From the Source
Good Things Grow Under Lights
Want inspiration and creativity? Head north to where the long nights deliver a different outlook on life for creators of all kinds.
WORDS SHANEY HUDSON
Whether it’s liquor or food, fashion or farming, some of the far north’s best producers and products draw their inspiration from the world around them. You can be sure the extreme temperature variations and remote beauty of the unforgiving and fragile environment forge something not found anywhere else on earth.
Fill Your Cup
“The environment influences our spirit in many ways – both philosophically and practically,” says Roar Larsen, founder of Myken Distillery, located on an island 32 kilometres from mainland Norway. Having been operating for six years, Larsen’s boutique gins and whiskeys have grown in international prominence. “On the more practical side, our environment also infuses our products with the local character,” he explains. “We use desalinated water straight from the sea for production and for dilution, and the atmosphere in Myken is completely saturated with salt and marine aromas, something that, over time, seeps into our maturing whisky barrels. “This process is also enhanced by the frequent changes in air pressure, and the pounding of storms on our distillery and warehouses.”
Off the coast of Norway, the distillers at Myken focus on the smallest details.
Of course, operations are challenging. Running a distillery in a remote region is expensive and bad weather can isolate the island for more than two weeks at a time. However, for Larsen, this is what makes his product unique: “I am convinced the positives outweigh the negatives. We are so different from almost anyone else in the same business that people will remember us and seek us out because of it.”
From The Sea
While northern stills keep many locals warm during the polar nights, it is the ocean that yields one of Norway’s most valuable exports: salmon. In 2018, Norway’s fishing and seafood industry was worth €6.54 billion. Nordic seafood from businesses like Viking Gold caviar and Pure Norwegian Seafood are in high demand in the export market. Located on the country’s west coast, Pure Norwegian Seafood is the only Norwegian supplier of exclusive Label Rouge salmon, the oldest official quality label that can be achieved, as audited by Certipaq under the auspices of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. According to CEO Eldar Henden, however, the focus is not just on quality but the responsibility of farming these waters. “Environmental awareness is about humility towards nature,” he says. “It is about the joy of experiencing it – and about our responsibility to preserve it that way.” Over on Lofoten, the merging of two very distinct cultures – Northern Norwegian and Japanese, to be exact – has resulted in Lofoten Seaweed, a hugely successful, female-led business that supplies organic seaweed to Michelin restaurants and also produces a range of kelp products. It’s the brainchild of Angelita Eriksen and Tamara Singer, two friends who met in Australia doing a physiotherapy course and bonded over a mutual interest in food, health and the sea.
Angelita Eriksen and Tamara Singer brave the elements. Photo: Eva Trifft
Seaweed is harvested only from the cleanest waters, away from harbours and communities. Photo: Richard Walch
A fish dish seasoned with Lofoten Seaweed products. Photo: Eva Trifft
Drawing on Angelita’s upbringing as the daughter of a fisherman in the small Lofoten village of Napp, and Tamara’s knowledge of incorporating seaweed into almost every meal thanks to her Japanese mother, the collaboration officially began in 2016 as a burgeoning start-up. The two women dedicated themselves to harnessing the incredible potential of this superfood by learning about the sustainable harvesting and drying of wild algae (something which can be traced back to the Vikings), developing a range of goods and testing recipes. Now their products – which includes everything from truffle seaweed salt and dark chocolate with sugar kelp to seaweed body soap – are stocked in more than 130 stores both nationally and internationally, and the business is committed to creating jobs within the local community. All seaweed is also only harvested from the purest of waters (away from the pollution of farms, harbours and communities), and it is done in a way that ensures its continued regrowth while still minimising the impact on marine life.
The Lofoten archipelago is famed for its dramatic beauty and pristine natural environment.
On The Land
While there is plenty of riches in the water, some of the most unique products to emerge from the Arctic come from the land. Textile manufacturer Dale of Norway, one of the country’s best-known brands, was established in 1872 when founder Peder Jebsen saw the potential of using hydroelectric power to run a textile mill. The sweaters became prized throughout the country, and have been worn by the winter Olympic team since the 1950s. Then there’s Aalan Gård, a picturesque family-owned goat farm in Vestvågøy, Lofoten. It’s run by Tove and Knut Åland, who were some of the very first farmers in Northern Norway to open up a cheese factory and shop on their property – in turn creating multiple sources of income for themselves. Guests can visit the farm to meet the cute menagerie of animals and learn all about the production of goat’s cheese, plus sample and purchase the many delicious award-winning varieties, including feta, halloumi and blue cheese. There’s also a thriving herb garden that is harvested every year at the end of May, and its bounty is turned into spice mixes, tea and vinegar. Aalan Gård even hosts local schools for educational lessons and camps. And there seems to be no better place: good things do grow, evolve and thrive under the northern lights.
Knut Åland gets up close with some of his prized goats. Photo: Agurtxane Concellon
The Åland family in their herb garden proudly displaying one the farm’s award-winning cheeses.