What do a Scotsman, doctor, scuba diver and hairdresser have in common?
Find out by reading about how extraordinary people came up with the idea of making Northern Lights alcohol.
- Same taste in art? 10%
- Same interest in bagpipe music? 5%
- Medicinal spirits? 5%
- Arctic Drinks, Cuisine and Experiences? 90%
A couple of years ago, a doctor, a scuba diver and a hair-dresser were gathered in a cottage in Arctic Lyngen. Why and how is not important but, at some point, Hans (the doctor), Tor (the scuba diver) and his wife Anne-Lise (the hairdresser) started discussing a common interest; local food and drinks. Although they come from different backgrounds, they agreed that there was a serious lack of local quality drinks for the rapidly growing Northern Lights industry. Why must visitors to Arctic Norway drink foreign products? Why not make local drinks for tourists and others?
Hans, being an owner of an adventure company, had recently visited Scotland and noticed this magic country was very like Norway. The mountains, fjords, rivers and the people, their dark sense of humour and warmth and passion for the country they live in. One difference…Scotland has whisky! Could Norway have whisky too? It was during this conversation that Hans launched the idea of building an Arctic distillery.
Tor first suspected the good doctor of doing some experimentation in the medicine cupboard. But with his pragmatic business background, he dived into the numbers, statistics, legalities and hard facts of establishing an alcohol business in one of the most legislated countries in the world. Maybe this was not such a bad idea, after all? After several discussions with his wife, he went one evening to Hans: “I am quitting my job, and we are going for this”, he said. “Do you want to join in?” Hans spent about a nano-second to decide.
Funded by Innovation Norway, the team investigated the possibilities further on the Scottish island of Islay. This brought in one of Hans’ connections; Colin Houston of the Scottish Highlands. The team was complete! Tor Petter and Colin realised they had a lot in common. Maybe too much, fast cars, fast boats, scuba diving, skiing, adventure and just a smidge of danger… which comes in handy when doing something crazy like this. Colin has a touch of knowing everyone, well at least the most important people to know. During the trip to Islay, the team visited eight distilleries in three days and had productive talks with all the managers. Based on these inputs, the team decided to build a combined distillery and visitor centre in Arctic Lyngen.
Anne-Lise, being a creative entrepreneur and business owner, came up with a suitable name for the business; AuroraSpirit. Aurora from Aurora borealis – the Northern Nights – and “Spirit” as related to both state of mind or personality and the alcohol relation.
Inspired by the Northern Lights, the brand name was chosen. Hans discovered “Bivrost”. Bivrost comes from old Norse language and is one of the names used for the Northern Lights. Bivrost was believed to be a bridge between heaven and earth, guarded by the fierce god Heimdallr. The brand was registered as an alcohol brand in the EU.
In spring 2015, the planning of the world’s northernmost distillery started and the equipment was ordered. The foundations were laid in December and, thanks to competent consultants, architects, entrepreneurs, Innovation Norway and a very helpful Lyngen municipality, the world’s northernmost distillery opened in the summer of 2016. AuroraSpirit will make some of the purest drinks in the world here and guests can enjoy the spectacular visitor centre and learn about Arctic culture and making alcohol under the Northern Lights.
We are the people behind the brand:
Tor Petter W. Christensen
Tor has a background as a lecturer in the teaching profession but continued his own education with additional training in ICT and business studies culminating in an MBA from the University of Tromsø.
In 2008, Tor developed the tourism organisation Lyngenalps, which coordinated activities, branding, marketing and promotion of tourism in the Lyngen area. Since 2009 Tor was CEO of a company called Ecotech, a pioneering company in the field of sustainable products. One such product was the Cinderella combustion toilet. Ask no more!
Tor is at home above and below the water and is passionate about North Norway in general and Lyngen in particular. He is born and raised here and has no desire to live anywhere else in the world.
With a great sense of adventure, Tor faces all life’s challenges head on, from diving with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa to creating the finest spirits – here in the Arctic region.
Tor has a high environmental awareness and is keen to preserve the fragile region for generations to come. He aims to offer a rounded experience, which matches and celebrates local food, drink and culture, while supporting local producers and traditions.
Colin is our close liaison to the Scottish culture, from where we gather inspiration and cooperation.
Colin comes from Oban on the rugged west coast of Scotland, close to many of Scotland’s finest distilleries. In fact, a working distillery was at the very foot of his primary school, where the sweet distilling vapours would waft over the playground. Maybe this was an early influence! Colin’s background is in catering and hospitality where he was passionate about using and celebrating local produce. He has worked in some of the U’Ks finest hotels and owned and operated his own hotel on the west coast of Scotland.
With a further 25 years in quality assurance, Colin is always looking for the little things that make the difference. He believes in creating experiences with elements of surprise that exceed our visitors’ expectations. In the hospitality industry, every day is different and everyone is an individual.
Gjermund is our production manager and has a long career at Mack’s Brewery Ltd – the world’s northernmost brewery.
Gjermund has a certificate in industrial food processing and is passionate about getting the right taste out of the products he manufactures. Gjermund is careful about choosing the right ingredients and ensuring the quality of the production process.
Gjermund moved to Troms from Oppland in Southern Norway in 1985 and to this day has been impressed by the scenery and the spectacular difference between the long bright summer nights and the mysterious blue light of the Polar Night.
Gjermund ascends the peaks of the Lyngen Alps during summer, while winter is used for skiing.
Gjermund volunteers in the local sports club of Lenangsøyra, where he lives. Voluntary work is important to him and serves to keep activity in the village. He is also engaged in the annual local festival “Lyngen Rock & Shrimp”, a festival that gathers about 1,000 people over two days the first weekend in June. The spare time that remains is devoted to his wife’s café “Ragnhildas”, a small, cosy café serving delicious homemade cakes.
Anne-Lise owns her own hairdresser salon and the daily job is dedicated to style and fashion. But underneath the exterior beats the heart of a true entrepreneur. Being a business owner for many years, she knows the intricate way things can be during a start-up.
Anne-Lise has that special eye for detail, which has come in handy many times. She also has her own way of creating a good feeling around her. Laughter is never far away in her company. In addition to her own business and following up the kids at soccer practice (which her heart really beats for), she also contributes in the process of establishing a distillery at 69˚ N – a task that can often feel like a full-time job.
But stubbornness, perseverance and hard work are her trademarks, which makes her the constant motivator for realizing our dream.
Oddbjørn is the guy who takes care of all practical matters around the distillery. There is practically nothing he doesn’t master. His skills in building, planning, construction, etc etc are an invaluable asset for the Distillery and the team around it.
Oddbjørn is an avid skier and outdoor man and is regularly seen on some of the highest peaks in Lyngen. Oddbjørn also has a deep knowledge of the fauna surrounding us. Many times this knowledge has come to good use when making new types of spirits.
If there is a problem, he will never say its impossible – goes directly for the solution, no matter the size of the challenge.
Wiktor is a former businessman with more than 30 years of experience in norwegian businesslife. He has been CEO and chairman in a number of different business areas. He has also headed the norwegian Institute of Science.
Wiktor has a mindset directed at strategic decisionmaking and likes to think 3 steps ahead. He is a genuine food and wine lover and spends his vactions in France. We are lucky to have such a capacity at our disposal. Wiktor is one of the founders and contributes as a board member.
Hans is a general practitioner specialising in family medicine. He is currently head of medical services in Balsfjord municipality, just south of Tromsø. He is also Managing Director of Lyngsfjord Adventure, a company offering once-in-a-lifetime adcenture in the Arctic Circle.
Hans is a man who perpetually challenges himself and others to deliver the finest quality experiences, always believing that once you have achieved your goal, you must pause briefly before forging ahead once more. Perfection cannot be achieved, but must always be strived for.
Hans has visited Scotland on several occasions and has contacts in the whisky industry. He has also seen first-hand the central role that distilleries can play in small communities and this is something Hans is keen to develop in Norway.
So, within Aurora Spirit you can rest assured that perfection will be the goal, alongside lots of experimentation and testing (well – someone needs to do it!) to ensure we develop unique and memorable products all created under the watchful glow of the aurora borealis
Janis is our host at Lyngen Resort and AuroraSpirit visitor centre. Janis finished college as a food service specialist and has a chef diploma. After college and at the tender age of only 25, he opened his own bar in the Latvian town of Cesis. He ran the bar for three years before doing several types of work, including carpentry – also in Norway. After several work periods in Norway, he fell totally in love with the country, especially the rugged Arctic nature and climate of Arctic Norway.
In summer 2016, he and his (pregnant) wife made the decision to try living in beautiful Lyngen. Janis is passionate about nature and loves all kinds of sports, especially football and beach volleyball (even though there are not so many suitable beaches in the Arctic…). His new passion is ski climbing and running in the Lyngen Alps.
Janis runs the extra mile to provide all our guests the best service possible. He never refuses a challenge and is always cheerful towards new guests.
JOYFUL BOARD MEMBER
Rolf became a part of the project in the autumn of 2016. His interest in whisky has brought him to Scotland and the distilleries many times, his interest has made him a Islay whisky collector, the only hobby he can afford.
Rolf started his career in the Norwegian military in 1999. Most of his service was as a part of the Naval Special Operation Command. After almost thirteen years in the military he left as a lieutenant in 2013, he then started to work as a consultant. Since then he has done consulting for many different companies, primary in challenging and demanding processes,
At Auroraspirit AS he is an important board member. Rolf has a lot of energy, he likes to have the initiative, and he therefore enable and facilitate good processes. Rolf has a Master in Business Administration, a bachelor degree in nursing, military leader officer school (NCO) as well as operational military education as a diver and paratrooper. In his sparetime he is a personal trainer.