Another week rolls round and I’m back on the whisky. I mean I didn’t stop but I had a writing break for a week, sometimes you just need to sit in the sun and enjoy the moment. As it’s a new week though that also means another Wednesday, and another World Whisky Wednesday at that! This week I dug into my dwindling samples and pulled out something Frisch, something jung, something anders. This week I pulled out something German, the 2018 Sherry Release Beverach Whisky.
I’ve looked at a few German whiskies before, so have left me wanting another bottle and others wanting less. The country has a long and illustrious alcohol history focused on beer and schnapps though they’ve slowly been turning their hands towards whisky, and why not? There is a plethora of world class breweries in Germany and starting with a good wash is a brilliant step towards making whisky.
When you ask about how many whisky distilleries Germany has you’ll be told anywhere from twenty to two hundred, the reason for this discrepancy is that though there are only a handful of dedicated WHISKY distilleries in Germany you have an unknown number of folk who distil multiple products. Couple this with those who are extremely small, breweries and vineyards who have some stills and will run anything through them and others that are just one person in a shed and you find the confusion. In all while Germany has more distilleries than Britain and Ireland put together, most folk produce in such small quantity that German whisky makes up less than half a percentage of the world market.
Where they are small producers however there are large producers, enter Hardenberg Distillery. With two locations, a grain distillery within Norten-Hardenberg (south of Hanover) and a win distillery within Wilthen (nestled near the Czech and Polish borders) Hardenberg has quite the history. The Hardenberg Castle has history dating near a millenia to the early 10th century. While disputed over for a few centuries, it fell into the control of the Hardenberg family in the late 13th century and the family becoming barons and from there counts in 1778 though not before a thunderstorm in the late 17th century caused extensive damages to the castle. With a distillery being founded in 1700 by the Hardenberg family, the distillery still running to this day (though not without refurbishments and repairs). In modern times the family inhabit an estate within the area built shortly after the castles ruin, managing the estate and farming.
Three hundred years of history is nothing to sneeze at, and in that time Hardenberg have made themselves the 2nd largest liquor producer within Germany with an exhausting portfolio of whisky, vodka, gin, korn, liqueurs and much more, but it’s the whisky we’re looking at today. Given their history however they only started producing whisky in 2014. While unfortunately I’ve been unable to source production specifications there is a bit of information floating around that I’ve managed to put together.
Beverbach Whisky is comprised of wheat sourced from the Hardenberg families own farms and barley from the broader region. Double distilled the whisky is then aged for between three to four years in ex-bourbon barrels, todays drop is finished in Sherry Casks for an unspecified amount of time though judging by the colour only a few months. Released as a Limited Edition, this whisky was limited to 1000 bottles. Curiously, it is labelled as a Single Malt. Due to European legislation at the time the term was applicable to whiskies distilled at a single distillery with the ingredients not being considered. As I understand this law has since been changed.
So, it’s a young whisky from a producer with centuries of experience, lets crack open the little bottle and have at it.
The nose opens with fields of grass and hay interspersed with dandelions, some rough honey and butterscotch coming through. It moves onto vanilla custard with white chocolate buttons, a bowl of parfait and a helping of lemon drizzle cake. Next up there’s some fresh cut pineapple and a touch of citronella candles, with some wet tweed and roast apples. Definite distillery character in there, almost fresh off the stills. Some roast apples, deepening to over cooked pastry and a sponge cake folded too often and gone rubbery. After water and some time to breathe is turns to stale marzipan.
The palate is disappointing, a touch tart lime and a few drops of oyster sauce of all things. There’s a distinct taste of old soft almond and cashews and a hint of garlic, some undercooked potatoes and a soapy flavour that comes and goes. It’s the mouthfeel that really throws you though, puckering and somewhat firm. Think extremely green stone fruits but without even a trace of sweetness, sucking on a peach stone that is no one near ripe. A touch of water increased the lemon juice and brought in some unripe pears.
Finally, the finish is simply tart and astringent, a large helping of oak and lemon, some clove and a drop of white wine vinegar that doesn’t help the whisky at all. Water and time doesn’t change the finish, though it is remarkably long.
I have had worse whisky. I’ve had whisky I will leave for some time, add some water, and try again and I’ve had whisky I’ve thrown away. This fits into the former category, though not by far. I was hoping for a nice light floral piece that showed off the wheat and was left with a light case of cottonmouth. At a guess I would say those ex-bourbon barrels were long worn out and past their prime and as for the sherry finishing, I could not find a hint of it. I’m not expecting full blown oloroso in a glass, but some raisins wouldn’t have gone amiss, if only to open to whisky and make it more interesting.
I can understand this all from a distillery that just started making whisky, however. As said before it was only in 2014 that Hardenberg turned their hands to whisky, so some hiccups are to be expected, but for a limited release I was left wanting more. The world of whisky and German whisky is heavily expanding, and I only hope for things to come, but this drop goes to show that where distillation is concerned history isn’t everything.