In what could truly prove to a be a study in how climate affects whiskey maturation, Norway’s Aurora Spirit Distillery has released what it is calling the world’s northernmost whisky. The whisky is a single malt called Bivrost, which is a Viking word that refers to the Norse myth of the Northern Lights being the bridge between Asgard and our world (Middle Earth). It’s made from barley sourced from Viking Malt in Finland and glacial water from the Lyngen Alps. The malt is mashed and fermented into wash at Mack brewery in the village of Nordkjosbotn, 70 km south of the distillery, and then transported to the distillery’s wash tanks. “As of now we do not have any plans to do our own wash,” said a rep for the distillery. “We trust it to the ones who have been doing this for almost 150 years. We are however conducting several different experiments regarding our whisky development, including utilizing local Arctic barley. This is a project we started up in 2019, where we are working together with different local farmers to produce the northernmost barley in the world for whisky production. We did two test batches last year and will continue doing batches of Arctic barley in the future.”
The whisky was matured in smaller casks to help accelerate the aging process in the relatively low temperatures in northern Norway (smaller barrels increase the surface area for greater interaction between the liquid and the wood). As in Scotch whisky maturation, a variety of casks types were used — sherry, bourbon, and virgin oak. There are plans to possibly use aquavit casks in the future as well. In the area surrounding the distillery, there is an old fort built by the Germans when they occupied Norway during WWII. The warehouses are actually old NATO bunkers that are located very close to the sea, which may play a factor in the whisky’s character as many seaside Scottish distilleries claim this proximity adds a hint of salinity to the palate. The whisky makers claim that there is very good temperature fluctuation and humidity levels in the warehouses.
The first test cask of whisky was laid down in November of 2016. The team finally got to taste it three years later, was very happy with the results, and released the first bottling this past May. As of now, supply is limited as the whisky the distillery has laid down continues to mature. The team is looking at 2025 as the year when it will launch its flagship Bivrost Whisky. Until then, plans are to release two smaller-scale, limited-edition whiskies each year as collectors’ items. The current release is called Niflheim, named after the “world of fog” in Norse mythology, and is available in a few European countries (although Master of Malt apparently ships internationally). Tasting notes include balsa wood, peppercorn, and maple syrup flavors. The next release, due out in November of this year, will be called Nidavellir, which refers to the “world of darkness.” It was aged in bourbon casks and finished in “ex-Islay red wine casks.”
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