Travel

Emerging Europe

We look at some whisky producing nations outside the big players.
By Rob Allanson
It’s a well established fact that whisky tourism in Scotland, Ireland,Kentucky and Japan has reached such a level of sophistication and advancement that it has become an integral and important part of the whisky business.More surprising, though, is that distilleries are springing up in the oddest parts of the world, and with them come visiting facilities that could well be the envy of more established and famous distilleries.The new boys aren’t afraid to break with convention and experiment with new methods and flavours and they are adopting new production techniques.They have started to produce distinctive and unique whiskies, using their own styles of grains, and peat to make the whisky and unusual types of oak for maturation.With the world demand for whisky at an unprecedented high due to the emergence of new markets in South East Asia, India and China, and as consumers in established markets seek out premium products with provenance and heritage, experts predict that the current crop of ‘new world’whisky makers represent the tip of the iceberg.Across the world, spirits makers are experimenting with grains, wood types and production methods to produce new styles of whisky, providing visitors with a very new and different experience.They’re successful, too, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, and they bring with them a refreshing and original approach to providing for tourists, offering children’s play areas, state of the art tourist facilities and unusual events such as food and whisky pairings and whisky dinners.In the last issue we looked at the emerging distilleries in America outside the recognised bourbon heartland of Kentucky. In this issue we look at European distilleries outside Scotland and Ireland.So wide is the choice available to the whisky enthusiast that we have focused in this issue just on the German-speaking regions of central Europe, keeping the distilleries of countries such as France,Belgium, Sweden,The Netherlands,Wales and England for a future issue.The German-speaking region of Central Europe is one of the fastest growing whisky-producing regions in the world,boasting more than 25 distilleries already,though many of them are not open to the public.For this feature we have selected the best distilleries in Austria,Germany and Switzerland.They have been chosen because they are best suited to receiving visitors, are in locations where there are lots of alternative amenities for tourists including good quality accommodation,and because they produce whisky of very good quality. AUSTRIA WALDVIERTLER ROGGENHOF Waldviertler was the first whisky distillery in Austria,though others have now opened,and it attracts an impressive 50,000 visitors and rising.To meet visitor expectations it has expanded its facilities to offer a children’s play area,an interactive ‘whisky experience’area and Celtic tree circles “which incorporate the four elements of fire,earth,water and air.”The tour includes a video,a comprehensive look at the distilling process,and a tasting.The whisky making process is unique to the distillery and involves quadruple distillation and the removal of undesired compounds and alcohols at the start of the process rather than at the end,as in Scotland.A range of barley and ryestyles are produced,and the distillery has deep roasted the grain in some cases to create whiskies with chocolate,caramel and nougat characteristics.Each is bottled from a single barrel and not mixed or blended in any way.“We have noticed a growing interest,”says Monika Haider.“The future looks very promising.We believe that we can develop a new European market for high qualitywhiskies.” Contact :A-3664 Roggenreith,Austria www.roggenhof.at Tel:+43 (0) 2874 7496 WEIDENAUER Weidenauer is a fruit liqueur distillery but has started making a whisky-style spirit using oats and a whisky using spelt wheat.The distillery does permit visitors but byappointment only.Contact :Leopolds 6,3623 Kottes www.weidenauer.at Tel +43 (0) 2873 7276 WOLFRAM ORTNER Wolfram Ortner specialises in the very finest items,from cigars to premium brandies,and among the spirits produced at Bad Kleinkirchheim is WOB Do malt,or Nockland whisky.It is made using new oak casks from a variety of sources including the fine French oak producing regions.The high tech distillery and shop can be visited on weekday afternoons by appointment.There is a charge of 12 Euros.Contact : Unterscherner Weg 3,9546 Bad Kleinkirchheim www.wob.at Tel:+43 (0) 4240760 OTHER ATTRACTIONS Austria is of course world famous for its mountainous terrain and fabulous skiing.But it makes a good summer destination,too,its stunning scenery ideal for walking holidays.At the moment Austria is also highlighting its eco-friendly credentials,claiming it is years ahead of manycountries in terms of recycling, energy efficiency and public transport,and it is specialising in eco-friendly family holidays at a reasonable price.Full details and accommodation offers can be found at www.austria.info GERMANY THE BLAUE MAUS DISTILLERY, EGGLESHEIN-NEUSES The Blaue Maus is one of the oldest distilleries in Germany and is this summer celebrating its 25th anniversary with a series of events which include concerts and mini Highland Games.The distillery is based at a nautically-themed inn owned by Robert Fleischmann and a nautical theme influences the names of such whiskies as Spinaker and Schwarzes Pirat (Black Pirate).Then there’s Blaue Maus (Blue Mouse) and most recently,Gruner Hund (Green Dog).Unlike the majority of Scottish distilleries Blaue Maus has no house style and makes a range of whiskies aimed to suit all palates.The distillery lies to the north of Munich in a region renowned for good food.Distillery tours can be arranged by appointment.Contact:Bamberger Strasse, Eggolsheim-Neuses, Germany www.fleischmann-whisky.de Tel:+49 (0) 95457461 HOEHLER The Hohler family started producing alcohol more than 110 years ago,specialising in fruit liqueurs.The whisky produced hereuses various mixes of corn,rye and malt and is sometimes referred to as whessky – a play on whisky and the region of Hessen where the distillery is sited.The distillery makes a Scotch style,Irish style, bourbon style and rye style whisky,but the taste in each case is pretty unique.It’s also extremely well made and very hard to get hold of because GERMANY demand always outstrips supply.The distillery is situated notfar from Frankfurt and allows visitors.Contact:Kirchgasse, Aarbergen www.brennerei-hoehler.de Tel:+49 (0) 61201321 SLYRS Slyrs is a nine year old whisky distillery closely linked to the Lantenhammer schnapps distillery which operates in the same village in the heart of Bavaria.The whisky is the brainchild of Florian Stutter and is young but of reasonable and improving quality,and the distillery accommodates tours throughout the year.During the summer months it’s open every day and the charge for adults is a modest five euros, and free for under 18s.The tour includes a film presentation and adults can sample the whisky at the end.The distillery lies on the shores of Lake Schliersee in a mountainous region of Bavaria.Contact: Bayrischzellerstrasse, Schliersee-Ortsteil Neuhaus www.slyrs.de Tel:+49 (0) 80269222795 OTHER ATTRACTIONS Bavaria is known for its outstanding beauty and its mountains,forests and lakes, and as a result it is an ideal destination for ramblers.It’s great for beer lovers,too,and each Autumn stages the worldfamous Bierfest.The region produces fine porcelain and glassware.The fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein,built by Ludwig II,must be visited.More information can be found at www.about-germany.org SWITZERLAND HOF HALLE Hof Halle became the first Swiss whisky maker when it started producing on the very daythe lawchanged topermit making spirit with grain in 1999.The distilleryis sited on a farm near Basle and normally produces fruit liqueur but the whiskyis normally sold as single cask.Visits are by appointment only.Contact:Hollen 52,Lauwill www.single-malt.ch Tel +41 (0) 619411541 KAESAR’S CASTLE You tend to associate Switzerland with cheese so perhaps it comes as no surprise tofind Ruedi Kaesar’s whisky castle based at his cheese castle.Whatever else,though,it presents a wonderful opportunity to savour the delights of whisky with cheese.The pot still used to make whisky at the distillery is the smallest on mainland Europe, and one of the smallest commercial stills in the world, and the whisky made here is made in small batches and covers a range of styles.Rye and Spelt (a strain of German SWITZERLAND wheat) is used in the process,as well as barley,and the range includes a smoky barley whisky.The distillery is also experimenting with casks made of special oaks.Itseems that the distillery’s reputation is growing.Visitor numbers are rising rapidly and as of July,the whiskies will be on sale in China.The distillery lies in the Aargau Frick Valley,and while visiting whynot spend some time in the distillery’s Garden of he Senses or the Schnapps Theatre?Contact:Castle Cheese, Schlossstrasse, Elfingen,Switzerland www.whisky-castle.com Tel: +41 (0) 628 761783 OTHER ATTRACTIONS Switzerland is famous for its natural beauty,its cheese, clocks and chocolate.It also boasts some of the most stunning walkways in the world and offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets.More information from www.myswitzerland.com