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Issue 104 - Distilling with Swiss Precision

Whisky Magazine Issue 104
June 2012


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Distilling with Swiss Precision

Ian Buxton finds there's more to Switzerland than cheese, cuckoo clocks and cow bells

Have you ever drunk whisky made from melted snow? Or from water drawn from a spring by the light of the full moon? Or whisky made with spelt (it's an ancient strain of wheat)?

Chances are you haven't. Well, now you can – at least, if you can get to The Whisky Castle in the tiny village of Elfingen, Switzerland.

It's roughly half way between Basle and Zurich and easily reached from either city by train and a short cab ride.

A short journey it may be, but The Whisky Castle is a world away from the bustle of the city. Here on their small farm, the Käser family grow vegetables for their shop at Viaduct 231 in Zurich's Limmatstrasse and vines for the production of their own red and white wine. More importantly, they have been distilling fruit spirits here for many years, largely from their own produce, products which enjoy a high reputation and have won a number of prestigious awards.

But that market is in long-term decline and is highly price sensitive; whisky looked like a better option. After all, they thought, how hard could it be?

In 1999 they found out. Prior to that Switzerland did not permit distilling from cereal, which was reserved for food production, legislation which dated back to the Second World War. However, the law was repealed and Herr Käser senior decided to make whisky.

As they themselves will tell you the results were, to put it kindly, disappointing. (I've tasted this first distillation and even I would have been disappointed.) Nothing daunted, they...

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