Aquavit in the US
Aquavit’s roots in Scandinavia go back centuries, at least to the early 1500s, when it was praised for its alleged medicinal policies. In Northern Europe there are dozens of brands of aquavit. Few of these make it to the United States, and the number that do dwindled in number until recently.
Fortunately, a handful of American distillers have seized the opportunity to make their own renditions of the spirit, most of them in the Pacific Northwest or the Northern Midwest. Imports to the United States have also revived as Nordic distillers see new interest in the spirit. Under American regulations, all aquavit must be flavored with caraway, but the addition of other botanicals gives aquavit a very wide range of flavors.
Below is a list of aquavits one may find in American liquor stores. If there are any I am missing, please let me know.
Aalborg Jubilæums — This aquavit was created for the 100th anniversary of Aalbord Taffel aquavit in 1946. It is flavored with dill and coriander, along with a extract of American white oak.
Aalborg Taffel — A traditional clear Danish-style table aquavit flavored with caraway. The 45% abv recipe was reintroduced to the United States this year.
Åhus — Åhus akvavit is distilled in Åhus, a tiny village in southern Sweden. The base spirit is made from winter wheat and it is flavored with five botanicals, each separately macerated and distilled: caraway, rosemary, lemon peel, fennel, and Seville orange. It is bottled at 38% abv.
Aqua Vitae — An aquavit made in California that is made with traditional aquavit spices along with sage, ginger, grapefruit, and orange peel.
Bäska Snaps med Malört — Traditional bitter liqueur made by infusing aquavit with wormwood and other botanicals, then lightly sweetening the mixture. Distilled in France.
Blekksprutt — A blend of flavors round out this unaged aquavit, the botanicals including caraway, dill, coriander, fennel, and anise. Distilled in Seattle by Sound Spirits.
Blinking Owl — Made from a base spirit of wheat and malted barley and macerated with ten botanicals, including caraway, dill, and hibiscus. Made in Orange County, California.
Bon Akevitt — Distilled in Smithville, Texas and infused with caraway, anise, dill, and clove before ageing for at least six months in whiskey barrels.
Brennivin — Also known as the “Black Death” of Iceland. Dave Grohl’s favorite. Caraway-forward, well-balanced, and approachable.
Brennivin 80th Anniversary Edition — Brennivin’s 80th anniversary edition is aged for one year in a sequence of new American oak barrels, bourbon barrels, and Islay Scotch barrels.
Brennivin Special Cask Selection Winter Aquavit — A very limited release aged six months in sherry and bourbon casks.
CH Aquavit — Distilled in Chicago with caraway seeds, fennel, fresh dill, cardamom pods and grains of paradise.
Devil’s Head Distillery — A 100% grain-to-glass aquavit distilled from malted barley, featuring seven different botanicals, with caraway the prominent. Made in Englewood, CO.
Gamle Ode Celebration — Dill, caraway, coriander, juniper, star anise, vanilla, and orange and lemon peels are among the botanicals in this complex aquavit. It’s aged in a mix of barrels, half used for 45th Parallel’s Border Bourbon and half used for the Gamle Ode Holiday aquavit. Distilled in Wisconsin by 45th Parallel for Gamle Ode in Minneapolis.
Gamle Ode Celebration on Rye — This version of Celebration was aged in rye whiskey barrels for sixteen months and bottled at just over 100 proof. Distilled in Wisconsin by 45th Parallel for Gamle Ode in Minneapolis.
Gamle Ode Dill — A personal favorite. A Danish-style dill aquavit with a very distinctive aroma complemented by a light touch of caraway and juniper. Excellent sipped chilled or mixed into cocktails. Distilled by 45th Parallel in Wisconsin for Gamle Ode in Minneapolis.
Gamle Ode Holiday — A “jule” style aquavit with holiday spices. The botanicals include dill, caraway, juniper, orange peel, mint, and allspice, and it’s aged for six months in wine barrels from Alexis Bailly Vineyard. Released once a year. Distilled by 45th Parallel in Wisconsin for Gamle Ode in Minneapolis.
Gamle Ode Holiday on Rye — A limited edition of Gamle Ode’s Holiday aquavit aged 18 months in barrels previously used to age New Richmond’s rye whiskey. Bottled at 100.47 proof.
Green Hat Ginavit — Not quite an aquavit. A gin-aquavit hybrid from Green Hat in Washington, DC, aged in Laird’s apple brandy barrels. A limited release for the winter.
Hardware Distillery — Unaged aquavit produced in Hood Canal, Washington.
Holen — An aquavit distilled by Pilot House Spirits in Astoria, Oregon, made with caraway, dill, porcini mushroom, local fresh spruce tips local, bee pollen, Fuji apples, and aged in a Pinot noir barrel.
House Spirits Small Batch Aquavit — This is a very limited edition spirit, with just over 100 375 ml bottles available for sale at the House Spirits tasting room. Aged for several years and flavored with caraway, anise seed, grains of paradise, and dill. Now sold out.
Hven Organic Aquavit — This organic aquavit from Sweden is aged in oak prior to and after distillation, and flavored with caraway, lemon and orange zests, St. John’s wort, and honey.
Krogstad Festlig — The popular “festive” aquavit from House Spirits in Portland. Flavored with caraway and star anise, with the anise taking a leading role. Very nice chilled and distinctive in cocktails.
Krogstad Gamle — Krogstad’s “Gamle” aquavit is aged for 10-12 months in French oak wine barrels. The strong anise and caraway flavors still stand out, but the ageing softens the spirit for enjoying neat.
Long Road — Distilled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Long Road features a blend of caraway, fresh dill, dill seed, cumin, star anise, fennel and about a dozen other botanicals.
Lysholm Linie —The most widely available Scandinavian aquavit in the United States. Distilled from potatoes and flavored primarily with caraway and anise, this spirit is uniquely aged for about four months in sherry barrels that travel by ship twice across the equator. A very smooth aquavit. Made in Norway.
Minions VänSkap Aquavit — Deriving its name from the Swedish for “friendship,” this aquavit from Fargo, North Dakota advertises notes of citrus, fennel, star anise, caraway, coriander, juniper, and dill.
Montgomery Distillery Skadi — An aquavit from Missoula, Montana. Named after the goddess of “bowhunting, winter, mountains, and justice,” (how’s that for a resume?), Skadi is distilled with caraway, bog myrtle, dried lemon peel, and other botanicals.
Nightside Aquavit — An aquavit with notes of caraway and anise, briefly aged in American oak. Distilled in Edgewood, Washington.
North Shore Private Reserve — Flavored with caraway, cumin, coriander, and perhaps a few other spices, then barrel aged in new American oak. The cumin note lends a distinct spiciness and the barrel ageing smoothes out the edges. Distilled in Lake Bluff, Illinois, just north of Chicago.
Old Ballard Älskar — Southern Swedish style. Flavored with citrus, caraway, coriander, grains of paradise, and other spices.
Old Ballard Midsommar — Distilled with caraway and three kinds of dill, then infused with additional dill.
Old Ballard Ragnarok — 120 proof aquavit with extra spices.
Old Ballard Riktig — Norwegian style. Flavored with caraway, mustard, and spices, then rested on local alder wood.
Old Ballard Skogen — Aquavit flavored with caraway and spruce tips.
Øster Vit — This unique aquavit is infused with caraway, fennel, orange peel, and Rappahannock oyster shells before its final distillation. Made by the James River Distillery in Richmond, Virginia.
Rolling River Old Ole — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with fresh dill, dill seed, fennel, caraway, and juniper, aged in oak barrels.
Rolling River Ole Bjørkevoll — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with fresh dill, dill seed, fennel, caraway, and juniper.
Rolling River Bjørkevoll’s Holiday Aquavit — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with caraway, fennel, cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon.
Rolling River Bjørkevoll’s Gamel Holiday Aquavit — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with caraway, fennel, cardamom, allspice, and cinnamon, aged in a used cab franc barrel.
Rolling River Stilar Reserve “Brown Bear” — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with caraway fennel, orange, and hops aged in used rye whiskey barrels.
Rolling River Stilar Reserve “Wild Boar” — An aquavit from Portland, Oregon flavored with 100% caraway and aged in used rye whiskey barrels.
Rowhouse Spirits Nordic Akvavit — The first commercially produced aquavit from the East Coast of the United States, this aquavit from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is flavored with caraway, dill, and fennel.
Skaalven Distillery — A 100-proof aquavit from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Solståndet — Danish aquavit meets Dutch genever. An aquavit with a malty base, flavored with caraway, dill, and lemon. Distilled in France.
Stark Spirits — Distilled in Pasadena, California with caraway and grains of paradise.
Tattersall Aquavit — Produced in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and described as “caraway-forward with warm citrus and fennel notes.”
Temperance Regnig Dag — “Rainy Day” aquavit from Bull Run in Portland. Flavored with caraway, star anise, and fennel. Aged for one year and one month in a wine barrel.
Valhalla Aquavit — A barrel aged aquavit (mix of American and French oak) flavored with seven different botanicals. Produced in Houston, Texas.
Venus Spirits Aquavit — Distilled in Santa Cruz California. An aquavit flavored with caraway, juniper, coriander, orange, and anise.
Vikre Øvrevann — Norwegian for “Upper Lake,” referring to Lake Superior. Flavored with caraway and cardamom, distilled in Duluth, Minnesota.