Packing a punsch

Rikk Jansson at Norrtälje Brenneri
Rikk Jansson at Norrtelje Brenneri

Alcohol research in Sweden hasn’t always involved the lab this fall. In September we talked Rikk Jansson into showing us around Norrtelje Brenneri, the distillery he created with wife Kristina Anerfält-Jansson in 2001.

Following careers as a marine engineer and entrepreneur, Jansson repurposed his family’s 5th-generation Norrtälje farm property to produce calvados-style fruit spirits. Their claim to fame soon became Roslags Punsch, a traditional Swedish liquor made from distillates of local plums, honey, and Indonesian sugar cane. They now also produce various styles of brännvin (vodka) and aquavit, and released a much-anticipated first batch of Roslags Whisky just a week before our visit.

Jansson evidently inherited an instinct for quality control from his formative professional days, along with a determined skill for navigating regulatory affairs—indispensable for navigating the tightly controlled Swedish spirits industry. But he (and I) had more interest in talking tech, new and old—from the Carl GmbH Porsche of stills he invested in upon launching the business, to the 19th-century Oliver-sized aging barrel he negotiated out of Stockholm’s Sprit Museum for a truly historic batch of punsch.

Practical distilling takes water and space, both of which were in abundance in pastoral Norrtälje. The town was a boating and ironworking center as early as the 15th century in the Stockholm archipelago’s Roslag region, which gives the Janssons’ punsch its name: the relatively poor but seaworthy community historically supplied roslagen (rowing teams) to the Swedish king in lieu of more manpower-intensive military service. Now, regular busses make the 45-mile trip from Stockholm into an easy countryside escape for tourists and commuters.

Many thanks to Rikk for his hospitality, insights, and delicious samples!

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