The Scandinavian lifestyle is thought of as being nothing short of idyllic—from waking up to the majestic fjords to having high levels of trust in their government, it’s no surprise the world often looks towards the Scandinavians when it comes to finding the secret to true happiness. But to those who grew up living in this textbook idea of utopia, it seems it’s all down to one thing: balance. “It’s about balance between working hard and enjoying life. Between city life and nature. Between being active outdoors and in the gym, and still enjoying a good meal with a beer, glass of wine, or a nice cocktail,” explains Morten Pharo Halle, co-founder of Nuet Dry Aquavit. “I think that’s part of why Scandis rank very high on happiness rankings. Too much of one thing is never good. Balance is key.”
Balance was exactly the word I had in mind as I took my first sip of Nuet. Being married to a Norwegian, I have had my fare share of Aquavit, and I have to say, Nuet’s version has an incredibly unique taste to anything I’ve tried before—the sharp anise flavour was gone, and in its place I found fruity notes and a real smoothness that made the whole experience much more enjoyable. “We have replaced the traditional fennel and anise seeds with grapefruit peel, blackcurrant, and blackcurrant leaves,” shares Halle. “Whilst most aquavits have plenty of added sugar, we have zero, which adds to the dryness and brings out the fruity, fresh flavours. There’s also a plethora of other botanicals in there, adding complexity to the aquavit, like angelica seeds, rose pepper, cubeb pepper, and more. But the real secret is in the time and effort spent in getting the balance just right. We distilled more than 100 tests over almost 8 months before we got it just right.”
I ask Halle about the team’s decision to launch Nuet in the UK this year on May 17th (Norway’s National Day). The team partnered with London bars such as Hide, EKTE Nordic Kitchen, and Scandi Kitchen to create innovative cocktails that guests were encouraged to “forage” around the city for. Having lived in the UK from 2011-2017, Halle tells me that the capital’s competitive market and booming crafts spirit and cocktail scene made it an obvious choice for the next step in Nuet’s journey. I chat with Halle on behalf of The Sybarite about his upbringing in Norway and how he and his co-founders aim to create Scandinavian moments one sip at a time.
How would you describe aquavit to someone who hasn’t tried it before?
One really needs to separate traditional aquavits from Nuet in this case. Traditional aquavits are very heavily spiced, with plenty of caraway, fennel, and anise seeds. This tends to amplify the alcohol sensation, giving it a burning feeling. Hence why aquavit is an acquired taste not very known outside the Scandi borders. At Nuet, we wanted to do something about that and produce something far more fresh and smooth, easier to enjoy both neat and in cocktails all year round, all over the globe. So we replaced the fennel and anise seeds with grapefruit peel and blackcurrant, and spent more than half a year playing around with the composition of the recipe before we landed on a version that was fresh and smooth and perfectly suited for both tonic and dry martinis.
What was it like growing up in Norway?
It was fantastic, really. I grew up in a suburb outside Oslo with forests all around us. So we would play outside all year round; we’d play football and build cabins in the summer and go skiing and sledding in the winter. The schools are good, we have a very active lifestyle with plenty of sports and outdoor activities, and there ia pretty much equal opportunities for all, which I like. That equality and inclusive nature, as well as the love for outdoor living and an active lifestyle, are just some of the Scandi ways of living we want to share with the world through our product.
Having four founders can pose a few challenges. How have you all managed to balance roles and responsibilities along with your friendship?
That has not been an issue at all. One of the core values at Nuet is communication. We communicate freely and openly with each other. A lot of intrigue and drama comes from the lack of communication or just poor communication. Most issues can be dealt with with an honest and respectful dialogue. We all know our place in Nuet, and we all work towards a common goal.
You encourage your followers to share their own Nuet moments on social media. Why was it important for you to build a community around your brand?
We really want to be more than “just a spirits company” at Nuet. We really have a passion for sharing the Scandi way of living with others, and as such it makes perfect sense to do more and to really engage our followers. We want to see them interpret the Scandi way of life and what it means to them, regardless of where they may be in the world. For us, drinking a Nuet cocktail is about more than just getting a buzz. It’s about sharing a moment with friends and family, with people we love. It’s about creating moments, and that’s what we want to see from others as well.
How did you set out to create the partnerships you had for the London Urban Foraging event?
We have a very talented country manager in the UK named Janeczka Le Port-Tanaka. She is for the time being our one and only colleague in the UK, but we really hope to find someone talented to team her up with, as we aim to invest even more into the UK market. Janeczka has been crucial in what has so far been a very successful start to our UK adventure, and she is the one who picked the venues for our Urban Foraging event.
What is your favourite way to enjoy Nuet?
I struggle to choose. The Nuet Spritz is great when the sun is shining. The Nuet & Tonic is perfect for later in the evening. And I do really enjoy a Nuet martini when I get the chance to make one.
If you had to create the perfect Norwegian meal to pair with Nuet, what would you cook?
I guess I would go for shellfish, really. Norwegian crab, shrimps and oysters—nothing beats that.