Published Feb. 28. 2016

Nordic Distillery - interview with Anders Bilgram

Then we started submitting to a lot of competitions. It's so ended up that we've got 16 medals and rewards Internationally within a year. And we won the title as "Distillery of the Year" in Berlin last year with participation from all over the world.



Read the translation transcript below:


Welcome to Anders Bilgram from Nordic Distellery

You have chosen to accept partial payment in artmoney in a company with a great quality product. Will you tell me what you're doing?

I make schnapps and brandy. I create various fruit brandys made in Danish apples and pears. Then I make different types of schnapps. I have for example. one called “Red Willy Dram.” It is named after a former police officer in Fjerritslev, Denmark. Willy had red hair. The Dram is also red and kicks like a horse.

Was he strong?

Yes! He had a mean punch, I am told.

I also make Nordic Gin, which received a double gold medal last year at "The 50 Best Gins" competition in New York City.

Brændevin, Red Willy Dram and schnapps

So it is recognized outside Denmark?

Yes. And I have several different products, which now can be purchased with 50% artmoney. I think it's a cool initiative, artmoney, and I would really like to help support it.

I would also like to buy a few bottles of gin. You also make other products than gin and schnapps, right?

Yes. I also make whiskey and rum. There may be some products where I am just the producer, and I will be forced to ask others for permission to accept artmoney but my own stuff, they can definitely run under artmoney. Typically, schnapps, fruit brandy and gin.

Where are you living? It is not certain that everyone knows where Fjerritslev is located.

It lies on the north coast of Denmark. By Jammerbugten inlet. Between Aalborg and Thisted, but near the coast. Approximately 50 km west of Aalborg. I must remember to say that I do not have any fixed opening hours. If you want to shop with artmoney, then it must be by post, or you have to call and make an appointment. It is not a store. It is a distillery.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I started distillery this seven years ago. Then I had just put the finishing touches on a polar expedition in which I had sailed around the Arctic Ocean in an open boat with an outboard motor. I had sailed 26.000 km around the North Pole with some friends. Along the way we visited a lot of small communities. Some places in Alaska, people pull some orange stuff out of the ground with alcohol in it. It's called "Jungle Brew." It tastes terrible. In Russia there was moonshine vodka of really questionable quality.

My wife had a glass-blowing shop at the time. If you are in such a boat, on too of your gasoline cans, comfortably laid-back and looking up in the sky, then you dream of going home and new ideas emerge. That was how it happened. Jungle Brew, gita glass and bad vodka. I was suddendly inspired.

What did you do before? What were you doing in Fjerritslev?

I moved to Fjerritslev in 1993. I was a newcomer. We came from Copenhagen, when I was 10 years old. I traveled around a bit to the bigger towns and studied and ended up becoming an engineer. But I never worked as an engineer, and I think Danish society should be happy for that. It was bridge structures ... so ...

I was happy to return to the region. I loved it and thought it was so beautiful and lovely. I enjoy nature. My polar travels had also given me the inspiration that I needed to stay somewhere with a view. So we found this place on top of the hills, where you can see really far. And I enjoy it every day.

At first we ran a summer boarding house. There were 12 rooms in a large building. And then we served breakfast inside our house.

The house in Fjerritslev

Then you made some dramatic changes in your life. Also that is to start up your own business. And how is it doing today?

Yes, indeed. It's not that I'm driving Rolls Royce and live in the lap of luxury, but I can make ends meet. And that was really my goal with my business. It's nice to put something in motion that you think you like, and then make a living by that. It brings me great pleasure.

How do you think artmoney could work for you?

I would probably collect and keep some of them. It's great. I could easily see a wall with a full spread of artmoney. I would be proud of that. And perhaps I could also invite the family over to Ibsen Hotel, where they accept artmoney. So we could spend a fun weekend in Copenhagen.

Why did you go on such a crazy trip to the Arctic Ocean?

It's a long story. It started with the first desires to go north when I was 17 years old. I went to Lapland and later to Greenland. In the summer of 1992, I gave my word to a friend that we would sail through the North West Passage. In the summer of 1993 we took off. Through sponsorships we got a motor, gear, fuel and all that. It was the Danish North-West Passage expedition. We sailed in a boat, which was only 5 meters long, and the boat was simply too small.

Was it dangerous?

Yes, but so is speeding on the highway. We've always considered that there is a risk of taking off on such a trip, but the people we visit, they live in such an environment on a daily basis. We feel at home in city traffic. Up north they feel at home on the sea in a boat. You go out hunting and fishing. Our plan was to get close to the people who live up there by travelling in the same way as they do. If you come in a large sailboat, then it puts a natural distance to the locals. We tried to avoid that by coming in a small boat like theirs. And we were invited in all kinds places and lived privately and was a part of their lives. We came along on their hunting and their fishing, and became part of their daily lives. It was exactly what I was hoping for.

On the first expedition we came to a deserted island in northern Canada. There I could see that the boat was simply too small. I built a cairn (stone setting) and sat and leaned against it and philosophized about what we had done, what we wanted and what we could not do. Then I figured out that the next time I would sail around the North Pole and meet all the people who live around the Arctic Ocean, and that I would do with a slightly larger boat.

As soon as I came home to Denmark and had completed the first expedition, I was in the process of planning the next. I took off on the next one in 1999. The first was almost like a workout for the next. On the first we sailed 3000 km. On the next trip we sailed 26000 km. We visited 65 places and met the people who live around the North Pole. And that was worth all the effort.

So the meeting with people has been an important part of the trips?

Yes. It is the single most important part of such a project for me.

Anders Bilgram up North

Can you talk a little about how the distillery has performed competitively?

If I go into something, then I am a little geeky about it. I am also a perfectionist in some contexts. In this case, I am a taste perfectionist. I have a basic philosophy that I will not send anything out the door, which I do not like myself.

Try to tell a little about some of the awards you received.

The first thing we earned was a gold medal on our light rum. It is a Skotlander Rome 1. The guy from Skotlander asked me if I would help him make rum. I thought it sounded interesting, so I got involved. In the spring of 2014 he received the first bottle. So he sent it to Miami rum festival, the world's largest rum festival. Then I thought, oh no, now I become a laughing stock. So in mid-April, a Saturday at 8 o'clock, he called me and shouted into the phone: "We got gold!"

Then there was someone who had tasted one of the whiskeys I do. A Thy Whisky, Batch number 1. He felt it was really good. He took it to the Danish Whisky Awards. But unofficially. It became number 2 on the Danish whiskeys. Then we started submitting to a lot of competitions. It's so ended up that we've got 16 medals and rewards Internationally within a year. And we won the title as "Distillery of the Year" in Berlin last year with participation from all over the world.

After the intervierw, Anders Bilgram left for Colombia to check out some sugar canes for a new production of rum.

He send me this photo from Colombia


Visit the profile of NORDIC DISTELLERY here