A star is born

Ironically, just about every spirit would like to be aligned with food. Aquavit – job done. But as Claus Toftkjaer, head of international marketing, says: “Wine has been booming for the past 20 years.” So the drink of sunnier climes has somewhat stolen aquavit’s clothes.

He says: “We want to extend the occasion (for drinking aquavit).” The company is looking keenly at the fast-developing ‘craft’ scene. He feels that, when it comes to craft’s criteria of history, quality, authority and provenance, aquavit ticks all the boxes. In a fast-moving, volatile, noisy market place, it is a question of whether Arcus can shout loudly enough to be heard and claim its ‘share of throat’. Frankly, being in the Nordics makes life difficult for an aspiring brand owner.


The company needs to have feet on the ground in major cities such as New York and London to have any chance of getting bartenders to make aquavit-based cocktails.

Having said that, there has been a lot of interest in Nordic culture in recent years led by Nordic Noir TV series such as The Killing, The Bridge and Wal-lander. Then there is Noma, the restaurant in Copenhagen that for a number of years was regarded the best place to eat on the planet. That was all about foraging locally for edibles including, of course, botanicals.

Toftkjaer says Norwegian aquavit is made from 95% Norwegian potatoes. There is even a single variety aquavit, Atlingstad, made only from the Mandel potato variety, which former aquavit grand master, Halvor Heuch has overseen.

Toftkjaer says there has been “increasing interest” in aquavit. In the US, Chicago in particular and in Germany with a Make a Nordic promotion, extolling aquavit in cocktails. On home turf in Copenhagen, Arucs has unveiled a Spirit of the Nordics initiative which is likely to be rolled out.

At Drinks International’s Travel Retail Challenge awards night at TFWA Cannes, a pair from Arcus were making Lysholm No 52 (caraway, star anise, corian-der, bitter orange peel and ginger), unusually a clear, unaged Norwegian aquavit with tonic, garnished with cucumber, which went down very well with the throng.

Tasting with R&D spirits director, Ivan Abrahamsen, you come to appreciate the breadth of styles within Arcus’s stable of aquavits. There is no sitting on its laurels either. It has developed aquavits to go with fish, to go with barbecue sauces. There is even a licorice-flavoured aquavit.