Tyrolean S(ch)nap(ps)shots
On the Trail of Tyrol’s Schnapps Distillers
Tyrolean S(ch)nap(ps)shots
On the Trail of Tyrol’s Schnapps Distillers

The Jagdhof Tour of Schnapps Producers

Discover the Tyrolean Schnapps Route

It’s a local speciality, so exploring the schnapps distilleries on the Tyrolean schnapps route is a must on any foodie’s itinerary! We visited some of Tyrol’s best distillers on your behalf to find out more about one of our most famous culinary traditions. It took eight hours of hard work: tasting, viewing, sniffing, asking questions and taking pictures. Our Jagdhof tour of schnapps producers immersed us deep into the whys and wherefores of Tyrolean spirits, giving us a behind the scenes peek of the best distilleries in the region.

The Jagdhof Tour of Schnapps Producers

Alban Pfurtscheller, Philipp Loimayer – the youngest Jagdhof sommelier – and Albin Mayr, head sommelier at the Jagdhof, go above and beyond when it comes to researching the region’s food and drink traditions. This is a story of a rewarding day out at four distilleries that share a long tradition and passion for making schnapps, during which they learnt a great deal about the art of distilling. The schnapps foray took the tipsy trio to stills of highly polished copper, through warehouses filled with demijohns and barrique barrels, and into stylish tasting and sales rooms …

Distilled
Insights

  • 2,500 out of Tyrol’s 4,000 working distilleries have been in operation since the reign of Empress Maria Theresa
  • The schnapps distillers’ expertise is frequently passed on from generation to generation
  • In Tyrol, around 5,000,000kg of fruit is distilled into schnapps every year
  • In Tyrol, refusing a schnapps when offered is considered the height of bad manners

Stop 1

Stop 1
Rochelt artisanal Tyrolean distillery in Fritzens

Stop 2

Stop 2
Draxl distillery in Inzing

Stop 3

Stop 3
Mair’s Beerengarten in Rietz

Stop 4

Stop 4
Feindestillerie Kössler in Stanz

Stop 1

Rochelt Artisanal Tyrolean Distillery in Fritzens

Alexander Rainer, who took over the family business in 2008, welcomes us to the Rochelt distillery in Fritzens. His father-in-law, Günter Rochelt, was a visionary who began to experiment with distilling wild rowanberry in the 1970s. He introduced Alexander to the art of distilling and, over the years, helped him perfect his craft. Günter Rochelt’s fine spirits soon gained an international reputation, facilitated in part by his friendship with some of the German-speaking world’s top chefs, including Eckart Witzigmann, Heinz Winkler and Alfons Schuhbeck. ‘To make excellent schnapps, you have to use the best quality fruit. So we only harvest it at its peak,’ Alexander explains. Natural fermentation, the gentle traditional double distillation method and years of maturing in demijohns concentrates the fruit’s aroma into its pure essence, making the real Tyrolean schnapps.

‘At Rochelt we celebrate the Tyrolean tradition of distilling fruit brandy to create the finest products for cultivated tastes.’ Alexander Rainer

Our verdict: The combination of perfectionism and uncompromising quality: mash is left to ferment naturally before gentle distillation and slow maturation. The results are unfiltered schnapps masterpieces.

We tested: Muscatel, Gewürztraminer, Gravenstein apple, quince, Mirabelle, Piedmont wild plum, black elderberry and orange.

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Stop 2

Draxl Distillery in Inzing

As we approach the Draxl family farm, the apple trees form a guard of honour. ‘We are in the heart of the Oberland apple region,’ Hubert Draxl explains. ‘Our inner Alpine altitudes and wide temperature fluctuations between day and night are perfect for fruit growing.’ In the 1990s, Hubert’s father gave up dairy farming – much to most people’s surprise. 30 years on, and we are standing in front of his 3.5-hectare orchard of more than 10,000 thriving trees. ‘As fruit growers, we have specialised in produce indigenous to our immediate surroundings.’ Draxl’s 26 different brandies are made from 100% pure fruit, are naturally fermented and double-distilled. The master’s favourite? Masterwort. Its roots are dug up at 2,000 to 2,400m above sea level, dried, crushed, turned into mash along with apples and distilled. The result is an earthy flavour with apple in the finish and, so we are told, healing properties.

‘The distillation process requires patience and sensitivity to ensure that all of the fruit’s natural aroma is distinguishable in the schnapps.’ Hubert Draxl

Our verdict: An amazing place with amazing people and spirits: from apples and masterwort to gin and nut liqueur.

We tested: Jonagold, Golden Delicious, damson, oak-aged Kronprinz.

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Stop 3

Mair’s Beerengarten in Rietz

A beautiful garden, a stall of ripe fruit, berries and all kinds of vegetables – plump and pleasingly irregular, ready to eat … delicious! Expert fruit grower Markus Mair tells us about his parents who swapped the nine-to-five for life on the farm in the 1980s, resulting in the 7-hectare berry garden we find ourselves in today. His father was a chemical lab technician with a passion for distilling … so one thing naturally led to another. The berries and fruits for their M4 label of fine brandies and liqueurs are grown in Mair’s berry garden in Rietz. These unique spirits are created in interaction with the elements. The Alps’ earth and air bring about the fruit’s intense flavour, the concentrated power of fire distils the finest aromas from the fruit, and the best mountain spring water helps the fine distillates achieve their balanced drinking strength.

‘Our schnapps is a symphony of the best Tyrolean fruit interacting with the four elements.’ Markus Mair

Our verdict: A business that grows its own fruit and makes its own jams and schnapps – quality and tradition at its best. We would have loved to try their wine too.

We tested: Yellow plum, apricot, Williams pear, quince, blackcurrant, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry.

The fresh fruit from Mair’s Beerengarten is turned into all kinds of goodies, not just schnapps!

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Stop 4

Feindestillerie Kössler in Stanz

Christoph Kössler welcomes us to his house, the birthplace of Austrian baroque architect Jakob Prandtauer: ‘In Stanz and in this house, windfalls have always been used to make schnapps,’ Christoph tells us. ‘After completing my first distilling course in 1993, I started to think about producing quality brandies. Fine spirits have to be made from 100% natural fruit without added sugar or additives,’ he adds. ‘That only works if you use the best-quality fruit and the most sophisticated processing techniques.’ Classic fruit varieties are grown on their own farm. Everything else is obtained from carefully selected partners. At this point, Christoph offers us one of his pièces de resistance: Granta Bitter, made with lingonberry, 26 different herbs and honey. ‘We’re introducing new products this year: Zillertal Bier, and the first Tyrolean 18-year-old single malt whisky.’ Kössler also offers seven gin creations, and their bestselling Granta Sprizz …

‘Working with nature to make honest and authentic products is a privilege.’ Christoph Kössler

Our verdict: High-altitude highs in Stanz: indescribable!

We tested: Apple & gentian, Dr Jules Guyot pear, Red Williams pear, beer schnapps, blackberry, carrot, apricot, orange muscatel schnapps, quince, Spenling plum, Jerusalem artichoke, black cherry, rowanberry, forest raspberry, wild cherry, stone pine liqueur, Granta Sprizz and Granta Bitter.

Due to its high number of distilleries, Stanz was declared the number one distillery village in 2003: there are 60 distilleries and just 200 households.

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