Thursday, December 12, 2013

Crossing the Line—Twice

Ever wondered whether it’s really true that the bottle of Linie Akuavit on your Christmas dinner table was loaded in the hold of a ship and sailed over the Equator and back?

Well, it’s true, and here’s the story.

In 1805, the cargo ship Trondhjem’s Prøve sailed with goods to Indonesia, including five oak casks of Norwegian “aqua vitae,” or water of life, made by distiller Jørgen B. Lysholm. The ship’s captain failed to sell the casks, and in December 1807 they returned to Trondheim. When the casks were opened and sampled a second time, Lysholm and friends discovered that the two years in the casks, plus the constant motion of the ship and the changing temperature and humidity, all dramatically enhanced the balance and aroma of their akuavit. Lysholm eventually joined with exporters to South American markets, regularly stowing oak barrels of akuavit on their ships, not to sell in Rio, but for the unique benefits of aging at sea.

Today, fresh batches of Linie casked in retired oak sherry barrels depart once a month for a 19-week voyage that can call in ports in up to 35 countries. On any given day more than one thousand barrels of akuavit are maturing as deck cargo on the world’s oceans.

Want to know where your bottle has been? It’s all right there on the backside of the label: dates of departure and arrival, and the route the akuavit traveled via Australia before returning to Norway.

For more about akuavit, modern-day distillers and even akuavit cocktail recipes, check out Viking’s December 2013 feature “A Scandinavian Spirit Revived” by Denise Logeland. Or visit Linie's website. 

Ann Pedersen is editor of Viking magazine. She lives and enjoys akuavit with her family in St. Paul, Minn.

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