Whisky in Germany by Whisky Women
What can I tell you about German whisky? After all, it hasn’t been around that long. Distilling and drinking schnapps is common in Germany. Grain in the north and fruit in the south. In the middle, plenty of beer and wine. And now whisky, too!
Distilling schnapps and the fine art of beer brewing were a good foundation for producing good whisky in Germany as well. The question of who first brought German whisky on to the market is a controversial issue. More importantly than who distilled the first whisky, however, is how the product tastes. Especially now that it is being sold in over 400 distilleries. Quite right! Germany now has more distilleries producing whisky than Scotland. However, Scotland produces far more litres of whisky than the Germans.
This is due, among other things, to the fact that many German distilleries which produce fruit and grain brandies are simply expanding their product range to include whisky. This means that fruit stills are used for distilling. These have an elongated shape and multiple floors. So you have more of a column distillation, which provides a fruity taste.
The Slyrs distillery set a milestone in German whisky production at the end of the 1990s. The distillery from Bavaria had its own stills made, which are a custom product from Germany. These ultimately led to the great success of Slyrs. German whisky is made in most distilleries with a lot of manual work in small batches and within family businesses, which is why the final product is then sold in small quantities, not tending to reach the international market. To me, that is what makes them so special.
What’s great is that more and more distilleries are focusing on sustainability. The grain is grown in-house and the stills are fired with wood from their own forest. After firing, the newmake must be stored in the barrel as usual. In Germany, the type of wood for the barrel is not specified. It is therefore unnecessary to ensure that it is oak, as is the case in Scotland. Thus, sometimes it happens that a German whisky matures in chestnut barrels.
However, German whisky must mature in barrels for at least three years before it can be called whisky according to EU spirits regulation. Which is why German whisky likes to mature in smaller casks. As a result, the barrel contact is greater and the maturing process more intensive. Thus, a three- to six-year-old year old whisky can already be mature and ready for bottling.
German whisky distillers are very willing to experiment. Diverse finishings and impressive storage locations give the whisky its special touch and make it unique. For example, the Slyrs distillery has a cask storage facility for its Mountain Edition at 1501 metres on a mountain peak, and the St. Kilian Distillers distillery has its casks mature in a wooded ex-NATO ammunition bunker.
St.Kilian Distillers is now the largest whisky distillery in Germany. Since 2016, they have been producing multi-award-winning whisky based on the Scottish model. This includes genuine Scottish copper stills in which the traditional double firing takes place. The finished whisky is hand-filled and sold in strictly limited quantities. Since it is very popular, you have to be quick! German whisky: a mixture of tradition, craftsmanship, experimentation and heart and soul.
So you see, I did have a little to say about German whisky and as the whisky distilleries keep growing, we won’t run out of topics or whisky.