Welcome to Iceland, folks! Did you enjoy some tasty Skyr and watch FRIENDS re-runs on the plane? God, that Joey’s a funny cat. Anyway, you must be gagging for a drink by now. Thus, we have dedicated this space to explaining the ins, outs and upside downs of the madness that is purchasing alcoholic beverages in Iceland.
First off, the cheapest booze can be found at Keflavík’s spacious duty free wonderland. Expect a six-pack of Víking for the modest sum of 1.079 ISK and a big bottle of the hard stuff from 2–3.000 ISK. Note that, according to Icelandic law, you are allowed to bring in the following combinations: 1 bottle of booze + 2 six-packs OR 2 bottles of wine + 2 six-packs OR 4 bottles of wine. Use it wisely, and use it all.
It’s all down hill from there.
According to PSN Communications, 62% of Icelanders are still opposed to selling hard alcohol in grocery stories. Who are these people? Trolls? Of course, there is the argument that easy availability will increase health problems and serious crimes. Naturally the powers that be are more concerned with statistics as opposed to having a blast.
With that in mind, Iceland’s sole vendor of alcohol is the state run Vínbúðin (indeed, “the wine shop”), boasting forty-five locations, conveniently dotted around the whole of Iceland for your drinking pleasure.
Each Vínbúð is aesthetically magnificent and spacious, resembling a certain Scandinavian design warehouse. It makes a change from the typically grimy establishments you find in, say, the UK. Apart from its elegance, they seem incredibly interested in making your purchasing experience as painful and inconvenient as possible.
Always be sure to plan your boozing in a timely fashion, as most Vínbúð are only open from 11:00 to 18:00 Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays, 11:00 to 19:00 on Friday and it is completely shut on a Sunday. Stores located at Skeifan and Skútuvogur are open until 20:00 on weekdays. A complete list and opening hours is available at www.vinbudin.is
Vínbúð’s lack of in store coolers at Austurstræti mean that on a blistering summer’s day (sometimes it happens) your beer will be warmer than your arm pits. Apparently this is a remnant of city officials’ unsuccessful attempts to cut down on street drinking. We’ll let you judge the results.
Extremely high taxes on alcohol provide a knock on effect to the in-store prices. Did you know that these tax rates are not relevant to the price but more to the percentage of alcohol content? Well now you know kids. This also means that fine wine is often less expensive here than in neighbouring countries.
The prices, the prices.
Oh my Thor.
For those of you adventurous types, chug some Brennivín after sampling some putrefied shark meat. Also known as ‘Black Death’, Brennivín is the country’s signature alcoholic beverage, made from fermented potato pulp and flavoured with caraway seeds. At 2.715 ISK per 500 ml, it makes for one hell of a night!
If you’re after something slightly stronger, guzzle down some Reyka, stating to be the first green vodka to be bottled in Iceland. Using glacial water and distilled using clean sustainable energy from geothermal heat, it claims to be one of the cleanest vodkas in the world. 4.560 ISK for a surprisingly spicy taste with undertones of warm citrus, apparently. It gets you fucked up, anyway.
Beer sold in convenience stores is known as Pilsner or light beer. Sporting a low, low 2.25% alcohol level, it is strictly for those of you who don’t fancy getting drunk. You’re surely out there. Strong beer, like all booze, can be found at Vínbúð with a varied selection of mainly European brands. Popular Icelandic beers, Víking, Egils and Thule are found sold in single cans, six-packs or ten-packs. Single cans are normally priced at around 230 ISK and a ten-pack averages for 2.100 ISK.
Keep in mind…
Just a few suggestions, tips and a heads-up. The drinking age in Iceland is pegged at twenty. So if you’re 18 and expect to get sozzled, then you’re fucked over here – unless you can find some character of ill repute to do your shopping. Mind you, that’s illegal.
Planning a mad one? Always buy alcohol early before you go out. It works out way cheaper and no one goes out before midnight anyway, giving you plenty of liver debauchery time. Sometimes certain hotels won’t allow you to leave the premises with beer in hand however. That’s just the way it goes.