A flight of spirits from Luce Spirits in Rockland. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

I had ventured to Rockland in February for a concert at the Strand Theatre with my spouse, Tracy, and we drove up a few hours early so we’d have time to walk around a bit and have dinner.

What I hadn’t anticipated was finding Luce Spirits, a distillery, tasting room and bottle shop in the heart of the city’s downtown. But when I saw the hand-scrawled words painted on the front window with a message saying they made things like aquavit (new to me) and absinthe (which I’ve only had once), in we went.

Luce is an unassuming place that feels more like a rec room than a bar, and I mean that in a good way. Tracy and I were the only customers, and we parked ourselves at the bar.

Although I can’t remember her name, the bartender and I soon were thick as thieves, and she suggested we try the four-booze sampler. No arms were twisted that night.

A few minutes later, four small glasses were set down in front us, filled with Aquiline Vitae aquavit, Old Tom gin, Janara black walnut liqueur and She Bear traditional absinthe.

My mind immediately went to the absinthe scene from “Moulin Rogue” as I eyed the mysterious green liquid, and I wondered if a tiny fairy would soon be flitting about the room sprinkling pixie dust and raising hell. And so, the She Bear was the first glass I raised to my lips.


Absinthe is meant to be sipped and savored, not knocked back like a shot of Jägermeister, though the flavor profiles are similar with strong anise notes. I love black licorice, so this worked for me.

The fun/scary fact about absinthe is that it contains trace amounts of wormwood, which contains a neurotoxic (read poisonous) substance called thujone. Thankfully, one would have to consume quite a bit to be affected, so the ounce or two of She Bear wasn’t risky.

Aquavit is a Scandinavian spirit, and Luce’s version was light and herbaceous with a freshness to it that was not overpowering.

The Old Tom gin worked better when we cut it with some tonic water, though you’ll never hear me rave about any gin, despite my mother and grandmother’s keen appreciation for a gin and tonic.

As for the Janara, I had no idea what to expect because my brain couldn’t preconceive of a walnut liqueur, let alone a black walnut one. Black walnuts, I learned, have a bolder flavor than the ones most of us are accustomed to. Luce’s Janara was sweet and thick, a true cordial.

Luce Spirits’ offerings are inspired by the flora and culture of the Midcoast and the distillery uses wild-foraged, locally grown and organic ingredients to make its products.

Four-booze flight, $18; Luce Spirits, 474 Main St., Rockland. lucespirits.com

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