Norwegian whiskey in wings, vodka in spotlight

Call it KG Puntervold, call it Adger Brenneri. By any name. it could well become Norway's first commercial whiskey.

A distillery in Grimstad, on the country's south coast, plans to start producing whiskey this year, with the first bottles ready for market about 2010, according to distillery director Ole Puntervold (seen here).

Puntervold told the newspaper Aftenposten that his company plans to age its whiskey in used American bourbon barrels, to be delivered in May. He plans to produce small bottles of 80 proof whiskey, a different marketing enterprise in a country known primarily for its akevitt (aquavit) liquor.

Another Norwegian newspaper, Lofotposten, reports that there may be other budding Norwegian whisky producers as well. It said the marketing firm Norsk Respons has been surveying households to determine interest in a Norwegian-produced whiskey priced at around US$75 a bottle. Puntervold said his firm hasn't commissioned the survey.

Lofotposten also said a businessman in Vestvågøy has aired plans to make whiskey, but will start with beer and mead brewing.

How does the existing spirits establishment feel about the idea of Norwegian whiskey?

"I'm afraid sales would dive after collectors have snapped up the first 20 cases," said Halvor Heuch. He's with Arcus, the Oslo company that produces Liniefjord akevitt and Vikingfjord vodka.

Meanwhile, a new Norwegian vodka named Christiania is getting the spotlight.

It's made with organic Trondelag potatoes and pure Norwegian water, distilled six times then charcoal filtered and aerated. It is named after King Christian IV who, in 1602, commissioned a recipe for premium vodka. It sells for $41.99 and is currently available in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area before going nationwide.

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