Inspiring history and the world’s highest whisky trek
TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI | PHOTOS © BRAUEREI LOCHER AG
For a traditional brewery of the Alpstein region, century-old beer barrels have become a family asset, eventually resulting in one of the most stunning whisky tours worldwide.
In 1998, Karl Locher, owner of the Locher brewery at Appenzell, wondered how to make use of the matured aromas and beer extracts contained in his ancestors’ beer casks. Up to 120 years old, these traditional transport casks had been used to deliver beer to regional pubs and restaurants until the beginning of the seventies.
The oak casks were sealed on the inside with pitch to prevent the beer tasting of wood and to avoid carbon dioxide leakage. However, the tar-like layer often became cracked so that over the decades, traces of beer soaked into the barrel staves. The barrels were always resealed and, as a result, the beer extracts were locked into the staves.
Cask meets taste.
Merging the old and the new
Locher, who manages the family business in its fifth generation, was well aware of the fact that in 1999, an old law from World War II prohibiting the distillation of barley in Switzerland would finally be amended. The brewer was eager to find out if his idea to use old beer casks for new, unique whisky creations was feasible. However, before filling the oak casks with the first batch of distilled barley, they had to be repaired and the old layer of pitch was removed.
Soon it became apparent that, over the years, the beer had soaked into the staves up to a depth of one centimetre. These century-old aromas and beer extracts are released from the casks in the same way as they are released at other whisky producers, from sherry, port or bourbon casks.
Thanks to Karl Locher’s idea of breathing new life into his ancestors’ traditions, the Locher brewery today produces a whisky that is unique throughout the world – the award-winning Säntis Malt.
Stunning environment, unique creations.
Breathtaking views and collectors’ items – the Whisky Trek
The Appenzell Whisky Trek through the Alpstein mountains is designed to fill the heart of every whisky and nature enthusiast with joy. For connoisseurs and collectors alike, it has now become possible to enhance a beautiful hike in the Alpstein Mountains with a certain something. Each mountain inn is storing its own special whisky on site. The in-house whisky is available straight from the barrel and visitors can buy their own bottles to take home – signed by the innkeeper.
The merits of success and community spirit(s)
Ever since the initial idea in 1998, Säntis Malt has made a name for itself faster than anybody thought possible. For example, the Locher brewery has gained high recognition at last year’s International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London again, with Silver and Silver Outstanding awards for three selected Säntis Malt Whiskys.
As a result, all of the 26 Appenzeller mountain innkeepers like to serve Säntis Malt to their guests. However, it was thanks to the ‘Gwonder’ (curiosity) of one Appenzeller that an even larger success story came to pass. Sepp Manser, the innkeeper of the Meglisalp mountain inn, had discovered that every now and then, there are special editions of Säntis Malt whiskies available. He immediately asked for one of the uniquely stored whiskies for his own mountain inn.
Brauerei Locher AG has always been open to new ideas, and soon the Meglisalp mountain inn was able to serve is own exclusive whisky, as of summer 2012. The concept quickly spread, resulting in unexpected, yet great success. Fired up by the enormous demand at the Meglisalp inn, there was suddenly plenty to think about – both for the Brauerei Locher AG brewery and innkeeper Sepp Manser himself. They sat down together and figured out a way to turn the success story at the Meglisalp into a success story for the whole of Alpstein and the Appenzeller Mountain Innkeepers’ Association.
Individual storage conditions.
It has been known in Appenzell for a long time that the individual will be better off if everyone else is also doing well – and thanks to this communal spirit, the Whisky Trek was born.
For those eager to come by one of the limited bottles, there are two collectors’ tours available: The nine-stop tour, on which nine mountain inns of your choice are included with their relevant whisky – or the complete tour with 26 stops and whiskies, including a finisher trophy. A compact collectors’ box is also available, exclusively at Brauquöll.
A stay in the Alpstein region will appeal to all your senses. It is an area where whisky is matured in an unparalleled way – made possible by both its history and its unique environment.
Get a taste of Säntis during the next stopover in Zurich at the duty free shop, or check out the website for one of the worldwide Säntis malt distributors near you: saentismalt.com