Ok so yesterday wasn’t the best day for showcasing the slopes in Are in Sweden – Scandinavia’s best ski resort. So I got stuck into the spirit of the place instead – courtesy of a bar called Buustamons .
Up the mountain it was snowing hard, giant wet flakes and zero wind. “Just the stuff for establishing a really strong base layer,” claimed Anders, my optimistic guide. “Mostly we get Arctic powder. That’s great as a top layer, but when there’s a wind it blows away like dust. This is just what we need.”
Sure, I take the point. Up high it was just dandy – 15cm of fresh snow, going towards 30cm. But we couldn’t see a sausage. You know the going’s tough around when they’ve got the piste lights on full beam at midday.
With Stefan and Stefano, two 20-year-old Dutch boarders, and Helena Engelbrecht, Welove2ski’s sensational Swedish blogger, we blasted down the deserted slopes of Are in Sweden at a range of speeds – fast, or very fast – depending on the visibility. And then we did the only thing that rational human beings can do on a murky day such as this. We went to a distillery.
First and foremost, Buustamons is a remote gourmet restaurant with bedrooms attached. But it’s also home to a rare private still. In winter you can get there on skis, but not by car…and given Sweden’s strict drink/drive law that’s unquestionably the way it should be.
Owner Lotta Florin and her full time staff of just four make 1,000 bottles high quality hooch each year. That is, when they’re not making beds or cooking and serving in the restaurant.
Alcohol is viciously taxed in Sweden with duty of £31 on a 75cl bottle as well 25% VAT. So Lotta’s schnapps is liquid gold – but there’s no shortage of takers. You can only take it home if you buy it in government off-licences, so the obvious course is to drink it on the premises. The vodka base is made from wheat, sugar, and water that’s cooked and refined for a week until it’s a brain-ticking 37.5% alcohol. Buustasup – their aquavit – has got tiny quantities of cumin, fennel, and Spey side whisky added to give it flavour. God knows what’s in the sweeter Hojt that tastes a bit like Jaegermeister: after the aquavit my memory started to resemble a slice of Emmental cheese.
The setting was rich in ambience, the fish stew delicious, but it was the home-grown liqueurs that took our breath and much of the rest of the day away…