Peter Wilkins, of The Newfoundland Distillery Company in Clarke’s Beach, once travelled the world as a professional drinker for Sky TV on Dom Joly’s Happy Hour.
His business partner, Bill Carter, is the distiller and, as per his expertise, Wilkins is the taster. However they’ve worked it out, their products are a first in Newfoundland.
The Aquavit, which hit NLC shelves just last week is, according to their press release, “the first spirit ever produced in Newfoundland that has been fully grown and legally distilled in the province.” So they have the skills to make it from start to finish and they have the smarts to word that carefully enough not to tread on yer Nan’s toes, who has been making her own bathtub batches for ages.
The barley for the mash is grown on the west coast of Newfoundland; the water is from Springdale. They smoke peat and juniper on the beach near their distillery, and savoury plays the herbal role usually reserved for dill and caraway in a Scandinavian aquavit. The whole thing is slightly sweetened with Tuck’s Bee Better Farm honey from Grand Falls.
But why Aquavit? Their Vodka, Gin, and Seaweed Gin are selling well at the NLC since they debuted them this past summer, and rum and whisky take time to age. Aquavit, on the other hand, can work like a whiskey in your life, but it is a young spirit, un-aged. With a little more time, we will get a whiskey from them as well.
But the aquavit is here now and Alleluia! Let us join the Nordic countries in celebrating a spirit that celebrates local flavours. It is for sitting on the floor and sipping out of a shot glass while eating cool ranch Doritos, or on the rocks while listening to records and passing out fancy finger foods.
It is great in hot spiced wine (“glögg”), and since it hasn’t been flogged to death, it allows our bartenders some exciting elbow room in which to get creative with their own aquavit cocktails.
Wilkins says you have full permission to sprinkle it with dill or anise to bring on the more traditional old world flavours, but he confessed he hasn’t had a chance to experiment with serving suggestions because he can’t stop drinking it straight from the glass.
He is genuinely delighted as he exclaims of his product, “I’m rather amazed at how good it is!”
It is awfully more-ish as is. But for fun, here is my family’s recipe for Glögg that, finally, after years of substituting with bourbon, I can finally make as good and Aunt Sally intended.
Recipe for Glögg: “A Very Hearty Drink, Warm and Sneaky”
1 Gallon port wine (or any cheap handle/box of red)
4 oz slivered almonds
1/3 C raisins
2 cardamom seed pods (optional)
spices: Put these in a tea ball –
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried orange peel
Combine everything and simmer for 40 minutes. Add one fifth Aquavit. Serve warm.