A Norwegian bitter digestif, made with dandelion, bog myrtle and angelica root, has been launched in the UK, suitable for drinking neat or mixing.
Evocative of Nordic forests, Marka is the first product from Oslo Håndverksdestilleri (OHD) in Norway ahead of the opening of its distillery in the Bryn area of Oslo in June. It will be the first new distillery in the city since 1927.
The digestif is currently produced at Ægir brewery in Flåm in western Norway where OHD’s head distiller, Dave Gardonio, was formerly head brewer. Available in 50cl bottles, it has ABV of 35%.
The unique spirit has been welcomed by Ryan Chetiyawardana, the award-winning British bartender and owner of London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan. “I’m very excited to see Marka hit our shores – a potable bitters coming out of Oslo, using a wealth of indigenous, hand-foraged botanicals, including native angelica – Scandinavia’s gift to the botanical brigade. Lovely earthy bitterness with great structure making it ideal neat and for mixing.”
Marka takes its name from the vast, untouched Nordmarka forest surrounding Oslo. It doubles as a Nordic term for the “outdoors”.
Marcin Miller, co-founder and partner in OHD, said: “Norway inspires with its pioneering spirit and breath-taking scenery. Our new distillery will aim to capture the culture and traditions of this special country in a profound way, initially with Marka, then with a Norwegian gin and an akevitt.”
Marka’s final blend comprises 16 botanicals: a mix of berries, leaves, flowers, roots and stems encompassing Nordic nature in its flavour. Once crafted, the spirit is rested in oak barrels for several months to mellow and marry the spices together.
Martin Tønder Smith, blender at OHD, added: “There have been many trips out to the woods during this process. We are proud to create a product that is based solely on locally foraged ingredients. This is something completely different to the dark and heavy drink that most Norwegians associate with bitter.”
Dave Gardonio is a graduate of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University and a trained biochemist, brewer and distiller. “Developing Marka was a mission statement for the future direction of the company and our passion,” he said. “Having worked with spirits for some time, we wished to start our own distillery. We wanted to bring through what we loved into our own expressions.”
Marka has a recommended price in retail in the UK of £28.99.
Tasting notes by leading spirits commentator Dave Broom
Nose: Exotic and spiced, there’s touches of laurel oiliness, bog myrtle and a gentle, fleshed out, citric sweetness. This then broadens into a sweet/sour/bitter complex melange of roots, herbs, and spices. Heady. In time, it rises into a menthol area, while at the same time digging itself into the moistened earth. Complex in other words.
Palate: Very intense and drier than the nose suggests but with enough of a rounded palate to balance. This is a cleansing draft, with the dusty, forest floor flavours of gentian and calamus held in check by subtle sweetness and that citric element.
Finish: The bitter notes come through but that balance is always well maintained. I like it.