The list of medals and prizes won by the Brennerei Erber in just the last five or six years at world championships in the fine art of distilling are enough to make even the most successful sports star turn green with envy.
But, then again, Erber is not an athlete or a footballer but instead a schnapps distillery in Brixen im Thale dating back more than 450 years. And the international competitions where it has celebrated such success in recent years are not athletics meetings or FIFA World Cups but, instead, the World Spirit Awards and Destillata.
The taste of luxury
The art of distilling fermented fruit to make schnapps, a traditional clear spirit with a high alcohol content, has been passed down from father to son for many generations. The principle may sound simple, but everyone who has ever tried making schnapps knows how many things can (and do) go wrong, resulting in either sub-standard produce or, in the worst case, totally undrinkable rotgut. As is often the case, the secret lies in the quality of the raw material. A fine schnapps can only be made from the very best, hand-selected fruits. Cutting corners is simply not an option, because any cheating has a direct impact on the taste.
Even in the world of fine schnapps, there are certain flavours which stand out from the rest. One of those is rowanberry schnapps, known in Tirolean dialect as a "Vogelbeereler" in reference to the German name of this rare orange berry, "Vogelbeere". The Brennerei Erber makes a special edition of this exquisite delicacy which is stored in wooden barrels. As with a fine wine or whisky, schnapps of this quality should be enjoyed in moderation and with the respect it deserves. Another highlight, albeit with a somewhat different taste, is Erber's own brandy, aged ten years in a wooden barrel.