Today’s article is one I was very excited about as it once more offers the chance to write about some products from my immediate, regional proximity. Besides that, it is about three really interesting bottles and some of them contain real, fluid innovations. And although it is not long ago that I’ve presented some fruit brandies here from the Feiner Kappler series, today’s bottles are slightly different. (provided test products)
Although I have already referred to the difference between brandies and spirits (Brände & Geiste – there is no real translation for these German terms) in the above-linked article, let me briefly explain once more: Not all fruit and vegetable varieties contain enough sugar to produce a fermenting mash with a sufficiently high alcohol content for the subsequent distillation. Therefore, a clear fruit brandy (Brand) cannot be made from each fruit using the same method. However, in order to produce a spirit (Geist), the corresponding fruits are combined with neutral grain spirit and can thus release their aroma in a process of maceration. The fact that fruit distillation has a very long tradition in Germany and Austria can not only be seen from the vast number of fruit distilleries in both countries, but also from the simple fact that there is a distinction between brandies (Brände) and spirits (Geiste) where in other countries there is none. So in an international context both would normally be called fruit brandy or Eau de Vie.
Another topic in this context is the addition of sugar to the final distillate, which is legally not prohibited (also not in Germany) and can be encountered more often than you might think (especially some French Eau de Vies tend to be surprisingly mellow at a surprisingly cheap price). The three bottles I am talking about today are fortunately not sugared at all (this applies to all the brandies (Brände) and spirits (Geiste) from the Sauerländer Edelbrennerei).
So I guess it is time to finally have a closer look on the actual products from the Sauerländer Edelbrennerei (“Sauerland” is a rural, hilly are in the south-east of North Rhine-Westphalia; “Edelbrennerei” literally means “noble distillery”). Since I am from Dortmund, the Sauerland is located directly at my doorstep and it is a popular recreation area for people from the eastern Ruhr Valley. The small village of Kallenhardt, where the Sauerländer Edelbrennerei is located, lies just a few kilometers away from Dortmund (a little bit more than an hour’s drive). The distillery itself is a quite young one, the distilling license was granted in the year of 2000 and what once started as an extended hobby has meanwhile found its way into the commercial segment. The real head behind the distillery is the Kallenhardt business man Ulrich Wolfkühler, who decided to found the distillery together with his friend (and now business partner) Martina Mülheims after a trip through southern Germany. During this trip they have tasted a lot of fruit brandies and were profoundly convinced that they could do this better. In the meantime, the Sauerländer Edelbrennerei is run by a four-man team led by distiller Julian Wellhausen (the other three are Thomas Lesniowski, Alexander Mülheims and Julius Vosloh – except Julius, the other three are also the sons-in-law of the Mülheims and Wolfkühler families) and the distillery was also expanded (now there is a tasting room and even a cigar lounge).
The three bottles which I want to review today contain also some very promising curiosities you cannot find everywhere. Besides a classical Waldhimbeergeist (forest raspberry spirit) there is also a Möhrenbrand (carrot brandy) and a Heugeist (hay spirit). While a carrot brandy can only be found very rarely, I have never heard of a hay spirit before. That’s why I am eagerly awaiting the tasting! The brandies and spirits are sold in typical slimline-bottles and the stoppers are sealed with sealing wax. The labels are adorned with individual pictures of German artist Otmar Alt (each showing the mascot of the distillery: a small raven) and bestow a valuable impression upon the bottles.
For the Waldhimbeergeist, according to the above-described method, fresh raspberries from the Sauerland forests are first macerated in neutral grain spirit and the mixture of forest raspberries, alcohol and water is then distilled to the final Waldhimbeergeist in the distillery. Finally, the Waldhimbeergeist is bottled at 43% ABV. It comes in a 0.35 liter bottle and costs about 30 euros.
Aroma: On the nose, the raspberry turns out very intensely and fruity, you can almost feel the desire to eat some ripe berries from a raspberry bush. It also feels like I can even scent all the small seeds, which is always a very good sign for a raspberry spirit. Fine citrus aroma emphasizes the aromatic impression. There is barely any trace of alcohol there and the mild and balanced aroma triggers a craving for the first sip.
Taste: Fruity, yet full-bodied – Here, again, a fine acid emphasizes the authentic character of the fruit and you can easily imagine a walk through the forest of Kallenhardt. The lemon character is less prominent here, but in the course of time the dry aromas of fruit seeds and a subtle idea of moss come through.
Finish: dry, fruity and long.
For the carrot brandy, the carrots are first processed into a mash and develop their own alcohol during the fermentation process. Afterwards they are distilled in a multi-stage distillation process and mature for eight months in steel tanks. The carrot brandy is bottled at 40% ABV and costs about 30 euros (also for a 0.35l bottle).
Aroma: Anyone who cannot imagine what a carrot brandy will smell like will be very amazed by the authentic character of this product: indeed the first impression is a fine, sweet carrot that is rising from the glass. Sweet, earthy and with a certain amount of freshness this brandy flatters the nose. The essence of a carrot could hardly be captured in a more appropriate way. I am really impressed by that.
Flavor: There is a good part of citrus flavor accompanying the still impressive and authentic carrot and a slightly herbaceous tone comes through. Over time, the earthy and sweet character of the carrot wins the upper hand. A truly remarkable distillate.
Finish: dry and earthy with light herbal tones
The people of the Sauerländer Edelbrennerei are especially proud of their Heugeist (hay spirit). The hay for this spirit is harvested on meadows specially created for this purpose and then also used in a maceration process in order to obtain the finished product by a subsequent distillation (as it is the case with the Waldhimbeergeist). The Heugeist is available for approx. 25 Euro (0,35l) and comes with 40% ABV.
Aroma: I was really very curious about this spirit. And here, too, I am simply enthusiastic about what is in my glass: If you should think something like: “Everytime I am reading tasting notes about some spirits, I turn out disappointed in the end since I never find what those guys are writing.” I can assure you: This time you will find the hay! This spirit smells like the liquid essence of hay. It is grassy, strawy, herbaceous and flowery. I feel like even being able to smell the sun’s rays touching the meadow.
Taste: In terms of taste this is for sure the most delicious sip of a liquid barn I have ever tasted: spicy, grassy and herbaceous with hints of Żubrówka (buffalo grass vodka) and an authentic flavor dimension hardly to be put into words. Over time, some chamomile appears on the palate.
Finish: herbaceous, grassy and very long. What a spirit!
A whole lot of ideas for the use in cocktails come to my mind, but more on that later.
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online.