Distilled spirits were produced from grain, and in a country like Norway with its frequent poor harvests this could be detrimental
to the nation’s food supply. An import duty was levied on spirits far back in 1621, and in the following year a duty of one
“riksdaler” was charged on each cask of spirits imported. In times of crop failure the production of spirits was forbidden
in the whole or parts of the country.
1756 saw the statutory prohibition of distillation, but hostels and taverns could be granted a licence to sell spirits. This
was the first law governing intoxicants in Norway. But the prohibition meant little – the arm of the law was not long enough,
and illicit distilling was widespread in rural areas. At that stage the apparatus was simple and primitive, and the recipe
was mostly handed down from mother to daughter – since distilling was mainly a job for women on the farms. The distilled spirit
was of rather poor quality, thus many experimented with various additives that could suppress the crude spirit taste
Christopher Hammer is known as the father of Norwegian aquavits, and his celebrated discourse in 1776 on aquavits and Norwegian
berry tinctures was, in effect, a veritable textbook in the techniques of distillation and flavouring of spirits.