The kingdom of the Vikings, who criss-crossed the seas of Northern Europe and even reached America well before Christopher Columbus, had to wait a long time before achieving independence. It became a province of Denmark in 1380, then became dependent on Sweden in 1814, while retaining a good deal of autonomy. The country did not become fully independent until 1905.
The first reference to spirits in Norway is found in a letter addressed to the archbishop of Bergen, Olav Engelbrekston, dated 1531. The country developed its own particular style of strong alcohol with powerful flavours. The Danes contributed aquavit (akevit in Norwegian), which continues to dominate today. Potatoes were always used, along with grains, and distillation was common. In 1840, a census counted at least 9,000 stills in this sparsely populated country.
But the pressure of the Lutheran Church and technological improvements soon put an end to domestic production, and ten years later the number of home stills was reduced to five hundred.
In 1922, independent Norway created a state monopoly, A/S Vinmonopolet, to produce and distribute spirits and wines, leading to the disappearance of the last independent producers.
This company existed until 1996. Unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway is not a member of the European Union, but the need to liberalize its economy led to the opening up of the market. Two public companies took over the activities of the former monopoly, with Arcus Produkter for production and Arcus Distribusjon for distribution.
Aquavit accounts for the largest part of Norwegian spirits, but several brands of transparent, unflavoured vodkas have been developed by Arcus Produkter.
Hammer took the name of a former Norwegian distiller, Christopher Blix Hammer (1720-1804). This is a transparent, grain-based vodka with an alcohol content of 42.7 percent. Two flavoured versions are produced, one with lemon and one with pepper, and the company also makes gin.
Vikingfjord Vodka, one of the latest creations of Arcus Produkter, was conceived especially for the export market. After rectification, this very pure vodka is mixed with pure water from Arctic glaciers, which explains why it is called “glacial vodka”.