When people talk about the German tradition of distilling spirits, the first thing you will hear about is the art of distilling fruit, which is the historically grown foundation of that craft throughout the country. Although countless fruit distillers have long since expanded their traditional profession and now also produce gin, whisky and co. on their own or as commissioned work, in the end it is of course the fruit brandy respectively eau-de-vie production that forms the heart of the German distillery landscape. And the Brennerei Hubertus Vallendar is one of those distilleries. (provided test products)*
The distillery is run – you can already guess it from the name – by Hubertus Vallendar and his team. It is located in the small village of Kail on the Eifelhöhen north of the Moselle valley in Rhineland-Palatinate. In recent years, the distillery has been able to gain additional renown by winning numerous prizes at international spirits competitions, which naturally makes you sit up and take notice. In addition to the core segment of fruit eau de vies, the distillery also produces particularly high-quality representatives under the name “La Donna”, but also, among other things, a whisky, gin, bitters and other spirits.
Personally, I find it particularly exciting to try unusual distillates within the traditional realm of distilling fruits, which are not found in every distillery. And so, in addition to numerous classics in the assortment of the distillery Vallendar, there are also some exotic ones, which I find particularly exciting, first and foremost for their potential behind the bar, but also for their neat quality. Of course both are once again in focus here today: the use in cocktails and tasting them neat. In particular, the focus today lies on the Vallendar Bananenbrand (banana eau-de-vie), the Vallendar Kakaogeist (cocoa eau-de-vie), the Vallendar “The Original” Haselnussspirituose (hazelnut spirit), the Vallendar Mangogeist (mango eau-de-vie) and the Vallendar Limonengeist (lime eau-de-vie). All of them are rather unusual representatives (perhaps with the exception of the hazelnut), and I am very much looking forward to tasting them. All the spirits mentioned were bottled with an alcohol strength of 40% vol. A one more word about the bottles: the design is absolutely outstanding and beautiful, as I think.
I would like to start my tasting notes with the extremely exciting Vallendar Limonengeist, for which Mexican limes are purchased from a Dutch import company.
Tasting Notes “Vallendar Limonengeist”:
Aroma: Fresh, tangy, surprisingly sweet, reminiscent of sorbet. Authentic notes of peel as well as of fruit flesh, associations of grapefruit resonate.
Taste: Pleasantly mild, the alcohol is well integrated. The lime comes through almost palpably, again intense peel tones (lime oil more than fruit flesh). Slightly bitter notes of the peel are also present, but not disturbing at all, rather emphasising the authenticity of the fruit.
Finish: medium long with lime peel
Next up is the Vallendar “Das Original – Haselnussspirituose”. The basis for this spirit are roasted hazelnuts – no surprise. Nevertheless, let’s see how it performs in the tasting.
Tasting Notes „Vallendar ‚Das Original‘ Haselnussspirituose“:
Aroma: Hazelnuts, light toasted notes, but also finer notes of blanched nuts, chocolaty sweetness of nougat cream, white nougat
Taste: a little nuttier on the palate, a certain sweetness is there, whether and to what extent small amounts of sugar have been added here, I cannot say, but I think it is possible (also in view of the designation as “Spirituose” instead of “Geist” (a German type of eau-de-vie)). Here, too, there are hints of chocolate, which tend towards milk chocolate, again white nougat.
Finish: long-lasting sweetness, hazelnuts
Next is the Vallendar Bananenbrand. The bananas for this eau-de-vie come from Rwanda and are grown there according to organic criteria. Without going into the definitional differences between Brände and Geiste again in this article (it’s a special German regulation), it should nevertheless be briefly mentioned that this one is produced directly by distilling the fermented fruit. Thus, here there was no previously prepared macerate, but a fruit mash.
Tasting Notes “Vallendar Bananenbrand”:
Aroma: Wow, this is my favourite so far! Only recently I had written an article about the Giffard Banane du Bresil which also contained some thoughts about the problems of banana spirits, but there is no trace of these artificial notes in this spirit either. A rich, sweet, fully authentic banana, overripe, yet slightly mashed, that’s how I see it in my mind’s eye.
Taste: Also very successful on the palate! A ripe banana is wonderfully carried by alcohol, the eau-de-vie is not sweet, but shows associations of sweetness. Nuances of banana bread flash up, but in the end it remains a really great, fluid interpretation of the fruit.
Finish: banana, long lasting
Let us stay in the basket of exotic fruits and jump from banana to mango. A mango spirit is actually a really fine and innovative thing that I haven’t seen very often before. Especially for the Tiki sector, I see a great potential here, but more about that in the future. The basis for this is a macerate, which was made with the mush of Peruvian mangoes and is finally distilled once again.
Tasting Notes “Vallendar Mangogeist”:
Aroma: if you regularly consume mangos, you know how different these fruits can turn out. If they are not quite ripe, they exude a greenish, slightly woody scent. If they are fully ripe, on the other hand, they are extremely sweet, juicy and smell of holiday and exoticism. The Vallendar Mangogeist exudes, much to my delight, the latter scent. One would like to reach out and grab a fruit while drinking it, very beautiful!
Taste: on the palate there is a slightly alcoholic note, the mango is also ripe, with associations of fruit sweetness and that touch of exoticism that makes the mango so characteristic.
Finish: medium long, with an interesting interplay of sweet and sour associations, an idea of peach
Tasting Notes “Vallendar Kakaogeist”:
Aroma: The nose reveals an authentic cocoa scent, as if you were smelling roasted nibs and some milk chocolate. Minimal associations of coffee resonate and there is also a light, fresh note that I find difficult to identify. But of course, first and foremost this is an aroma of cocoa, worthy of a cocoa spirit.
Taste: Clear, beautiful cocoa notes show themselves from a rather mild side, reminiscent of milk chocolate. Associations of roasted hazelnuts round off the taste harmoniously, the alcohol is noticeable but very mild. The cocoa spirit is completely convincing, as it undoubtedly fulfils its programme.
Finish: medium long with cocoa and milk chocolate
Of course, I cannot immediately present a cocktail for every single eau-de-vie in this article today. Nevertheless, I would like to make at least a start and take a look at the lime eau-de-vie and the cocoa eau-de-vie. With the former, I have ventured into a kind of deconstructed and newly composed version of the classic Gimlet. I made a syrup out of juniper berries and some rosemary and then stirred it cold with the Limonengeist in the style of an Old Fashioned. One bar spoon of Chartreuse verte, one Dash Orange Bitters and one of Celery Bitters round off the drink, which I have called “Deconstructed Gimlet”.
Recipe “Deconstructed Gimlet”:
4.5 cl Vallendar Lemon Spirit
0.75 cl juniper syrup (see below)
1 bar spoon Chartreuse verte
1 Dash The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
1 Dash The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Juniper syrup: For the juniper syrup, simply heat sugar, water and juniper berries in a 2:2:1 ratio in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Let it simmer down to syrup consistency. If necessary, you can refine the syrup with a sprig of rosemary (or more, depending on the amount of syrup you make).
Preparation: Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass on ice until cold and strain into the pre-cooled glass.
Garnish: a dark baked slice of lime
I absolutely wanted to use the Vallendar Kakaogeist in a kind of Sour. After all, there were several influences at once that brought me to my creation, but most of all the really good Delmarva Cocktail No.2 by the recently deceased Gary Regan inspired me. For this I used a rum with coffee notes (the Plantation Guatemala XO), sugar syrup, fresh lemon, the Vallendar Cocoa Spirit and some Honjozo Sake. The result is really a very fine and delicate composition, in reference to the Delmarva it is simply called Peninsula Cocktail.
Recipe “Peninsula Cocktail”:
5 cl Plantation Guatemala XO
1.5 cl Vallendar Cocoa spirit
1.5 cl Honjozo Sake
1.5 cl lemon juice
1.5 cl sugar syrup
Preparation: Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice and strain double into a glass filled with fresh ice.
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online
*The fact that these products have been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.