Produktion

We currently make two kinds of dill aquavit –
D Argentum and D Aurum, the latter matured in oak.

D is the result of a development project between the University of Copenhagen, and Agrotech, which is an Approved Technological Service Institute in Denmark, and which offers research-based consulting and technological services. Different types of dill are planted in different locations in Denmark and harvested at different times of the year.

The harvested dill is then macerated, distilled and the ingredients are analysed. Two parameters proved to be particularly important – the type of dill and the time of harvesting have considerable influence on the quality of the finished product.

General principles for producing brandy or aquavit

Brandy or aquavit is made from the distillation of wine or macerate. The macerate is an extract of herbs, fruits or berries. When distilled, the aquavit or brandy has a relatively high alcohol content and the flavours from the herbs, fruits, berries, spices or the wine dominate. Typical examples are cumin aquavit, orange liqueur and gin. Products that are enjoyed around the world, as far apart as Beijing, Hamburg and Harboøre Tange in Denmark.

The production of aquavit can be divided into three stages. The first stage is the production of the macerate, which gives the aquavit its special taste. The next stage is the distillation, where the special taste is isolated and concentrated by evaporating the flavourings with the alcohol. The last stage is to thin the distillate, otherwise known as blending or cutting. The drink is then bottled.

Making the macerate

Immediately after plucking, the fresh natural dill heads are transported to the distillery in refrigerated vans. When they reach the distillery, the dill heads are placed in a tank of grain alcohol and turned to macerate.

Usually 100 kg of fresh natural Mammoth dill heads are mixed with 900 l of 50% grain alcohol. All of the dill heads are placed in a tank and then 50-60 % strength alcohol is poured over them.

The grain alcohol is made from traditional agricultural crops, e.g. wheat, barley, potatoes and beets, in accordance with EU regulation No. 110 of 2008. Wheat is particularly well-suited, because it provides a very pure alcohol. The macerate is usually left for around 1-2 weeks, and then used for the subsequent distillation.

dild-2013-11-red
84A3208ny_red2

Distillation

Distillation would seem a relatively simple process, but it quickly becomes complicated when the finished product must be of a very high quality. Basically, distillation is just evaporation and condensation, the same principle that causes moisture in the air to condensate on cold glass. Aquavit is made by warming the macerate and then condensing the vapour through a water-cooled pipe. Christian Anthon Brøndum described the process in his book “Kunsten at brænde Brændevin”(The Art of Distilling Aquavit), published in 1820.

Brøndum was also appointed as a teacher for people who wanted to become “Borgerskab som Brændevinsbrændere” (Member of The Aquavit Distillers), and who gave the name to the famous aquavit, Brøndum Akvavit. At the same time, great advances in chemistry were made during the industrial revolution, and terms like vapour pressure, negative deviation and azeotrope mixing became known. Today, we have a more nuanced understanding of distillation, which means that we can achieve far superior quality and purity compared to the 19th century.

Modern distillation equipment consists of a kettle, where the wine or macerate is heated to its boiling point. All of the evaporated material, i.e. water, alcohol and flavourings form a vapour. The vapour is then lead through a column where a succession of condensations and evaporations take place, which avoids the necessity of having to carry out a successive number of distillations. Finally, the vapour is cooled and a colourless distillate is produced. The colouring agents did not evaporated, so they are not in the final distillate.

The substances that have vapour pressure, are those that give the distillate its taste and aroma. During the distillation, the distillate is collected in a preliminary channel, a main channel (heart) and a post channel. The preliminary channel is full of impurities and is disposed of. These substances belong to the family of organic solvents and are completely destructive to the finished aquavit. The last post channel can also be an issue when used with aquavit, but in contrast to the preliminary channel, it can have a positive effect on the taste.

The heart, the middle distillate, accounts for 90% of the distillate, and is almost used exclusively in the finished aquavit, when purity and quality are sought. So this means that the first and the last drops are not used. The distillation process determines the alcohol percentage and the “strength”, i.e. the amount of aromatic compounds.

84A3248ny_red
84A3723_red

Cutting

By cutting the aquavit, we mean thinning the distillate with water, so that we get an aquavit that is pleasant and enjoyable. Pure water is used, i.e. water that has been ion-exchanged and filtered, to prevent the taste from changing or of sediment forming. D is thinned to about 40 % vol. D Aurum is matured in oak before bottling.

Bottling

The aquavit is bottled in traditional “chemists bottles”, immediately corked, tax stamped, labelled and packed in boxes of six. D Argentum uses a beech cork, and D Aurum uses an oak cork.