Still Life

Sound Spirits Takes On Aquavit

Coming soon to Interbay: Scandinavia’s water of life.

By Allecia Vermillion January 20, 2012

The official label, newly approved by the federal government.

Take heed, Norse-inclined drinkers: Sound Spirits founder Steven Stone says he is preparing to bottle an aquavit that should be for sale by March. A Ballard resident who happens to like the Scandinavian liquor himself, Stone promises to have plenty on the shelf before the neighborhood’s Syttende Mai celebration in May.

I posed an embarrassingly basic question to Stone, whose Interbay distillery was the first to open in Seattle after craft distilling became legal (again) in Washington in 2008: How, technically, does one define aquavit? Much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and obscenity, I just know it when I see it. Or, more specifically, when that first rye-bread like whiff hits your nose as you lift an icy glass of the stuff.

According to both Stone and the federal government, aquavit must have caraway as the dominant flavor, often followed closely by dill. The distiller has been working on his recipe for four years, adapting a traditional Scandinavian recipe into something that tends toward the complex edge of the aquavit spectrum. The flavorings, he says, include caraway, coriander, dill, anise, and fennel: “It’s balanced; they play together and nothing overwhelms the other.”

Sound Spirits will produce its aquavit all year, but only about 100 bottles a month. Hence you’ll only find it at the tasting room, and perhaps at a few select aquavit-appropriate bars, like Ballard’s Copper Gate, which has an entire menu of cocktails featuring various aquavits. He’s also considering doing an aged version in the future.

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