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 music, 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.
Svalbard Brewery uses water from a 2,000-year-old glacier in its brewing operations.
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.” While Myken uses desalinated water from the sea, the world’s northernmost craft brewery, Svalbard Brewery, draws its source from surrounding glacial meltwater for its brews, which include a Spitsbergen Stout and Dark Season brew for the winter months.
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.”
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. Further north in the Faroe Islands, the wild weather and hundreds of years of selective sheep breeding has resulted in a unique phenomenon. Faroese wool contains more lanolin than lambswool, making it warmer and more water resistant. Local companies like Sirri and Gudrun & Gudrun have found an international market for jumpers made from the wool, and have made good on the old Farose proverb “Ull er Føroya gull”, which means “Wool is the gold of the Faroes”. Locally, however, the most positive outcome for the 17-island chain has been the cultural resurgence of knitting among locals.
In Iceland, music has emerged as one of the country’s most important exports, thanks to internationally renowned groups like Kaleo and Of Monsters and Men. While Kaleo frequently showcases Iceland’s natural beauty, performing live streams from inside volcanoes and on remote lighthouses, Of Monsters and Men’s frontwoman Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir has previously played down the influence of environment on her music, making a point of telling The Guardian in 2012: “Everyone is sculpted by their surroundings, but I don't go and sit on a mountain top.” Sigtryggur Baldursson, managing director of Iceland Music, has a similar sense of humour: “We joke about this quite a bit up here – that there must be something in the water. However the matter is a bit more complex than that.” He cites the tenacity of the local population, strong role models and ambition as the reasons behind the success of the local industry. “In such a small community, if you are a young person willing to make music and work internationally, you are very likely to know someone who does, or your parents or friends will, meaning you will automatically think, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’”
And there seems to be no better place: good things do grow, evolve and thrive under the northern lights.