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Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

Söl and Hvönn: Distilling the spirit of Iceland into small-batch, hand-crafted Brennivín

By Staff

  • Hvönn A traditional Icelandic Brennivín, infused and distilled with wilde Icelandic angelica and blueberries, spiced with caraway. Photo/Hálogi distillery

In Iceland things tend to happen fast. It is a key characteristic of Icelandic society, and Icelandic mentality: Perhaps it is a side effect of the weather which can change on the turn of a dime, from sun to rain, storm or freezing temperatures to clear skies. Or perhaps it is the conclusion to centuries of fishermen waiting for the fish, and then rushing to the boats when it swam into the fjord? Whatever the explanation, when Icelanders get a good idea they tend to act on that idea and make things happen.

Began with a heavy-metal band, a bottle of moonshine and a wedding
The story of Hálogi distillery/Spirits of Iceland, which produces the new hand-crafted akvavit Söl and Hvönn is one of those stories. The first steps were taken in the summer of 2015, when a local artist and engineer's son, who plays in a heavy-metal band, appropriately called "Black Death", was paid for a gig in a bottle of moonshine for playing at a wedding. Rán Jónsdóttir decided the spirit should be put to some more sensible use than drink, and the mother-son team then set about experimenting with infusing small samples with various local herbs. 

sól, Hvönn akvavit
Hvönn: A traditional akvavit Infused and distilled with angelica and blueberries, flavoured with caraway. The blueberries soften the taste for a more nuanced and sophisticated taste. Photo/Hálogi distillery

"We tried different things, wild thyme, blueberries, angelica. Then we tried seaweed. It came out better than we had imagined, and we thought we should think even bigger!" Rán applied to the authorities for a permit for experimental alcohol production and set about to find the perfect combination of wild herbs and berries to create a truly superb local spirit. Which is where the third member of the Hálogi team came in, historian Hjörtur Hjartarson who has been the chief taster of the company since its founding.

"It is still a tiny little family firm", Hjörtur told Iceland Magazine. "We work in the evening and on weekends, but things are moving fast, and we are super excited about the product which is getting a great reception!" 

Hand-crafted, small-batch Brennivín
It is easy to see why Söl and Hvönn have been successful. The spirits have received excellent reviews by local magazines and bartenders. The taste is a sophisticated and modern take on the traditional Icelandic Brennivín, a more refined approach to the liqour affectionately called "Black Death" by locals. 

Brennivín is the Icelandic akvavit, a flavoured spirit primarily produced in Scandinavia. The dominant flavour in akvavit is either dill or caraway, but akvavit can contain other spices as well, producing complex spirits which are perfect for sipping chilled, but can also be used in cocktails.

Söl and Hvönn are hand-crafted small-batch brennivín, a superb take on the Icelandic signature liqour, Brennivín. Söl is flavoured with Icelandic dill, grown in local greenhouses and seaweed, picked along the coast of South Iceland. Hvönn in turn is made with Icelandic wild blueberries and angelica, and flavoured with caraway seeds. Both have complex flavours which require some contemplation. 

sól, Hvönn akvavit

Söl: Seaweed and dill. The full complexity of the taste of the seaweed comes out in the third sip. Photo/Hálogi distillery

Superb content, beautiful packaging
Rán told Iceland Magazine that their goal had always been to create a superb high quality drink, and that she had wanted to have this reflected in the packaging. "The bottle had to be appealing, beautiful. So I talked to my niece, artist and designer Kristjana Williams who lives in London. And her studio, Studio Kristjana Williams, guided us in designing the labels which we are extremely proud of."

We at Iceland Magazine agree. Söl and Hvönn don't only come in beautiful packaging, the content is superb!

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