Meet Nuet Aquavit Founder - Lassou

Nuet Aquavit was founded in 2018 in Oslo, Norway. The mission of the brand is to “share the Scandinavian moments with people all over the world, through the best aquavit products ever made”. And they are doing great. Starting as a small startup, just in two years Nuet Aquavit was acknowledged by the coveted London Spirits Competition as “the world’s first aquavit that serves as a proper premium gin substitute”, and just recently they made history, as the first aquavit to ever win an award in the gin-category of an international spirits contest, when they took silver in the Nordic Spirits Awards. This is a great step in the history of aquavit! We asked Morten Pharo Halle, the founder of Nuet Scandinavian Aquavit, a few questions about his brand and what makes Nuet Aquavit a truly unique spirit. 

Morten, tell us, please, how the idea of creating Nuet Aquavit was born. What challenges were on your way to creating your first bottle of Nuet?

I witnessed the rise of gin and other craft spirits globally, and I simply thought it was a real shame that a product with almost 500 years of Scandinavian tradition, which has such an emotional connection to us Scandis, remained a well-kept Scandi secret. So I wanted to change that, I wanted to share aquavit and the Scandinavian values that come with it with the world. That meant making some changes, and updating the product to suit the discerning cocktail drinker of today. So we spent more than half a year, and completed over 100 test-distillings before we came up with a product that merged tradition with innovative thinking; the world’s first ever super-premium aquavit. We had two litmus tests when developing the aquavit; it needed to really shine with tonic water, and in a dry martini. These are honest cocktails in which you cannot hide behind other ingredients. And no other aquavit had managed to do both. So it’s no surprise that we have since made history by winning an award in the gin-category, as the aquavit ever to do so. 

Having a product that is a world’s first is a challenge in its own. Being unique can be challenging, as some people may have certain preconceived notions of what your product should and should not be. We have basically created a whole new category of spirits, and with it comes the need for quite a lot of educating consumers and the trade of what aquavit actually can be. The good thing is that once people get to try our Nuet Dry Aquavit, they are usually sold on it. So the need for repeat education is limited. 

Getting from an idea to an actual company is a lot of work! When did it first sink in for you that ‘this is really happening’?

I had been discussing the idea with a mate of mine for years before setting up the company. We both felt the potential in aquavit was simply huge, as it’s such a versatile spirit (once you break out from tradition), and because of the place it has in Scandinavians’ hearts and minds. During the autumn of 2018 I thought “enough talk, let’s do this”. Since then, I’ve just been figuring it out as I go. I’ve been very lucky to be able to attract some incredibly talented and hard-working people, and I think that as long as we aim to impress in every single aspect of what we do, we should be able to keep attracting top talent, which is key. 

    Aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spirit with a long history, can you tell us a little bit about how you combine the old traditions and modern methods to create the Nuet Aquavit?
      Traditional Norwegian aquavits are made with potato based spirits, often barrel aged, and they are heavy on the characteristic caraway, as well as herbs like fennel and anise seeds. This herbal trifecta tends to amplify the sense of alcohol heat, and makes it an acquired taste, perfect for enjoying neat with fatty Christmas food. In order for us to make an aquavit that could actually be enjoyed all-year round, all over the world, we needed to make a few changes. We kept the traditional caraway, which is sourced from the beautiful Inderøy in Norway. We then removed the fennel and anise seeds, and replaced it with grapefruit peel, blackcurrant and blackcurrant leaves. This, combined with middle-notes like cubeb pepper, cassia bark, angelica root and rosé pepper, produced a far smoother aquavit perfectly suited for use in cocktails, especially as a gin replacement. 

        The aquavit is unaged and clear, and is distilled the same way as a London Dry Gin. We both macerate our botanicals and we use a vapor chamber, in order to extract as much flavour as possible from our botanicals. We wanted to combine the best of tradition and innovative thinking, and I reckon we’ve succeeded in doing just that in the Nuet Dry Aquavit. 

        Aside from the delicious taste and stylish design, what is the best thing you like about the Nuet Aquavit? 
          I would say it’s how surprisingly versatile the product is. Showing it to bartenders, and seeing their eyes light up when they taste it, is great. You can just see how cocktail ideas are racing through their minds.

            2020 was a difficult year for most of the spirit makers.  There have been lots of negatives, but also lots of opportunities. What have been highlights for you?

            I would say the highlights were how we managed to strengthen our team with some very talented people that share our vision, and see the potential of our product and our organisation. Also, we developed our signature serve, the Nuet Spritz, which was the  missing piece of our product strategy. All in all I have to say 2020 was a great year for us, despite the obvious challenges. We’re very well-positioned for the future, and we can’t wait to share the Scandi love once the world is back on its feet.

            What’s coming up for Nuet in 2021? Are there any taste experiments, distillery developments, or anything else you can share?

            We will be hosting some very cool cocktail competitions, where the finalists will get to experience the best of Norwegian nature and food, and we will be hosting plenty of events where we showcase our Nuet Spritz. All in all, we will do our best to share some Scandinavian moments with people all around the world.

            What’s your favourite way to drink Nuet?

            Nuet Spritz, with a Nuet dry martini on a close second.

            If you weren’t leading the charge to put Aquavit on everyone’s home bar, what would you love to spend your time doing?

            I would love to be a formula 1 driver, but I guess that ship has sailed...

            When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

            I’m going to have a proper staff party. The Nuet team has worked incredibly hard in incredibly challenging conditions, and they all deserve a proper party!

            Nuet Dry Aquavit  and Nuet Dry Aquavit 17th of May Limited Edition are available at Lassou. Enjoy the moment with Nuet!

            Nuet Aquavit _ Lassou

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