Full name: Stig Bareksten
Role: Master Distiller
Twitter: @bareksten, @barekstengin
Fun Fact: “Old boxer in Norway with merit. Domestic profile.”
So, please give us a little backstory on your good self and how we got to today. Did you always know you’d go into spirits? Considering your career, your ‘own gin’ seems like a natural progression – your past as a bartender (a champion bartender?), and setting up Det Norske Brenneri – it all seems to have prepared you for this very moment!
I started as a bartender back in 1993, in Bergen. I quickly realised I love spirits. I then moved to London in 1996 to attend BASS bar school, and proceeded to work in numerous bars. When I moved back to Oslo in 1998, I worked as a barman in various bars. I started work in 2004 at Maxxuim in Norway (now called Edrington). Because of my love for spirits, I realised I wanted to start my own distillery.
An idea that was created in 2009 that went live in 2011 was Det Norske Brenneri. My main focus was on the Norwegian fauna and creating top quality products, with routes in the Norwegian Norrona history. In 2016 I moved on to the OSS craft distillery located in Bergen, to refine my idea and philosophy. The owners believed in my products as much as I did, and were highly committed to making them work.
Please tell us about the new gin. How did you decide upon the flavour profile, botanical blend, and so on? You’re a blender, as oppose to a distiller, right?
Well – I would say I am both. You need to master both as you must be able to produce products of the best quality, which also have unique flavours. At the distillery, I am fortunate to have highly skilled colleagues to help me with the production. The profile of the gin today is a longer journey that started with Det Norske Brenneri – Bareksten botanical gin is the 3.0 version. It is all about the Nordic DNA.
Your twitter bio also has you listed as a restaurant owner. Could you tell us a little more?
I am a part owner of the restaurant Broker, in Oslo. I am still a barman when I find the time. It’s important for both me and everyone here at the company to have our feet on the ground. I will always see myself as a barman, and am lucky enough to be able to distill my own version of spirits.
There’s a really cool shot of you in a forest – tree roots all around you, looking very much like a wizard… very metal. Could you tell us about that?
It was definitely a spur of the moment thing. It all has to do with my fascination of the darker side of things, and also the Nordic Norrön history. As you know, our woods are filled with trolls, elves, and other creatures. It’s all about the Norwegian mentality and the fact that Norway is rather dark for six months of the year.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the gin business?
As I live in Oslo, but work from Bergen, I travel a lot. We do a lot of tastings and presentations in the distillery where I live. Did you know that we are one of the few distilleries that produces our own raw materials – from potatoes all the way to the finished bottle?
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
This is a difficult one. The first moment is when the first product came live. The taste and the immediate understanding of what had been achieved. The flavors, intensity, richness, and mouthful!
Also, the awards of course. We were awarded a double gold in San Francisco which was amazing.
Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly from nature – the look, smell and taste. All of our product development is done during the night time.
What’s your philosophy, summed up in a sentence?
The nature, the culture, the area, sustainability, never settle, no boundaries.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
To follow my own philosophy when others might not understand and believe it. I have learnt to move on, and stick to your plan.
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
I love locally produced, sustainable food. A person I have really been inspired by is my mother – a weird blend of creativity and pure madness.
What advice would you give to aspiring food and drinks entrepreneurs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Stick to your dream. Go locally and focus on sustainability. And really ask yourself – does the world really want this product?
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
Oh, hard one. I would spend time with my kids. I don’t think I would do anything else.
If you could get anyone to try your drinks (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the products would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
Haha… Winston Churchill – he could knock a few down, I believe.
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for the distillery? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money and reality are no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
Nothing to do with money – but to inspire anyone to take that next step in the right direction. I want to show everyone that we can do great stuff up here in the north, other than oil.
Where next for you and the business?
Open the markets, line extensions, and complete the portfolio – Wild Berry liqueurs, gin extensions, and Aquavit (to mention a few). We are producing the first Norwegian rum made from molasses, which is produced in the Dominican Republic. We are also distilling whisky.
Anything I missed that you’d like to include here? (include as much or as little as you’d like)
We try to make a mark, based on the area we live in. That is the most important aspect for me. Here on the mountain, we do have some of the best tasting berries in the world due to the harsh climate. The berries struggle which makes them very potent.
The same goes for herbs and botanicals. It’s an awesome place. Furthermore, I love the growing creativity in the culinary field over here. More and more restaurants are using local products, in keeping with the seasons. It is truly inspiring.
And we always ask a few customary ridiculous questions…
If you had to get into a no-holds-barred, 20 round fist fight with any fictional character, who would you square off against?
Mohammed Ali. [Ed: lol]
You have acquired a pet dragon and are morally obliged to look after it. It is 25 ft tall at the hips, spits fire, eats half a ton of raw meat a day, and likes long walks. What would you call it and what would you do to keep it entertained and housed?
I would house him in a cave at the distillery and use him as a heating source which is both local and sustainable. I would call him Hugo.