That’s the spirit!

Photo Courtesy of Sound Spirits

Seattle’s Sound Spirits produces its own version of aquavit

Aquavit, or the water of life, is a favorite drink for Scandinavians everywhere. Though typically reserved for holidays and special celebrations, this distinct spirit spiced with caraway, fennel and anise is the new darling of specialty bartenders

Steven Stone, who is an aerospace engineer at Boeing, founded Sound Spirits in 2008 in Seattle, Wash. He spends his time out of the office turning locally grown barley into vodka and other spirits.

“As an engineer, I’m a do-it-yourself type of guy, and I had brewed my own beer for a while. To make beer, you need to know about fermentation. Distilling is the next step,” said Stone.

Stone combined his fermenting knowledge and a business plan to establish Sound Spirits. His engineering skills have extended to devising unique sustainable practices, including refurbishing existing materials. “The tank we use for mashing was formerly a dairy tank. We refashioned it into a mash tun,” says Stone.

Sound Spirits’ spent grain goes to a farmer in Lynnwood, north of Seattle, where it is used as cow feed. They also use a unique water recirculation system for the stills, which allows them to save cooling water rather than dumping it down the drain.

After perfecting his recipe for vodka, the central recipe to many types of liquor, Sound Spirits turned to other types of craft spirits, including aquavit.

Stone is friends with Christian Krogstad, who produces Krogstad Aquavit at House Spirits in Portland, Ore., profiled in December 2011 by the Norwegian American Weekly. With just three domestic producers of aquavit, Krogstad and Stone are truly in a class of their own, and are prime examples of the Pacific Northwest’s strong Scandinavian connection.

So why produce aquavit?

Stone replied, “I live in Ballard [Seattle’s traditionally Scandinavian neighborhood], so it’s a way for me to give back to the community.”

Aquavit is in high demand by innovative bartenders across the U.S., and this Scandinavian spirit is also thought to prolong life and have other health benefits. In Scandinavian lore, stories from the Middle Ages suggest that a shot of aquavit down the throat brought the dead back to life. Perhaps this interesting morsel was the inspiration behind an aquavit cocktail at one of Sound Spirits’ recent meet-the-maker events in Ballard: the Norwegian Garden Coffin.

Other interesting cocktails that can be mixed with aquavit include the Aquajito and Shieldmaiden.

Aside from aquavit, Sound Spirits also produces their distinctive Ebb + Flow Vodka, Ebb + Flow Gin, an Old Tom Gin (less juniper, more spice) and a “Vow of Silence” Herbal Liqueur.  This last comes from a centuries-old French recipe, and its strains of peppermint and other unique flavors intrigue the palate.

Located at 1630 15th Avenue West in Seattle, Wash., Sound Spirits has a tasting room open to the public to sample and purchase. Open Monday through Thursday, 12 – 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 12 – 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m. For more information about Sound Spirits, visit or call (206) 651-5166.

This article originally appeared in the June 29, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.