The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2016

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Page 18 of 100

18  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2016 tasting panel  / november 2016 TRIP REPORT T he idea for touring Iceland originated on a motorcycle trip to Portland several years ago. After an amazing day of riding the Pacific Coast Highway, our crew was sharing a bottle of Reyka Vodka on the rocks, reveling in the day's ride and pontificat- ing about the origin of the spirit. It was then the idea of Iceland was brought up. Before starting our epic motorcycle journey to the Westfjords of Iceland, we scheduled a solid layover day in Reykjavik for some much needed acclimation and assimilation. What better way to discover the wonders of Reykjavik than a pleasant little pub crawl? We started our tour at The Drunk Rabbit for a proper pint. We walked the downtown of densely packed restaurant and bars, ending the evening at The Lebowski Bar (which is themed after the cult comedy). The Caucasian cocktail with Reyka Vodka, Kahlúa and cream was the perfect dessert to close out our first night. On our first day of travel, the Wandering Spirits crew road our motorcycles north of Reykjavik to the small village of Borgarnes, home of Rekya Vodka. The Langjökull Glacier could be seen in the distance. Water run-off from this glacier would eventu- ally make its way to the Reyka Distillery through a natural spring that runs through a 4,000-year-old lava field that acts as a natural purifier. The water is the cleanest in the world and is sourced directly to the distillery. We pull up to an unassuming building with an orange house façade that marked the distillery. The compact and utilitarian facility is run completely on geo-thermal energy and has a neutral carbon foot- print. We were quickly greeted by the Reyka Distiller, Thordur Sigurdsson. "Welcome to my distillery!" he exclaimed. Thor invited us in for a tour. The room was simple and effective, without much adornment. The centerpiece of the space was a three-story Carter-head still and a staircase leading to the top. Thor was in process of crafting a batch when we arrived and the Carter-head was churning away. Each small batch is made in a six-hour process that yields 225 bottles of pure Icelandic vodka. After we watched the pot base of the still rolling the vapors onto itself over and over until only the purest elements rose to the column top of the still, Thor led us to the top level where the vapors came off the column into a large enclosed "botanical basket." The copper vessel was filled with porous volcanic rock to cleanse and filter the distillate. Once the vapors cooled, the liquid ran through a second glass chamber of volcanic rock for one last filtration. The rock is replaced every month or so, and Thor had one on hand from previous batches. The stone was discolored with a white mineral residue that had been reclaimed from the distillate. Below, on the second level, was a tasting apparatus with the only chair in the building. There, Thor presum- ably spends most his time periodically tasting the end results of his efforts. He pulled a small sample of the batch into a customized cordial glass and brought it to his nose. A quick intake with his super-olfactory was all that was needed to confirm its clarity. We all passed the glass around for a small sip. The spirit had a bright flavor with delicate hints of grain and spice and a clean, dry finish. The careful timing of the heads and tails, along with a close monitoring of the final taste of the spirit, is Thor's calling—and his pride in the end result was obvious. We adjourned to the outside of the distillery and thanked Thor for taking the time to see us. Before us was a large field of Icelandic horses grazing in the setting sun. It was time to hit the road—we still had an hour of riding before reaching the base of the Snæfellsjökull volcano, where we could stop for the night and properly appreciate the pure Icelandic vodka that Thor's efforts has produced. The rest of the magnificent journey was spent traveling to volcanos, fishing villages, farmlands, glaciers and lagoons. We were grateful for the opportunity to see this fairly uncharted country and all of its majesty—and vowed to return again as soon as we could. Motorcycle Diaries A GROUP OF BARTENDERS TRAVELS AROUND ICELAND AND SIPS ON REYKA VODKA story and photos by Dylan Regan A group of bartenders decided to travel to Reyka Vodka's home to see where the magic happens. A tour of the Reyka Distillery (left to right): Matt Dorman; Thordur "Thor" Sigurdsson, Distiller for Reyka Vodka; Dylan Regan; Mark Stoddard; and Bryan Dayton. Pints—or the metric equivalent—at The Drunk Rabbit with traveling bartenders Matt Dorman, Mark Stoddard, Dylan Regan, Bryan Dayton.

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