This week, we sat down and interviewed Ricky the Meadmaker and label artist Autumn Dufresne about the third in our New Year, New Mead campaign, taking a look at Vanir.What are the tasting notes for Vanir?
Ricky: Color - Golden Yellow
Aroma - Honey with earthy notes
Flavor - Mellow earthy tones with rich honey and a dry finish
Closest Comparison - Stary Olsa, but with a brighter profile
Ricky: We’ve always been fascinated with Strong Meads, but wanted to wait until we had a good sense of how we could contribute to the category. After several months of planning, we decided we wanted to go with recipes inspired by the ceremonial meads of Central and Northern Europe. But rather than just making a few meads each with its own profile, we wanted to create a genuine Collection, meads that all related to each other in some coherent way.
Vanir is the central point from which all of our other Ancient meads descend.
Can you fill us in on the mythology behind the name choice?
(Original Ancient Collection sketches by Autumn Dufresne)
Ricky: The Vanir were one of the two major classes of gods in the Norse pagan tradition. They are believed to be the older mythology, and rather than being associated with violence and war like the Aesir, they were brought into the pantheon as gods and goddesses of fertility and commerce.
They don’t get as much publicity as Thor or Odin, but they represent much of what makes a place a Mead Hall: food, drink, music, and comradery.
Tell us about the label artwork.
Autumn: While the Ancient Collection was in its planning and brewing phase, Ricky and I brainstormed a bit and went through a couple of back and forth iterations with loose idea sketches and then refining adjustments as we went, between the naming scheme and what kind of imagery would mesh well with the names, (and Vanir took the longest to settle on both name and imagery, too!)
They were being released as a trio so I was working on all three labels, collectively, and it occurred to me that it would be fun to have them all tie together visually, so, between the cherry trees of Heggir, and the tree elements of Bragi, (the harp leaning on a trunk and the juniper in the backdrop as a nod to the berries in the recipe,) once we had settled on an Yggdrasil iconography scheme for Vanir, I made it a point to have the roots and branches of the ash tree in the Vanir label stretch out and twine into the edges of the other two label images. Some of Heggir's cherry blossoms also drift/flutter into the periphery of the Vanir label.
So if you line all three bottles together in the right order, they also make one collective image. It was a lot of fun to work on and I do love how the final trio came out. (Though it wasn't until a tad after that I realized the spaces in the roots of the Vanir tree, originally intended to be loosely suggestive of a mobius/infinity loop, actually make it look a bit, um, "suggestive" and "curvaceous" in a different way than intended. Oops!)
In one of the earlier variations on the sketch, there had also been a dragon curled into that space, but it did make the overall image look a bit too crowded and busy, so we simplified. But then I got to bring the dragon and the eagle back for the Yggdrasil expansion merch, and that makes me happy.
How has Vanir changed since its first brewing?
Ricky: We realized that due to some weird state laws, we couldn’t sell Vanir in several states due to the alcohol content, so we adjusted that down slightly so that all of our meadiacs could grab a bottle.
We’ve also played around with the balance of the types of woods we age it on to bring out different flavors in the honey.
(Original Vanir Sketch by Autumn Dufresne, October 2020)