Odin on Akvavit

When Ola told me in the interview on Norwegian Hjemmebrent nobody attempted to make their own Akvavit, I was tempted. Inspired by my visits to Denmark – and the joyous evenings with Danish friends that love Akvavit – I have done some recipe development on Akvavit in the past. I took my approach of the shelf, dusted it off, and gave it a new try.

To jump to the conclusion: I think making a great Akvavit is not that difficult. I think making a Norwegian style Akkevit is more difficult but still very doable. I will get back to that soon. First, let’s start with an introduction on Akvavit.

Akvavit is the national drink of the Scandinavian countries. Think “Sweden”, “Norway”, “Denmark”. Think “cold”, “ice”, “snow” and you are getting close. Imagine fjords, endless pine tree forests, reindeer, and so on, and the picture will almost be complete. Add solitary people that love to live on themselves, hunting, fishing, living of what the country has to offer.

And now the thing that always struck me as somewhat contradicting, when meeting with people from Scandinavia: even though most like to be on themselves and make a rational, rather than social, impression at first … when you get to know them, they “de-ice” at an incredible speed. Warmth, passion, an interest to find out what drives the other take over. Intelligent conversations, friendships that last …

Akvavit helps people in this process. To no small avail, it is the oil that keeps the engine of people meeting and getting to know each other running smoothly.

Now, as most families of drinks, Akvavit was developed as a technological innovation that rooted in a changing society. What changed and how did Akvavit came to be?

Let’s go back a few centuries. To the 13th and 14th century, to be more precise. Trade in Northern Europe boomed. The Hanze city collective had trading posts in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Germany, and the Netherlands. They even had offices as far as London and Ireland. The Hanze city collective was guided by common trade rules. Because those cities agreed to trade in a certain way (think: currency exchange rates, warranty), trade and profits soared. But in order to trade, one needs to travel.

The low countries of Holland and Northern Germany did have a lot of water, but none of it was fast flowing, fresh water. Drinking water was a great way to catch a disease. This health problem was countered by making and drinking beer. The water treatment in making beer would make it healthier to drink than ordinary water. Imagine everybody drinking beer from the age of three onward …

People sailing to and from Scandinavia or the Baltic states were usually en route for a few weeks. And beer stayed fresh for one week only. Luckily distillation was being introduced in those parts of Europe around the same time. In order to have access to a drinkable concoction, even after a few weeks at sea, beer was distilled. Distilled beer has a higher ABV and does not turn sour. Problem solved? Well, almost.

Funny thing is, that even back then, people knew they had to make cuts for heads and tails. Even funnier, from today’s perspective, is that they consequently added those heads and tails to the next distillation batch. This way, they ended up with a drink that got worse and worse with every generation.

The solution? They started adding caraway seeds to the distilled beer. Caraway was the strongest herb they knew. The taste was strong enough to mask the off-taste of the distilled beer with recycled feints … And thus … And thus Akvavit was invented!

To  be continued!



iStill University Master Distillers Course!

Coming Monday another iStill University Master Distillers Course starts. With 12 students from all over the globe. We have four participants from the UK, two from Australia, two students from the US, and one from Canada, Japan, India, and Romania!

Do you want to learn all about the science of advanced distilling? Do you want to become a successful distiller? Do you want to participate at our courses? Please contact Veronika@iStillmail.com for more information.


Important Notice on Lead Times!

Despite the huge amount of work we’ve put in keeping our lead times as short as possible by continuously optimizing our production processes, we are confronted with two developments to the contrary. First, large parts of China are – again – going in lockdown. Secondly, the war in Ukraine has an impact on component shortages as well.

What this means? New orders will see an increased lead time up to nine months. Existing orders may experience an additional one or two months in lead time as well.

Forces majeure. The state the world is in currently, in combination with continued extremely high demand for our products, results in a longer waiting time for your iStill.

The solution? Well, apart from defeating Covid and ending the war in the Ukraine, please make sure you put your orders in as quickly as possible.


iStill 5000 Upgrade!

We are upgrading the iStill 5000! Both the column and power management will see a significant performance increase.

The iStill 5000’s power management is upgraded from 90 kWh to a maximum of 120 kWh. A whopping 33% increase, resulting in faster heat-up and production times. How much faster? Well, up to 33% faster.

The column height of the iStill 5000 Hybrid will increases with 50 centimeters. We also redesigned the column’s internals in order to further optimize the vapor/liquid alcohol/water exchange phase.

Together, these two improvements allow the column to effectively handle the power increase, and translate this energy increase into more output and even better control over product quality. How much the column performance is increased? By 35% …

As of today, all orders received for the iStill 5000 will be for the new, upgraded, 120 kWh version. Retrofitting existing iStills 5000 to a higher power output is unfortunately not possible.

iStill 5000 …


Make Your Distillery Pandemic Proof with iStill!

Research via the Craft Spirits Data Project teaches us that, in the USA alone, the number of people employed in the craft distilling industry got significantly lower. In just one Covid-ridden year, the number dropped by over 43%. From 30,000 people being employed to only 17,000!

Laying off people is a way to reduce costs. Given the challenges many distillers face, as they are being confronted with government measures that limit their opportunities to generate income, a cost saving strategy makes sense. Often, craft distilleries find themselves in a “all hands on deck!”-situation.

Off course the total workload doesn’t become less, laying off people, meaning that it’s usually company ownership that need to fill in the gap. Production support staff gets laid off, and the owners – confronted with limited sales opportunities being available in the short term – take over production related tasks.

This choice works in the short term, but in the long term it’s the owner that needs to make sure new sales opportunities are developed. They are responsible for a strategy aimed at growing the company. An owner stepping into the production space basically results in cost reductions short term, but this decision also leads to turnover decrease in the longer term. Not sustainable. Not sustainable, unless you have an iStill.

Given the high level of automation, the ease of control, and the low maintenance and cleaning requirements our amazing technology gives you, an iStill saves you a little over 1 FTE (as in one fulltime employee) per year. As a business owner, you can have the iStill focus on production, where you invest your time in creating new sales opportunities. How’s that for making your distiller pandemic proof?

For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2021/11/10/istill-disruption-distilling-before-staffing/


Made Gin Scotland!

“My advent gins this year are voted for daily on FB group made GIN Scotland. They voted today and I drank 🥴Pixel Spirits Devils Staircase was the winner tonight with an overwhelming amount of the vote.

I had forgotten quite how superb this gin truly is.Delicious green cardamon, black tea and pepper notes with some sweetness. This gin is like the best chai spice mix and I can imagine warming this to make a spiced chai cocktail (planning it already). So smooth with a lovely warmth, a hug in a glass. In fact I enjoyed sipping this so much I drank my generous pour neat.

About to have a second with tonic, which brings out the citrus and smokey notes. Perfect serve is with orange twist and tonic or ginger ale.”


Congrats to Pixel Spirits for winning some more …