I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love Wednesdays. I try to jump on websites and grab a bottle of anything new, but I often miss out. This whisky was no different but for one thing, I really wanted a bottle of this whisky. I’d been following the progress of the distillery for months to get the release, but poor internet in Southern England meant I was unable to nab the bottle.
Fortunately for me the whisky community is, for the most part, filled with kind hearted people, and a very special person @kinogodt of Freedom and Whisky was able to send me a sample. Thank you so much Charlie. Today we’re looking at the Aurora Spirits Birvost First Release Whisky.
So what makes me so damn excited about this review and this distillery? Let’s talk some history about the distillery. Based in Lyngseidet, Norway, Aurora Spirits Distillery has its home within a NATO Cold War bunker, first built during the German occupation of the area during the Second World War. Sitting at 69 degrees north about 8 meters from the arctic sea the distillery is the northern most in the world (at time of writing).
With a hybrid column-pot still based on the designs of engineer Leif Nerhammer made in Germany, production begin in September of 2016. The spirit itself sleeps within ‘old and very secret NATO tunnels’, within Aurora Spirits ‘smaller casks’.
Now I’m one for small cask maturation though my maturation experience tends to lie to the south. Much, much further south. The heats and climates of Australia give a broader temperature variance than that of the UK, and while the heats down south reach a greater high than Norway and the UK our winters are not so chilly. Aurora spirits see’s a temperature difference the year round between +20 to -20. That’s damn cold.
While this certainly lowers the Angel’s Share, or Odin’s Share as they like to call it up north, there’s a lot more going on. Said casks are guarded by the distillery dog Sita, and they use a wide variety of casks, sherry, bourbon, sauterne, virgin and hold plans for an akvavit cask.
Lastly there’s the name. Aurora Spirits certainly evokes thoughts of the Northern lights, and these can be seen from the distillery. To illustrate the Norse influence Aurora Spirits have gone a step further and are releasing their whisky under range of Bivrost, the burning rainbow bridge between heaven and earth, joining Midgard and Asgard together. While the distillery plans to have a permanent range starting 2025, until that point in time they’re releasing limited edition series twice per year all drawn from the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology. The second release, Nidavellir, is due to be released in November 2020.
Today we’re having a look at the Niflheim. The first release whisky from Aurora Spirits, Niflheim is one of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology filled with darkness, ice and cold that borders Ginnunagagap, the yawning primordial void. Legends tell of the giant Ymir, the first being, born into the world when ice from Niflheim and fire from Muspelheim met in the core of Ginnungagap. His flesh made the earth and sea, and a death bereft of heroism curses the deceased’s ghost to roam Niflheim forever.
As for the whisky itself Aurora Spirits have been only too kind to provide all information on their website. The whisky is distilled from a Pilsener malt made from Planet and Popino Nordic barley, fermented with a lager yeast. Triple distilled within their hybrid column and pot still, distillations takes 8 – 10 hours and the raw spirit is cut with melted glacier water from Elvejordvannet. Finally the whisky was matured first in virgin oak, before being transferred to ex-bourbon and finished in sherry. Only 1622 bottles were released.
I have been excited for this release for some time, and can only thank @kinogodt for sending me this sample. As I’ve said previously though we can’t let our conceptions of a distillery cloud our judgement, however cool the distillery is, so let’s reach into the land of the dishonoured dead and see what spirits await with flavour.
It opens with spectral goji and raspberries dusted with cocoa powder, phantom sweet sultanas dipped in golden syrup. Citrus starts to move in with freshly chopped pineapple atop frosty passionfruit and lemon sorbet dotted through with caramel, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. The dram starts to get thick with ghostly fingers of acacia honey, haunting sherry tones, kiwi fruit and gooseberries crawling over grapefruit, pear and honeysuckle dipped in vanilla.
A sip reveals grapefruits and pears with figs and sultanas on the palate, powerful damson plums and cooking apples huddled around a sandal wood candle burning for warmth. Dried fruits begin to crawl across the landscape to reach the last pieces of wood soaked in sherry for warmth, a vast mouthfeel that sends it the palate to a prickly quiver. Digging through firm nectarines, peaches and ginger we hit a bed rock of mineral tones, and the finish comes, long against the icy chill. White nectarines, tangy passionfruit, prickly honey are our foods here in the land of the dishonoured dead, and a final blizzard of cocoa powder wipes it all away.
This is a great triumph as a first release. It tastes good, the story behind it is amazing, and the plans to release a whole series surrounding and celebrating Norse mythology is amazing. You’re buying more than a whisky, you’re buying a story. It’s quite clearly a young whisky, but not bad, quite the contrary. It stands head and shoulders above many other first releases that have hit the market in past years, especially amongst others with similar flavour profiles. The evocative images it brings to mind can only suit a haunting track as well, so listen to some Alti Orvarsson while you sip.
As for whether or not I would buy a bottle, were it available for the release price I certainly would, though being a poor whisky blogger prohibits me from bidding for it on auction. If I find it for that sweet price though, I cannot wait to return the land of cold and ice once again.
To all at Aurora Spirits, well done. This whisky is good enough to guarantee you will never face Niflheim.
If you would like to learn more about Aurora Spirits, click here to discover their story.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, Aurora Spirits or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.