Upon opening their Duluth distillery, Joel and Emily Vikre released a trio of excellent gins. Their newest effort nicely showcases the same prowess with which botanical blending their gins began.
“We’re really, really pleased with how it turned out. I think it might be my favorite of our spirits,” says Emily, of her Øvrevann Aquavit. Released in time for Norwegian Constitution Day, it’s an aquavit that gives a reverent nod to the Scandinavian stuff, but feels more balanced and nuanced. Like those of Gamle Ode, it’s an aquavit that involves botanical blends that stray from the traditionally dominant flavors of caraway and dill. These are aquavits meant to be appreciated on their own merits, rather than as a way to cut the weight of an intensely rich meal.
“There were tons of small-scale aquavit producers making the spirit with a wide range of flavor profiles,” Emily continues. “That tradition is reviving in Scandinavia, and it’s sort of rippling across the US too (especially because of the interest in Nordic cuisine, I think) with more and more craft distilleries trying their hands at aquavit, and doing some unique things with it. Our aquavit was inspired by immigrant stories and by Scandinavian baked goods.”
Besides caraway, Øvrevann features cardamom, orange peel, and peppercorn in its mix of botanicals. The spirit begins with that sharp grainy-caraway taste familiar to aquavits but deftly evolves past the one-note to a full octave: Citrus undertones give those spice highlights a nice baseline. It’s pleasant enough to sip on its own, but boasts a distinct herbal character that we can imagine being a wonderful mixer in cocktails.
On that end, Emily recommends using it in place of gin in a Negroni or replacing half of the whiskey in an old fashioned. “It’s delicious with lemonade, herbal sodas, or even in a Bloody Mary — we call it a bloody viking then,” says Emily. “I’ve gotten really into sipping aquavit sours as a nice, refreshing drink as the weather finally starts warming up.”
An additional adventure is on the horizon for Vikre’s aquavit. They’re planning to age some in cognac barrels on ships on Lake Superior this summer, the idea being to emulate the kind of aging that would have happened a couple centuries earlier for barreled spirits on transatlantic voyages.
Find Øvrevann at France 44, Stinson Wine and Spirits and Surdyk’s.