SOME MARKETING stories are pure fluff. Some are perfect substance. Linie Aquavit’s is both. Every bottle of this Norwegian spirit crosses the equator twice on a voyage from Oslo to Indonesia and back again, following a 200-year-old tradition that began purely on accident. (For more lyrical expounding on this journey and its effects, see Linie’s website.) Does all its romance and mystery necessarily make Linie a better aquavit? No. But might the voyage? Assuredly. Changes in temperature are essential in any liquid/barrel relationship—expanding into the wood as it heats, pulling back out as it cools—and Linie has the added encouragement of constant motion, rollicking away across the waves throughout its four-month jaunt. Modern barges may lack for the panache of 19th-century galleons, but they sail the same seven seas, and even if this winsome tale was reverse-engineered into Linie’s brand, its ‘science’ is a plausible pitch even before sampling the spirit. And then the sale makes itself.
Linie emerges from the cask with appealing legs and some natural coloring, but further caramel is added to turn it pecan amber. (The results are alluring, but honesty would be better, especially given how heavily we’re sold on the sea voyage’s impact.) On the nose caraway is dominant though far from the only thing offered. Other added seasonings include dill, fennel, coriander, and aniseed, creating a complex and precisely nuanced bouquet. The sherry barrels suggest other qualities, such as sourdough’s golden crust, bits of vanilla, and even curacao. A deeper draught reveals a crackling spiciness and the alcohol beneath–this is a full-throated aquavit of 83 proof, wholly a separate beast from the tame 40-60 proof sweet styles more like liqueurs than true ‘waters of life’. Though it may not be as layered as a fully matured malt whisky, a dram of Linie is almost as satisfying to sit with and smell as it is to drink.
But not quite. All of these aromas come together on the palate in a marvelous combination of characterful zest and smooth maturity. It is supreme with more robust forms of pickled herring (Dillsill, Löksill), but like all exemplary spirits is a full taste experience in its own right that does not depend upon food. Indeed, of all the many riches to be found amongst Scandinavia’s aquavits, Linie may travel the best–in more ways than one.
Served: Cask sailed aboard the M/V “Tampa”, 25.07.2008 – 20.11.2008