The Crafty Blogger
May 23, 2024

Exploring Aquavit: Scandinavia’s Spirit of Life (with a Scottish Twist)

Welcome, fellow spirit enthusiasts! Today, we embark on a flavourful journey into the world of aquavit, a storied and aromatic spirit that’s deeply rooted in Scandinavian culture. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a curious newbie, aquavit offers a unique tasting experience that’s sure to delight and surprise. So, grab a glass, settle in, and let’s dive into the heart and soul of aquavit!

Aquavit being poured into glasses

What is Aquavit?

Aquavit, or akvavit (derived from the Latin “aqua vitae,” meaning “water of life”), is a distilled spirit primarily produced in Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It typically contains 40% alcohol by volume and is flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices, most notably caraway or dill. This herbal infusion sets aquavit apart from other spirits and gives it its distinctive, complex flavour profile.

A Brief History

Aquavit has a long and storied history dating back to the 15th century. The earliest known reference to aquavit is found in a 1531 letter from a Danish lord to a Norwegian archbishop, in which the spirit was touted for its medicinal properties. Over the centuries, aquavit became a staple in Scandinavian households, often consumed during festive occasions and celebrations.

Where Does Aquavit Come From?

Aquavit’s heartland is Scandinavia, but each country within the region adds its own twist to the production process:

  • Norway: Norwegian aquavit is often aged in oak casks, which imparts a rich, golden colour and complex, woody notes. Linie Aquavit, one of the most famous brands, is known for its unique ageing process, where the spirit is shipped in barrels across the equator twice, resulting in a smoother flavour.
  • Sweden: Swedish aquavit tends to be lighter and more spiced, with a focus on fresh, bright flavours. Common botanicals include anise, fennel, and citrus peel.
  • Denmark: Danish aquavit often strikes a balance between the robust Norwegian and lighter Swedish styles. It’s typically flavoured with a harmonious blend of spices and herbs, making it versatile for various cocktails and culinary uses.

A Scottish Twist: Orkney Gin Company’s Akvavit

Orkney Akvavit

While Scandinavia may be the traditional home of aquavit, innovative distillers around the world are putting their own unique spins on this classic spirit. One standout example is the Orkney Gin Company, which has crafted its very own version of aquavit, embracing the rich heritage while infusing it with local Scottish character.

The Orkney Gin Company’s Akvavit is a delightful fusion of tradition and innovation. This Scottish interpretation of the classic spirit is crafted with a blend of traditional aquavit botanicals, including caraway and fennel, alongside locally sourced ingredients from the Orkney Islands. This results in a distinctive flavour profile that celebrates both Scandinavian and Scottish cultures.

How is Aquavit Used?

Aquavit is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in many ways:

  • Neat or Chilled: Traditionalists prefer to drink aquavit straight from the freezer. The chilled temperature enhances its smoothness and allows the intricate flavours to shine.
  • Cocktails: Aquavit adds a delightful twist to classic cocktails. Try it in place of gin or vodka in drinks like the martini or bloody mary for a Scandinavian spin. The Orkney Gin Company’s Akvavit, with its unique flavour profile, can also bring an exciting new dimension to your favourite cocktails.
  • Pairing with Food: Aquavit pairs beautifully with a variety of foods, particularly those found in traditional Scandinavian cuisine. It’s excellent with seafood, pickled herring, smoked salmon, and hearty meats like pork and beef. The Orkney Gin Company’s Akvavit also pairs wonderfully with Scottish delicacies, such as smoked fish and game meats.
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Interesting Facts About Aquavit

  1. Linie Aquavit’s Sea Voyage: As mentioned, Linie Aquavit is famous for its sea voyage ageing process. The constant movement and temperature changes during the trip are said to enhance the spirit’s flavour, giving it a distinctive smoothness.
  2. Geographical Indication: In 2007, the European Union granted Norwegian aquavit a protected geographical indication, similar to Champagne in France or Scotch whisky in Scotland. This means that only aquavit produced in Norway following specific traditions can be labelled as Norwegian aquavit.
  3. Aquavit in Culture: Aquavit often features in Scandinavian traditions and folklore. It’s a common fixture at festive occasions like Christmas and Midsummer celebrations, where it’s enjoyed in the company of friends and family, often accompanied by lively toasts and folk songs.
  4. Aquavit and Health: Historically, aquavit was believed to have medicinal properties. While it’s no longer marketed as a cure-all, its high alcohol content and herbaceous ingredients were thought to aid digestion and relieve various ailments.
  5. Scottish Innovation: The Orkney Gin Company’s venture into producing their own akvavit is a testament to the spirit’s versatility and global appeal. By incorporating local botanicals, they’ve created a product that respects traditional aquavit flavours while adding a unique Scottish twist.
Orkney Akvavit


Aquavit is more than just a spirit; it’s a cultural emblem that carries the essence of Scandinavian heritage. Whether you savour it neat, mix it into creative cocktails, or pair it with your favourite dishes, aquavit offers a unique tasting adventure that reflects the rich history and traditions of its homeland. And with innovative distillers like the Orkney Gin Company bringing their own flair to the table, the world of aquavit continues to evolve and captivate.

So next time you’re in the mood for something different, reach for a bottle of aquavit—be it a traditional Scandinavian blend or the Orkney Gin Company’s Scottish interpretation—and toast to the water of life!


A little boy wearing a blue and blue superhero costume.

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