A fine dram from the heart of the Alps
Logs burning in the fireplace, cigars, good company and a whisky that has spent some years maturing in a wooden cask – what more do you need to bring a busy day to a perfect end? The word whisky conjures up images of rugged cliffs, green pastures, wild countryside and comfy pubs. Thoughts turn to Ireland or Scotland, countries which seem to have the optimum climate for maturing whisky.
So it’s all the more surprising to learn that over the course of the last few decades a considerable number of small but fine whisky distilleries have sprung up in the austere surroundings of the Austrian Alps.
Whisky or whiskey? Connoisseurs will already know that whiskey (with an „e“) originates from Ireland, whereas Scotland spells its famous product without the „e“. So the correct spelling is, appropriately enough, a matter of taste. Austria, however, has decided on „whisky“, which seems to be becoming the preferred international variant.
The origins of whisky production in Austria lie in a combination of circumstance, curiosity and a fondness for experimentation. Conditions are perfect, with nature providing the necessary raw materials (barley, oats, rye, corn and spelt) and pure alpine spring water. All that was needed to produce an internationally acclaimed product was the necessary expert know-how about malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling and ageing.
The start of whisky production in Austria reaches back to the late 1990s, when a few intrepid distilleries started a process of experimentation. They examined the possibilities, trod new paths and imparted their end-product an individual and regional character that so embodies the alpine countryside and climate from which it stems. Now 20 years down the road, their achievements are impressive. Left to mature for several years in carefully selected wooden casks, these whiskies owe their special personality to their fine natural ingredients, the alpine conditions in they are partially stored, and the various notes their distillers have lent them: a slight trace of smoke, hints of fruit or chocolate, a vanilla aroma – there’s practically no limit to their creativity. These fine whiskies still remain a well-kept secret, but probably not for much longer!