7 things you never knew about Aquavit
- The name Aquavit comes from the Latin Aqua vitae – the water of life. This is the same origin as the French Eau de vie and Gaelic “Uisqhe beatha” (the latter of which has been anglified to Whiskey).
- Aquavit can in principle be made from any neutral spirit which is then flavoured with herbs or spices – most commonly caraway and dill, but coriander, fennel, anisseed and citrus peel is also common.
- In Norway potato is the most common base – whereas in Denmark and Sweden they often use grains.
- The minimum strength allowed is 37.5%.
- Whilst aquavit today is a largely Scandinavian thing, the origins point towards the Netherlands, where they have been making Jenever since the 1500s. Also from a grain base spirit, but flavoured with juniper berries (so it is also often referred to as Dutch gin).
- The term ‘Taffel’ aquavit is used to denote a clear aquavit – these are not matured. A yellowish, golden or light rown colour indicates usually that it has been aged in oak casks (Norway), or that it is a more mature aqauvit – though small amounts of caramel colour is allowed and often used to give a consistent colour across batches.
- The oldest reference to Aquavit is found in a letter from 1531, from the, Eske Bille, the Danish lord of Bergenshus castle, to Olav Engelbrektsson, the last Roman Catholic archbishop of Norway – accopmanying a parcel “some water which is called Aqua vitae and (…) helps for all his illness that a man can have internally”.
Aaaah, now who fancies some?