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Cask and Still Magazine | 39

North star

Creating whisky, gin, vodka and aquavit in the Arctic Circle is all in a day’s work for Colin Houston at Aurora Spirit Written by Blair Bowman


urora Spirit is the northernmost distillery in the world. Set deep within the Arctic Circle at 69.39°N, the distillery and visitors centre is at Årøybukt in Lyngen, northern Norway, which during the Cold War was a NATO coastal fort. The distillery was built in 2015 and opened as a visitor attraction in summer 2016. It is set in the beautiful surroundings of the impressive Lyngen Alps and next to the Arctic Lyngen fjord. The distillery’s water source is filtered, glacial water from the Lyngen Alps. These glaciers were frozen more than 5,000 years ago and have gradually started to melt in the last 100 years or so. Colin Houston, managing director of Aurora Spirit, is understandably excited by the project. ‘Our distillery is set in the most beautiful location, with magnificent displays of the Aurora Borealis overhead in the winter and the midnight sun in summer,’ he says. ‘We offer visitors unique experiences that make the most of our fantastic location.’ Colin grew up in Oban, and has helped establish a link between Aurora Spirit distillery and Glenturret distillery in Crieff in Perthshire. In 2015, Aurora’s

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head distiller Gjermund Stensrud visited Glenturret for a week. ‘There’s no more traditional way of making whisky than the way they make it at Glenturret,’ says Colin. ‘So it really has been a fantastic opportunity for us to come over and share skills with the team there.’ The Aurora Spirit distillery itself is state-of-the-art and energy efficient. It is one of the most modern in Europe as it is iPad-controlled with everything connected to the internet.

The distillery’s water source is filtered glacial water from the Lyngen Alps Their products are bottled under the brand name Bivrost, which is the old Viking word for the Northern Lights. So far, they have produced Bivrost Gin with Arctic berries, juniper, roots and spices, Bivrost Vodka, Bivrost Aquavit and in November 2019, the first Bivrost Whisky will reach three years of maturation. They get the mash for their whisky from the northernmost brewery in the world, Mack Brewery in Nordkjosbotn, which is then distilled at Aurora Spirit

distillery some 70km further north. Due to the very low temperatures, the whisky will take longer to mature. To speed things up, they have been maturing their spirit in smaller casks, allowing for more contact with the wood. The distillery source their casks from the Speyside Cooperage in Craigellachie and store them in the secret, abandoned NATO tunnels deep underground in an attempt to reduce the angels’ share (or Odin’s share as they prefer to call it). The temperature variation of around 40 degrees between winter (-20°C) and summer (+20°C) will create interesting and unique interactions with the maturing spirit. The rise in temperature will increase the pressure in the cask, allowing the spirit to penetrate deeper into the wood. The owners are confident that Nordic drinks, namely aquavit, will be the next big trend. In 2016, ‘hygge’, the Scandinavian concept of cosiness, became popular, and Aurora Spirit believe that they are perfectly placed to tap into the growing interest in Scandinavian products. Skål to that! Clockwise from top left: Aurora‘s state-of-the-art distillery; Hans, Tor, and Anne-Lise founded Aurora; copper stills; Viking advertising; Aurora borealis over Aurora; Bivrost vodka.

09/11/2017 11:25:49

Cask & Still Magazine - Issue 6  

Behind the scenes in the Arctic Circle at the world's most northerly distillery. Also, the Irish whiskey industry is growing rapidly, but co...

Cask & Still Magazine - Issue 6  

Behind the scenes in the Arctic Circle at the world's most northerly distillery. Also, the Irish whiskey industry is growing rapidly, but co...