I am Jonas Odland, Master Blender for Swedish aquavits. We've just opened our new distillery. AMA!
I've been working as a Master Blender for 22 years, specializing in Swedish aquavits. The most known and popular is O.P. Anderson. I spend my days in a lab, extracting flavour from spices to create new products. A great aquavit comes down to craftsmanship and that's why we've just released a new documentary about our new distillery and the people who thrive to create an amazing product. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1orZomXx08 Proof: http://imgur.com/sNZFsUJ I'll start answering questions at 9AM CET
Edit: I am answering questions until 10:30 CET (4:30AM EST), back again at 4:00PM CET (10:00AM EST) I will be answering questions the same times tomorrow (June 21:st)
Edit 2: I need to check out now but, post your questions and i will answer as many as I can when I check in tomorrow :)
Edit 3: Checking out now 11 CET but keep posting! Back 4:00PM CET
Edit 4: Questions still to be answered, so I will check in again tomorrow 10AM CET to do that, so if you have more things to ask just post them.
Edit 5: Checking out. Thanks a lot for all interesting questions, it has been fun to answer them. I hope you have found my answers helpful! I wish you all a nice summer!
The base is the same, pure neutral alcohol but an Aquavit is spiced with Caraway and or Dill seed and also other spices. Traditionally drunk in the Scandinavian countries as a Shot together with food, in particular when a Swedish smorgasbord is served.
Which spirit will you choose for snaps at midsummer?
Aquavit of course! I always have a couple of different products with different spicing at hand to get the most of out of the taste combinations with the different dishes. You should select the type aquavit to fit with the food since the spirit will enhance the taste of the food and if the spicing also fits it will be amazing!
Is it true that Skåne is simply diluted OP?
For non Swedes: Skåne Aquavit is the second most sold Swedish Aquavit after O.P. Anderson Aquavit. It was launched in 1931 when there was a demand for a milder less spicy aquavit. Yes, it is true. It was based on the recipe of O.P., and to make it milder they simply halved the amount of the same spices (Caraway, Aniseed, Fennel)
Then I have a question regarding this subject.
Is Norrlands Aquavit stronger version of OPA?
For non Swedes: This is Norrlands Aquavit.
Take that back! :(
Norrlands is good, but it feels a bit stronger to the taste.
I actually didn't know there really was a "Norrlands" akvavit, will definitely get that for this year's midsummer smorgasbord :)
Gammal Norrlands Akvavit has been around since 1929. It is also based on the same three spices as OPA and Skåne, the objective was the same as for Skåne but the milder taste was achieved through rounding of with Oloroso sherry instead of lowering the spice level. It has since then been a favorite especially among Aquavit lowers in northern Sweden (Norrland is the geographic name for northern Sweden) As well as the "Original" OPA it has won several gold medals in IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competinion)
American here, my mother is from Sweden and she brought me up like a proper Swedish boy by making me appreciate aquavit. She always has a bottle of Skåne in the freezer but now I think I'll have to give her a bottle of yours so we can do some taste comparison. Personally I've always thought Skåne was a little too weak for my taste.
Swedish snaps are very hard to find in the US. For some reason it seems relatively easy to find the Norwgian Linie Aquvait. There's an American acquavit from Portland, OR called Krogstad.
O.P. Anderson Aquavit has been sold in the US from time to time in the past. Last time was in the beginning of the 00's. But I have good news! It will be back again soon! Right now we are in the phase of getting all the import permits and legal stuff in place. My guess is that it will be available again in 2018. :)
That is indeed good news. I usually have to stock up on OP or have relatives bring it so I have it for midsummer. I'm doing my best to indoctrinate Americans with midsummer and after a handful of years of doing it I now get around 60 people to turn out so having OP on hand is key.
Sounds like you are a fantastic ambassador for OP and good Swedish drinking culture! Keep on your good work! :) The importer in the US will be: www.frederickwildman.com
What do you think about Bäska Droppar?
I like it! But I think it is best used as a digestive after the meal. It is a bitter tasting spirit spiced with wormwood, cinnamon, angelica root, bitter orange and blessed thistle (a herb used in many old medicinal recipes). The bitter taste really refreshes you after a heavy meal. Not easy to pair with food though. It is really strong in flavor, very bitter, so it will be to overpowering for most dishes. For most people it is an acquired taste, something you need to try several times before you get the hung of it. It is a bit like coffee or beer but on a different level, the first time you taste it you usually don't like it, but after some time you get hooked on it. :)
Two questions: What's the oddest or weirdest flavor of aquavit you've tried (or made)?
Is there any flavoring that you thought sounded good in theory, but turned out to be a disaster in practice?
Well I have tried some weird spirits.... Spirit with flavor of ants, not so dramatic in taste, a bit sour. Then of course snake infused spirit, rather common in Asia, a bit scary but not tasting a lot. Mustard and garlic may sound good but are really awful in practice.
What is the most memorable moment in your career so far?
O that was a hard one ;) But I would say that it was a the 5:th of May this year when we opened our new Aquavit distillery in the city of Sundsvall in the middle of Sweden. That was a really nice and rewarding moment!
Not taboo at all :) Lately it has been a lot of interest in Aquavits from bartenders/mixologists! Actually I am not particularly good at making cocktails, but there are others that are awesome. Check out the link below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im7KP6766yg&list=PLPr1o12ioO7OkJvfwYXTGAoXpwr2PHDLr
Why do you think o.p andersson is the most popular aquavit in sweden? What makes people pick O.P over other aquavits?
Thank you for great product, I already have my bottle of o.p ready for midsummer.
I think there are several reasons. The classic spice combination of Caraway, Aniseed and Fennel is a fantastic taste combination together with the different pickled herring dishes which are a must on the smorgasbords. It is also the oldest Swedish Aquavit launched 1891 with a fantastic design. I hope you will enjoy your OPA on Friday! :)
What kinds of foods pair especially well with aquavit? Do you have any pairing recommendations for beginners?
The classic and fantastic combination is with pickled herring. For Swedes this perhaps nothing new, but how to get the most out of it is not common knowledge. Most people just shot the aquavit ice cold in one gulp. Which is a custom dating back to the 19th century when the spirit was very impure and bad tasting, to get it down as easy a possible people drunk it ice cold as quick as possible in order not to taste the bad fusel oil in the spirit. Today the spirit is really pure so you should not drink it to cold because you will miss the good taste of the spices. To maximize the enhancing effect on the food you should sip it together with the food. Try it, you will like it :)
So what would be the optimal drinking temperature of snaps given that the fusel oil is not present today?
Should we store snaps in the +4-8 °C refrigerator or in a regular cupboard?
After eating a lot of sushi I can recognize that the flavours expand better with room temperature (than with cold from the store). This carries over to spirits as well?
I think you are on the right track in your thinking :) My recommendation is to use the fridge +4-8 for most traditional occasions. When you drink it with pickled herring or other cold dishes. Together with cheese I would say room temperature is best. As well as if you drink it on it's own like a cognac or whisky and want to experience the full aroma profile of the product. Especially recommended when enjoying cask matured Aquavit.
This! Need answers til friday
Just in time for Swedish midsummer
Other really good combinations are: Aquavit and cured hard cheese. Like the Swedish Västerbotten cheese, Cheddar or for Spanish Manchego. Dill seed spiced Aquavits and sea food. For example O.P. Anderson Klar and bleak roe (löjrom) or other caviar with sour cream and red oinion dices is an amazing taste experience.
Which snapsvisa pairs best with aquavit? Why?
The one you like most! But remenber to sip the Aquavit to the food also!
What's your favorite glogg recipe?
"Glögg" is the name for the Swedish type of spiced wine, drunk hot in Christmas time. My favorite is the classical Swedish recipe, sweet and spicy. Made from red wine, fortified wines, sugar and spiced with cloves, ginger and cardamom. The original recipe sold under the brand name "Blossa" Yummy! :)
Why is it that Aquavit must have some certain ingredients to be called Aquavit?
OP Andersson and Norrlands Aquavit are my favorites
Edit: bad memory
From the beginning Aquavit was a medicinal drink, medicinal herbs and spices were steeped in spirit and then used as medicine. The name Aquavit is from Latin "Aqua Vitae" meaning "water of life". A lot of those spices were used to improve digestion and caraway was one on them. Over the years it developed to be something you drank also for the taste and intoxication. From that followed that the spicing that was best with the food became most used and Aquavit turned into a term used for Caraway spiced spirits. Nice choice of favorites! :)
So the alcohol was just a side effect of needing to suspend the botanicals in a solution? Was the alcohol thought to have some beneficial properties too?
On a side note; are there any good Swedish restaurants in London that you would recommend for a smogasbord and Aquavit evening?
Alcohol in it self was also believed to improve health and it was actually alcohol that first were named "water of life". The traces of that is the name for wine distillate "Eau-de-Vie" and "Whisky" (originally "Uisge Beatha" water of life in gaelic). When the spirit was combined with the medicinal herbs it turned into a even more potent medicine. The history behind both today's Aquavits and Gins.
What education do you have? What knowledge is recommended for a master blender? Also: how much snaps do you consume during a year?
I have a Master in Biology and Chemistry. A good natural science knowledge is needed to master the processes of extracting flavors from spices and herbs. Then you need to have a great interest in tastes and flavors in general, to really enjoy food and drinks is important to be able to develop your sense for taste and to create a memory bank for flavors. I don't belive that I have been born with a "super nose", most people have the physiological ability, motivation and training is the key. How much snaps I consume? I have no idea, I for sure taste more in my work than I consume privately. But of course at the traditional festivities and othervise as soon as I think it will give me a taste experience with the food or in a cocktail :)
I've ordered a bottle of O.P. Andersson 125 Years Anniversary Edition, is it any good?
Do you make your own snaps, for consumption at home? Any recommendations when it comes to spices/things to add to it.
I've currently got 2 bottles of beska droppar waiting for midsummer. I've also tried making my own blackcurrant which was decent, but slightly too fruity for me.
O.P. Anderson 125 Y A E was made last year to celebrate the anniversary of O.P. Anderson Original launched in 1891. 44 %vol as the strength 1891.
I think it is great! But I have made it so that may not be a surprise ;) But to be serious, I have got a lot of positive feedback from a lot of people! Compared to the Original it has more spices and includes three different kinds of cask matured O.P. adding cask character. In the blend I have used Aquavit aged on three types of casks. Oloroso Sherry, Cognac and Whisky. The last being Bourbon barrels used for Scotch Malt Whisky before I have used them for maturation of O.P. Anderson. The 125 blend includes Aquavit matured between 3 and 16 years.
Har du några tips på kryddor som vanligtvis inte används men som är goda när man sätter egen snaps?
Fresh herbs are good to use for "Home spicing", they will give taste to the spirit quickly. You can just put the herb directly in the bottle for a couple of hours to get fresh herb notes in your spirit. Zest from citrus fruits are also good to use in the same manner. Don't leave the infused stuff in the bottle to long because it will add bitter notes over time. Be aware also that your "snaps" will loose the fresh notes in couple of days, so it should be consumed rather soon after it has been made.
With midsummer coming up, how do I best get my friends to enjoy aquavit?
Tell them to really taste the aquavit with the food, not just gulp it, to get the 1+1=3 experience. And serve the Aquavit just chilled or at room temp.
I know some people like to drink their snaps cold and some maybe room temperature. What temperature do you recommend drinking aquavit in? Does it depend on the type or?
Thank you for op. I simply love it :)
It depends on the type, and also on which situation you drink it. With food in general chilled 4-8C to cold dishes and otherwise room temperature. Cask matured Aquavits are really good to drink neat in a tulip formed glass like a Cognac, then room temp is best. Some types with aromatic flavors, for example Elderflower or Anise, can also be served as a pre-dinner drinks on ice. And of course ice is suitable when Aquavit is used in cocktails.
What's the historical reason for drinking snaps at midsummer?
It is the connection to the smorgasbord. It started in the 18th century when people coming to dinner as a welcoming treat were served the "Brännvinsbord", small dishes and accompanying spiced and non spiced spirits (vodka). That then developed into the Swedish Smorgasbord with all it's different dishes including the custom to drink different kinds of spirits with the food. The smorgasbord then developed to be the Swedish way of celebrating festivities and that way Aquavit and other spiced spirits were included in the traditions of celebration.
What does "Master Blender" entail?
master blenders aim to consistently recreate the same flavours in their spirits despite varying ingredients, or in some cases, blend new spirits given a mandate from marketing or discovery of a forgotten barrel, new botanical etc. they're the reason that distilleries maintain certain hallmark flavours and styles over decades, most scotch master blenders have decades of experience at their distillery.
What? Also, hoping for an answer from u/MasterBlenderJonas :)
The answer you got above is the classical definition from the whisky industry and applies also to other cask matured spirits where blending products from the cask stock is the main thing. In my job this is one part, but since Aquavits are products made from spices a lot of time is spent on those. It is very important to secure the quality over time, which is a challenge since the growing conditions are different from year to year and give different properties to the spices. This done by testing and tasting a lot of samples in order to find a batch that gives the right character. In addition I also develop new recipes from different raw materials. Extracting or distilling to get out the best flavors from the botanicals. So I am happy to also have these things on my agenda in addition to the more "traditional" Master Blender chores.
Either you can make a "instant" spicing with fresh herbs and fruits. Like I wrote in another answer. Or you can make separate concentrated extracts and use portions of them to blend your final product, that way it is easier to adjust how much taste you get from each botanical and to fine tune your recipe by making a small test blend first to check the result before blending a bigger batch. For recipes you will find a lot on the web.
What is your favourite Swedish competitor (as in outside the Altia/Folkofolk sphere) the when it comes to aquavit and why?
What do you think of the "emerging" destillery scene in Sweden with small producers entering the market?
Actually I don't look upon them as competitors more as colleagues working with us to develop the culture around Swedish Aquavit. As long as their products are made with care and craftsmanship from real spices and botanicals I welcome them. I am afraid that I have seen some opportunistic products that probably don't even fulfill the legal requirements to be called Aquavit.
If I'd never tried snaps before, which snaps would you recommend me to try?
If you are a beginner in the world of Aquavits the most important thing is to sip the Aquavit. Then you will perceive the fine flavors without being overwhelmed by the alcohol burn.
Got any recipes for mixed drinks with aquavit? What alcohols/juices/flavors work best with aquavit if I wanted to experiment?
I really encourage you to experiment! Check out what these guys do for inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im7KP6766yg&list=PLPr1o12ioO7OkJvfwYXTGAoXpwr2PHDLr
Hello Jonas. I am a new drinker as I just turned 21 in the states. From one of your comments you don't sell your products in the states yet. If I wanted to try aquavits what would be a good brand to try that is available in the states?
There is the US Krogstad Aquavit, I have not tasted it yet though so I can not say anything about how it is compared to Nordic Aquavit. You can also find the Norwegian Linie Aquavit which is a typical example of a traditional cask matured Norwegian style Aquavit.
Do you drink during work?
No, but it taste and spit a lot ;)
Is there any major differences in aquavit made in different countries? For example Norway vs Iceland?
To make it short and sweet this is the rule/tradition for the other Nordic countries: Norwegian Aquavit is Caraway dominated and always cask matured for at least 6 months so the cask character is a big part of the flavor. Danish Aquavit is Caraway spiced without any maturation so a rather strong Caraway spiciness is characteristic. Sweden has both of these types, though Swedish Aquavit always uses some maturation of the spice distillates before blending them in the products. O.P. Anderson is one example, with 6 months maturation to round of the spices. In addition Swedish tradition also includes other spices, fruits and herbs also used without any caraway or dill seed, so these are not Aquavit by definition. I short the Swedish palette of products is more varied than in the other Nordic countries. Finnish Aquavit is almost non existent, I Finland vodka is used instead of spiced spirits. I am not familiar with Icelandic Aquavit I am afraid.
What do you think of Absolut? Also how many times do you think is appropriate to make a non-Swede sing Helan går at a crayfish party?
Absolut is a quality vodka with a rather distinct grain character (for a vodka) That drinking song is almost considered to be the second national anthem of Sweden, but even so, once I think is enough. :)
Since you're a good blender... Can you make chocolate milkshake or are u vegan?
I stick to Aquavit :) Good to know though is that Aquavit is completely "safe" to drink for vegans.
I heard from my partly russian friend that in Russia they believe hangover is caused by the methanol in the vodka. He says that in the distilling process methanol is always produced in small quantities and the better the vodka, lower the methanol concentration. That is why hangover is in Russia considered the be a "sickness" of the poor people. Is there any truth to this?
It is not really true. Hangover is mainly due to over consumption of ethanol (the "normal" alcohol) in whatever form it is consumed. It is correct that in natural fermentation of sugar to alcohol (ethanol) a lot of other substances are formed, some of those will distill over during distillation and end up in the distillate. Among those are fusel oils (different higher alcohols) and methanol. Methanol is very poisonous if consumed pure, it will kill you, that unfortunately happens when people are buying "moonshine" but are sold stolen methanol (pure methanol is used in industrial processes). The methanol in distilled products are though harmless, it is low in concentration and the ethanol in the product is actually a protection against methanol poisoning. This is due to that methanol will be a danger first after being metabolized in the liver resulting in dangerous substances. Methanol and ethanol is degraded a the same "sites" but ethanol "fits" better. The reason being that during the evolution our bodies have been adjusted to metabolize ethanol (eating by eating fermented fruits). So as long as ethanol is present the methanol will be intact and leave the body without causing any harm. The first treatment of methanol poisoning is to give the patient normal alcohol to drink. The purity of the distillate will though have an impact on hang over due to that our bodies will have more substances to take care of if the spirit is less pure. So a pot-still distilled spirit will give you more hangover (cognac, whisky,..) than a column distilled spirit (vodka, gin aquavit,..) if you over consume them but the main part of the suffering is due to the same ethanol.
What's the difference between aquavit and vodka?
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