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Slyrs German whisky from Germany

Many different varieties of beer and wine have been produced in Germany
(or rather the area that is now Germany) for centuries. In fact, the famous
'reinheitsgebot' for beer originated as far back as the 15th century. These
days there are some 1300 breweries in Germany, producing some 5,000
different brands of beer. With that in mind, it's no surprise that the fine art
of distillation was vigourously embraced when it arrived in the area.

Many different types of spirits have traditionally been distilled in Germany;
schnapps and (fruit) brandy (like Asbach Uralt), korn, bitters and herbal
liqueurs (like Jägermeister and Kuemmerling). German whisky is a fairly
recent addition to this list. I personally haven't sampled that many
different expressions, but the ones I've tried didn't really impress
me very much. That's a little strange, given the long distillation
history in Germany. The 'law of the handicap of a head start'?

Here are (just a few) notable German whisky distilleries;
Bellerhof (from Swabia, producing small amounts since 1990)
Blackwood (distilling wheat whisky since the 1980s)
Blaue Maus (this family distillery offers five different brands)
Gruel (from Swabia, making 5yo, 7yo and 9yo grains whiskies)
Hammerschmiede (from the Harz mountains in lower-Saxony)
Höhler (from Hesse, using a recipe with rye, wheat and corn)
Liebl ('Baerwurzerei Liebl' from Bavaria makes Coillmór whisky)
Rabel Berghof (from Esslingen near Stuttgart in the South)
Rothaus (from the Black Forest, making single malt whisky)
Slyrs (located in Bavaria, they've produced my favourite so far)
Sonnenschein (Privatbrennerei Sonnenschein also makes vodka)
Ziegler (from Lower Franconia, producing Aureum whisky)
I've been told that there are many other German whisky
distilleries. Most of them usually produce many other types of
spirits as well, like eau de vie, 'geist' and various liqueurs.
In many cases, whisky is produced in very small quantities.
This makes production costs relatively high - as well as the
'street price' of the average German whisky.

Blaue Maus 1993/2001 (40%, Blaue Maus destillerie, Germany).
(The Bavarian distillery was founded in 1923 and produces 3 other brands; Krottentaler, Spinnaker and Schwarzer Pirat.)
Nose: Ah, that's more like it. More like whisky, I mean. Malty and fruity. Tangerine?
A little dusty. Pleasantly spicy. Still pretty oily, but not as much as the Sonnenschein.
Whiff of toilet cubes? Not bad at all, although it lacks the depth most Scottish malts display.
Taste: Yuck! Cod oil again. Oily, dusty and sour. Weak and unbalanced. Flat. Chalk?
Dry finish. Bad wood? Too much breathing? The palate drags the score down quite a bit.
Score: 43 points - the nose decisively beats the Sonnenschein, but the taste clearly doesn't.

Piraten Whisky 1986/1994 (40%, Blaue Maus destillerie, Germany)
Nose: Sweet. Oil and dust again - and maybe a hint of fruits. More fruits emerge.
A little sweet. Nutty. Peanuts? Spices and maybe even a hint of salt after a while.
Some smoke. With a drop of water some metallic notes emerged. Best nose so far.
Taste: Whooh! A fatty, bitter burn. Metallic. Hot. Tannins? Astringent. Dry. Tar?
It grows oilier with time. Hardly tastes like a whisky at all. Worst palate so far.
Score: 38 points - to me, this 'pirate whisky' seems not significantly worse than the other German whiskies.
But then again I value an interesting nose. If I rated on taste alone, this would score much lower.

Sigel No. 7 Barley "Good Old Germany" (40%, OB, Germany, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Machine oil & liquorice all sorts, growing veggier, then sweeter. Odd, but interesting.
Taste: Oy!!! Chemical, oily and NOT pleasant. Too bad after the interesting nose. Menthol finish. Indeed, quite bad.
Score: 20 points - I've had worse, but it's indeed quite awful on the palate.

Slyrs 3yo 1999/2002 (43%, OB, Germany)
Nose: Spirity. Dusty, like the attic of a grain warehouse. Milk powder? Corn? Soy sauce.
Fruity sweetness - fairly unidentifiable fruity elements I found in some grappa's. Slightly oily.
This doesn't sound too appetising but this German malt is not entirely unpleasant. In fact, the combination works quite well here.
After ten minutes spicy and herbal elements come forward.
Taste: Ooof! Paint thinner. Very fruity. Bittersweet - more bitter than sweet.
Herbal. Malty. Big burn. Very dry. Strong tannin impression in the centre an the finish.
I kind of like this stuff. Very different from a Scotch malt, but quite interesting!
Score: 66 points - an impressive accomplishment, considering the 'minimum' age of this malt.

Sonnenschein 1989/2000 (43%, Privatbrennerei Sonnenschein, Germany)
The distillery was founded as far back as 1875, although they didn't produce whisky in those days.
This whisky is distilled with Scottisch malt and matured in 'Scottish' casks - whatever that means.
They also produce vodka under the name 'Vivat'.
Nose: Ooph... Oily and 'veggy'. Cod oil. Pork fat. Wheat? Some other grainy elements.
Dusty. Something coastal and fishy in the background? Spicier with time. Faint cinnamon?
Taste: Cod oil again. Very smooth and oily, growing bitter towards the finish. Clean.
Menthos freshness. I don't like the oily overtones, but it grows fruitier and more pleasant.
Wood. After a while the finish seems to become dry and sour, while reamining bitter as well.
Score: 40 points - it's drinkable enough, but this might as well have been a vodka. Doesn't really smell or taste like a whisky.
Well, not a Scotch whisky anyway. Way too oily and fatty for me. It seems they use the same still for their whisky and their vodka.

Spinnaker 1993/2001 (40%, Blaue Maus destillerie, Germany)
Nose: Hmm... Subtler and fruity and quite an interesting bouquet. Oil. A little grainy and alcoholic.
Marmelade? This one seems a little fresher at first but the noses are rather similar.
There seems to be something 'coastal' going on in the background as well.
Taste: Hurrgh... Weak and watery start. Oil. Eucalyptus? Cool. Maltier with water.
Actually, it picks up quite a bit with time, growing sweeter. Sourish, dry finish.
Score: 45 points - quite similar to the Blaue Maus, but spunkier and a little fresher.
Wagner's piece 'Brunhildes Erwachen' from Siegfried seemed strangely appropriate.

I was able to taste most of these samples thanks to certified malt maniac Dr. Lex Kraaieveld - and additional research information was
provided by German malt maniacs Keith Wood and Oliver Klimek. Thanks again fellows!


Tasting notes for a few German whiskies

As I've mentioned earlier, I didn't really go berserk
over any of the German whiskies I've tried so far.
The Slyrs was the only German whisky that I've
actually enjoyed, although I'm sure that there must
be other decent German whiskies. If I ever find any
of them I'll make sure to add the notes to this page.
Anyway, based on my research so far Germany is
not in my Top 5 of whisky distilling countries. That's
actually a little disappointing if you realise how much
distillation experience the Germans have - and how
many small distilleries are active in the country.
This makes the high quality of whisky from new whisky
countries like Japan and India all the more impressive.

Keith Wood of Whisky Emporium says about Slyrs and German whisky:
"What Slyrs do very well is marketing. They release their annual edition in
Autumn and manage every year to get world-wide promotion on various TV
shows focusing on Munich and the Alps at Christmas time. One day when I
was still selling whisky (long before my malt maniacs days), I received an
order for Slyrs from someone in a famous film studio in California who'd
seen such a programme and wanted a bottle no matter what the cost.
Each year they bottle something like 50-60% of their outrun from 3 years
previously and the rest is left to mature as they always stated they wanted
to bottle a 12y version as from 2015. Now that's one I will look forward to
trying, but I'm sure they'll charge very silly money. As for the many other
German whiskies; many are just too raw and young and too expensive."

Laphroaig 1974
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Whisky from Germany

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