Ziegler Distillery: The Essence of the Fruit
There’s no better way to round off a good meal than with a digestif, but with so many flavours and brands available, deciding which one to pick can be a bit of a minefield. Luckily for me, the team at the Brasserie Le Faubourg knows a good schnaps when they see one. They’re always happy to share their expertise, so if you’re not sure which digestif would best compliment that iced honey dessert or delicious cheese platter, just ask the experts. This week I paid them a visit to learn more about the Ziegler Fruit Distillery, producers of the most popular Edelbrand or eau de vie on the menu.
Founded in 1865 in Freudenberg, Ziegler started out as a small, independent distillery – just one of the many thousand operating in this region of Baden-Württemburg alone. The story of how Ziegler grew to become one of the most respected and sought-after fruit distillers in the whole of Germany is the stuff of fairytales. By 1980, the distillery had ceased production. But then Thomas Ziegler made an important discovery down in the cellar: namely, several vats containing wild cherry eau de vie, distilled by his father and grandfather. He entered the drink into a presitigious blind taste competition under the name “Ziegler Nr.1″. It won first place, and the orders came pouring in – the Ziegler Distillery was back in business.
But that’s quite enough history, now for the important part – the tasting! I start off with the most popular flavour: Williams pear eau de vie. It’s sweet, but not sickening. I make a mental note to order it next time I indulge in a pear-based dessert. After the sour cherry eau de vie, we move onto the old zwetschge plum. Unlike the others, this one is not clear, but a rich brown. I’m told the colour comes from the wooden barrels it is matured in. Chestnut notes mingle with fruity plum. The waiter tells me this is what’s known as a Zigarrenbrand, because it goes so well with a cigar. I think it tastes just fine without. Finally, we move onto the “Geist” varieties – first walnut, then forest raspberry – which are produced from a preparation of fruit or nuts steeped in alcohol to preserve the more delicate aromas. The geist variety is slightly more expensive than the classic eau de vie, partly because the process is more complicated and partly because the fruits used are often only found growing wild and must be collected by hand.
I come away with a sweet taste in my mouth and a new-found appreciation of eau de vie.