aquavit:
Nice, mild nose with notes of sherry, oak and barbecue sauce; mild, sweet, nice palate with notes of caraway and oranges; nicely bal­anced but the finish is a little fiery (82 p)

(The full list of tast­ing notes can be found here)

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