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Clos Cantenac owner invests in Norwegian distillery

Martin Krajewski, the owner of Grand Cru St-Emilion estate Clos Cantenac, has made his first foray into spirits by investing in a new distillery in Norway.

Martin Krajewski purchased Clos Cantenac in St-Emilion in 2007
Martin Krajewski purchased Clos Cantenac in St-Emilion in 2007

Called Oslo Håndverksdestilleri (OHD), the distillery produces gin, akvavit and bitters. The business, located in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, is a joined venture between Krajewski and two other partners.

An English businessman of Polish descent, Krajewski relocated to Bordeaux more than 10 years ago after selling his successful London-based recruitment agency.

Krajewski has gone on to produce some of Bordeaux’s most respected red, white and rosé wines, including Château de Sours – the once-distressed historic Bordeaux estate whose revitalisation by Krajewski has been responsible for “kick-starting a rosé revolution”, according to Jancis Robinson MW.

In February this year Krajewski sold Chateau de Sours to Jack Ma, China’s second-richest person and founder of leading online retailer Alibaba.

Krajewski is reported as saying that he will remain as consultant for the estate “for the foreseeable future”.

A natural move

Speaking of his latest move into spirits, Krajewski said: “I’ve been interested in spirits for as long as I can remember and in fact my brother and I even made vodka on our father’s farm when we were still at school. I guess that is not so surprising given our Polish ancestry.”

Krajewski, who also co-owns Aristea, a small boutique winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, said the opportunity to invest in a distillery had arisen 18 months ago when he travelled to Oslo to meet a business client.  

“About 18 months ago… I was visiting my client, Marius Vestnus, who runs Cask Norway,” he said. 

“He took me to see an old building on the edge of the city – the proposed location for OHD. I asked if I could join the partnership immediately. It ticked every single unmarked box in my imagination.”

OHD is situated in the Bryn area of Oslo and is the first private distillery to open in the country since the government established its drinks monopoly in the 1920s.

Established in 2015, the distillery was co-founded by Marcin Miller of Number One Drinks and Marius Vestnes of Cask Norway, with Krajewski as a third partner. Head distiller is Dave Gardonio, a graduate of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University and a trained biochemist, brewer and distiller.

The new distillery “aims to capture the culture and traditions of Norway”, a statement said. Its first marketed product is a Norwegian-style digestive bitter called Marka.

With craft and nature at the forefront, OHD will release a gin flavoured with Nordic botanicals foraged from the mountains and, thereafter, an akvavit, a traditional Scandinavian liquor (in Norway known as akevitt). 

Working alongside co-founders Miller and Vestnes, Krajewski emphasised that the venture would be “a team game if ever there was one and so we all have important role to play”.

He added: “I have a quiet suspicion that it won’t be too long before you will be able to order and drink Marka, Vidda and OHD Akevitt all around the world.”

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