“Eine Frau die Whisky trinkt?” I looked up from swirling my fresh pour of Single Malt to see the incredulous eyes of a 40-something-year-old German man staring at me. He gave me a look of bemused admiration as I nosed the amber liquid and then took a sip. “Lecker,” he offered. I agreed—the whisky, a Stork Club Single Malt from Spreewald Distilleries was caramel-nosed, light and youthful in the mouth. “Smooth,” I countered. His eyebrows raised, and he gave me an appreciative nod. “My wife hates whisky,” he said told my boyfriend. “She can’t even take the smell of it. She made me switch to rum.” He looked into his glass contemplatively, shaking his head in disbelief: “A woman who drinks whisky.”
As my newfound friend is discovering, the times are changing, and whisky is no longer just for bachelors and grandpas. An embrace of this shift is completely evident not just in the story ofSpreewald Distillers, but in the physical space as well.
Located just 60 km outside of Berlin, Spreewald Distillery has been distilling schnapps, liqueurs, beers, rums, and whiskies for over 15 years. But in 2015, it’s course was about to change—one fateful day three Berliners came to buy a cask of whisky, and while having a chat in the courtyard, the owner revealed he was looking to hand over the keys to the next generation. Steffen Lohr, Bastian Heuser, and Sebastian Brack were in the right place, at the right time.
While from the outside, the distillery buildings have the weathered look of the rest of the charming town of Schlepzig, as soon as you step inside you’ll see the Berlin influence. Rows and rows of beautifully packaged fine liquors sitting on spartan wood shelving, rustic modern barrel tables invitingly grouped, and a kuchen-kaffee-und-eis counter that wouldn’t look out of place in trendy Prenzlauerberg fill the main space. Visitors looking for a bottle of one of the Spreewald specialties or a ball of the famous whisky ice cream can easily spend half an hour here—while I lingered over the clean designs of the Lufthansa cocktail line, Tim beckoned me forward to the waiting tour group.
Spreewald Distillery tours can be easily booked online. While the price might seem a little steep at face value (15-25 pp, depending on the tastings you select), the pours are generous, and the tastes “lecker” to say the least. My tour was held in German (with Tim translating the more technical portions), and took us from the main courtyard through the production buildings, and finally, up to the attic, where some of the casks are stored. We were given generous samples throughout—including the high proof pre-casked whisky (it’s called White Lightning in the U.S., but I didn’t think to ask if it has a name in German), and upstairs in the casking room a solid sip of Stork Club Single Malt Whisky.
Our guide detailed the distilling process and shared some fun anecdotes about the history of the distillery—including the fact that the awarded whisky we were sipping was, in fact, a happy accident. On a tipsy lark, the guys casked some of the rye mash and then forgot about it. When they discovered it again, they were shocked at how good it tasted—and it wasn’t just them. The pope of whisky in Scotland blessed the bottle with a score of 94/100, putting these rye distillers on the map.
Our tour finished in the Whisky Lounge, where we sampled the Straight Rye (typical for a rye, it’s rougher and heavier in the mouth and fuzzes the tongue, but was smooth going down. Unfortunately, out of stock for 2018 due to high demand!) and the Single Cask (soft, woody, intense—the heaviest of the three). The Whiskey Lounge is another beautiful space, done in dark green and dark woods. Down one side run shelves filled with differently casked whiskies and all of the distillery’s offerings: whisky, rum, liqueurs, schnapps, and the Lufthansa Cocktails I mentioned before.
Fun fact: Lufthansa pioneered the pre-mixed cocktails back in the Golden Age of flying, ensuring that all flights served consistently high-caliber cocktails. Steffen and Bastian took over the trademark rights in 2015, and this line of cocktails are modern adaptations of the ones first served on Lufthansa Flights in the 1950’s and 60s. You can purchase 7 different cocktails, pre-mixed and aged in the bottles: the Lufthansa Classic, the Negroni, the Old Fashioned, the Pear Gimlet, the Dry Martini, the White Manhattan, and the Dutch Coffee Cup. Is it just me, or would a set of those make a fine holiday gift for the jetsetters in your life?
There are some areas for chilling and a vibrant good mood (no doubt enhanced by the tastings). The Whisky Lounge can be rented for special events—I couldn’t imagine a classier, comfier venue for a birthday, work events, bachelor, or bachelorette party. Hell, it’s about time for wives to be drinking whisky.
It’s an exciting time to be drinking whisky in Germany—we’ve got a more youthful (and diverse) crowd of drinkers, and a new German brand to champion. Do we think it means the end of the gin trend? If anyone could do it, I’d put money on Stork Club.
From the nose to finish, the Spreewald Distillery tour was a smooth and enjoyable experience. For all the Berliners mourning the end of summer, cheer up! I can’t think of a better way to spend an autumn Saturday than sitting in this old-brick courtyard with a few good friends and a glass of Stork Club Single Malt.