Akmenlauzis is a craft distillery in Riga, Latvia. The company produces the spirit from grain grown in eastern Latvia. In addition to clear distillate, they also make a variety of flavored spirits. One of them is “Smiltsērkšķis”, a grain distillate flavored with sea buckthorn. Whole sea buckthorn berries have been extracted in strong alcohol, after which the mixture is strained and sweetened with a small amount of sugar. There is a fair layer of sediment on the bottom and the drink is somewhat cloudy, which is a good sign of a handicraft product and the producer hasn’t even tried to attend to filter it clean. Akmenlauzis products are available only in specialty stores in Latvia, mainly in Riga, where a 50 cl bottle costs around €15.
I have tasted several different seaweed-flavored spirits, but this Latvian distillery seems to have done it best. At the same time, the nose is softly sweet, even honeyed, but it also has the perky aroma of sea buckthorn. The taste is smooth and mellow at first, until the sea buckthorn makes it more acidic and fairly dry. The sugar content is exactly right. The drink is pleasant to sip neat and the sour-sweet taste is well balanced. The aftertaste leaves just the same sour and slightly bitter aroma as when eating whole sea buckthorn berries. Alcohol feels a little in the background, giving the drink a good body, but it does not sting or shudder at any point. The drink doesn’t feel as strong as the 36% stated on the label. Based on taste and bite, I assume that the strength would be at least 10% less. Smiltsērkšķis is very nice to sip neat, but it makes also nice long drink when adding soda or tonic water.
Akmeņlauzis “Smiltsērkšķis” is very well made sea buckthorn spirit. It has nothing to blame unless a slightly cloudy appearance is a disadvantage for someone. Of course, it is twice more expensive than the cheapest buckthorn spirits in the market. However, the taste and quality of the product is so much better that it is definitely worth supporting a small producer.