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The History in Every Bottle of Vana Tallinn

It would seem that every Estonian has a bottle of Vana Tallinn at home. For some households, it might be gathering dust on the dining room shelf, unopened from the time you bought it as a souvenir before departing from Estonia. Conversely, you might be smitten with this brown elixir.

Vana Tallinn recipe creator Ilse Maar at work (from

Admittedly, for this author, the liqueur's sweet vanilla and tangy citrus notes get appreciated pretty much only around the holidays. A few sips will be taken, maybe it'll be poured into a cup of coffee with dessert, and then it goes back on the shelf. This led me to wonder, is it genuinely meant for mixing, or is it intended to be consumed just as it is?

Furthermore, as each bottle describes the contents as “authentic Estonian liqueur,” how long has Vana Tallinn been around to obtain this title?

We must first look at the origins of Liviko, the manufacturer of Vana Tallinn. Liviko traces its history back to the distillery Revaler Spirit Fabrik, “which later grew into Tallinna Piiritusetehaste Omanike Ühisus Rosen & Co (Tallinn Distillery Owners’ Association)”, from which the separate Tallinna Viinavabrik OÜ was started.

In 1939, an eighteen year old woman named Ilse Maar (née Tuisumäe) came to work at Rosen & Co for the first time. She climbed up in the company, and in 1950, created “Liviko,” a “likööri ja viinakokteil” (“a liqueur and vodka cocktail”). The manufacturer moved through a number of facilities and names, but made this their co...

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