From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series will feature a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.
On a trip to Scotland in 1994, the distiller Florian Stetter looked around at the lakes, the hills, and the pine woods. He breathed in the fresh air and thought of his home Bavaria. The southern German state might be beer country extraordinaire, but after drinking a few single malts with his colleagues, he wagered he could craft a whisky every bit as good as the Scottish stuff back in Germany.
Stetter began his experiments in 1997, and it took some time before he got it right. “What was first produced,” he admits, “was undrinkable.” But Stetter kept at it, and in 1999 he eventually sold the first bottles of SLYRS Bavarian Whisky from the distillery he had founded in Schliersee. Using solely Bavarian ingredients – the barley, for example, is smoked over beechwood, not peat, and water from the Bannwald spring at the foot of the Alps – he has created a truly homegrown German whisky.
By now, he had the process down pat, distilling the barley ‘mash' twice over in 1,500-litre copper stills, then storing the whisky for three years (as of 2015, a twelve-year version will be available). The result is a whisky with a deliciously sugary-sweet aroma, whose underlying scents contain honey, herbs, wood and just a hint of vanilla. The taste has a discreet malt flavour with herb and honey accents, with a dry finish. “Try SLYRS with 70 percent bitter chocolate,” urges Stetter.
The distillation of whisky, a process which has its European origins in Ireland and, later, Scotland, is relatively new to Germany, with distilleries popping up only in the last thirty years. SLYRS' distilling process takes place very slowly, in much the same way that traditional Bavarian fruit brandies are made. Unlike Scotch whisky, which is generally stored in used bourbon casks, SLYRS uses American white oak barrels to obtain its deep amber colour.
The distillery, which has a capacity of 60,000 bottles per year, can be visited from Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. There, you can see the unusually shaped stills created by master Bavarian coppersmiths for SLYRS. When you're done, you can swing by the shop for a bottle (or two) of whisky, which goes for €39.99 for 0.7 litres. If you feel like it, while you're there you can also pick up fruit brandy and liqueurs produced by Lantenhammer, the nearby distillery Florian Stetter runs with his wife, Andrea.