Söl and Hvönn: Distilling the spirit of Iceland into small-batch, hand-crafted Brennivín
In Iceland things tend to happen fast. It is a key characteristic of Icelandic society, and Icelandic mentality: Perhaps it is a side effect of the weather which can change on the turn of a dime, from sun to rain, storm or freezing temperatures to clear skies. Or perhaps it is the conclusion to centuries of fishermen waiting for the fish, and then rushing to the boats when it swam into the fjord? Whatever the explanation, when Icelanders get a good idea they tend to act on that idea and make things happen.
Began with a heavy-metal band, a bottle of moonshine and a wedding
The story of Hálogi distillery/Spirits of Iceland, which produces the new hand-crafted akvavit Söl and Hvönn is one of those stories. The first steps were taken in the summer of 2015, when a local artist and engineer's son, who plays in a heavy-metal band, appropriately called "Black Death", was paid for a gig in a bottle of moonshine for playing at a wedding. Rán Jónsdóttir decided the spirit should be put to some more sensible use than drink, and the mother-son team then set about experimenting with infusing small samples with various local herbs.
"We tried different things, wild thyme, blueberries, angelica. Then we tried seaweed. It came out better than we had imagined, and we thought we should think even bigger!" Rán applied to the authorities for a permit for experimental alcohol production and set about to find the perfect combination of wild herbs and berries to create a truly superb local spirit. Which is where the third member of the Hálogi team came in, historian Hjörtur Hjartarson who has been the chief taster of the company since its founding.
"It is still a tiny little family firm", Hjörtur told Iceland Magazine. "We work in the evening and on weekends, but things are moving fast, and we are super excited about the product which is getting a great reception!"
Hand-crafted, small-batch Brennivín
It is easy to see why Söl and Hvönn have been successful. The spirits have received excellent reviews by local magazines and bartenders. The taste is a sophisticated and modern take on the traditional Icelandic Brennivín, a more refined approach to the liqour affectionately called "Black Death" by locals.
Brennivín is the Icelandic akvavit, a flavoured spirit primarily produced in Scandinavia. The dominant flavour in akvavit is either dill or caraway, but akvavit can contain other spices as well, producing complex spirits which are perfect for sipping chilled, but can also be used in cocktails.
Söl and Hvönn are hand-crafted small-batch brennivín, a superb take on the Icelandic signature liqour, Brennivín. Söl is flavoured with Icelandic dill, grown in local greenhouses and seaweed, picked along the coast of South Iceland. Hvönn in turn is made with Icelandic wild blueberries and angelica, and flavoured with caraway seeds. Both have complex flavours which require some contemplation.
Superb content, beautiful packaging
Rán told Iceland Magazine that their goal had always been to create a superb high quality drink, and that she had wanted to have this reflected in the packaging. "The bottle had to be appealing, beautiful. So I talked to my niece, artist and designer Kristjana Williams who lives in London. And her studio, Studio Kristjana Williams, guided us in designing the labels which we are extremely proud of."
We at Iceland Magazine agree. Söl and Hvönn don't only come in beautiful packaging, the content is superb!
Ask the Expert
Do I need to leave a tip in Iceland?
Report: Nine exemptions granted this year allowing foreign nationals to acquire Icelandic property
Report: Former conservative city councilman under investigation for tax fraud, money laundering
Rental car takes a dip in boiling blue lagoon after American couple forgets to put it in park
Photos: Reykjavík fire department rescues cat from tree
Photos: Two destinations in South Iceland on CNN's Ultimate List of Scenic Splendor
Coast guard assist a humpback whale, remove pieces of fishing net and net floats from its tail fin
Yesterday's earthquake swarms not connected: No signs of imminent volcanic activity
Millions in Nazi gold believed to lie hidden off Iceland's shores
Quick primer on Bárðarbunga, Iceland's most powerful volcano
Follow Iceland Mag
Join our weekly hand curated newsletter to have all the latest news from Iceland sent to you
Don't worry, we won't spam you. Promise!
Third murder this year: Two men arrested yesterday evening. Woman dead after violent attack
Worst whale hunting season in more than a decade: Only 17 whales killed this year
More details in Hagamelur murder case. Suspects in their 20s, 30s. Victim was in her 40s
12 reasons you should visit Iceland during the off-season
Two travellers arrested in Keflavík for smoking on board airplanes
US Neo-nazis believe their "meme magic" caused the collapse of the Icelandic coalition government
Cuteness overload: A video of a litter of Arctic fox pups explore the world for the first time
Watch a selection of the most amazing Hollywood movie scenes shot in Iceland
Magical beauty of Icelandic landscapes captured in this award winning time-lapse video
Superb short film featuring breathtaking drone footage shot along the Ring Road One
Video: The stunning beauty of the Diamond Beach and other wonders of South Iceland