When I planned my latest holidays in Hohegeiß in the beautiful Harz Mountains, I made sure that the flat my wife and I stayed in was not too far away from the small village of Zorge. Cause this is where Hammerschmiede Distillery is located. After exploring the breathtaking surroundings in the previous couple of days, we drove to Zorge on a Friday morning to fetch our reserved tickets for the afternoon tour called Elsperience Tour. We reached the Hammerschmiede half an hour before their opening hours, but that was no problem as we were asked to come in anyway. Though the shop was still closed, we were shown around by Julian Belz, who was also in charge of the afternoon tour. Bit by bit, he introduced us to the different products they have in their range.
So, full of anticipation we jumped on the public bus in the afternoon for a short downhill ride that did not take longer than eight minutes. Actually, our landlord said it would be no problem to walk the distance. I am sure, going down that hill would indeed be quite easy, but I am happy we took the bus back up the hill after the tour. After a short introduction by Julian Belz, we went into the first room of the small production area where the mashing takes place. As there were also guests on the tour who did not have any previous knowledge of how whisky is made, Julian explained the whole process very detailed for them. The second room we entered did not only contain the stills but also the distribution area, where the bottles are filled, labeled and packed into boxes.
From there we went on to one of the warehouses of the Hammerschmiede, where some of the distillates spend their time of maturation in the former “Kurhaus” (I think there is no English word for this, but maybe “wellness and therapy center” is comes close). There is a chance this is the only warehouse with a parquet floor and a covered ceiling in the entire world of whisky. This was the most interesting room for several reasons. First, we got so see the colorful casks, which are painted based on a special color code indicating the respective type of wood. Second, we were served a glass of The Glen Els’s standard range bottling The Journey, our review of which you might already have stumbled upon a few months ago. Third (and most important to me), Julian answered all questions of the attendees very patiently.
We learned that all casks used for maturation are selected very carefully by the owners and that they are bought from small vineyards mainly in France, Spain and Portugal. Casks are used only once or twice before they get discarded. Visitors can buy these casks for roughly 180 Euros if they have enough room in their vehicles to carry them home. The reason why the casks are not used more often is that the wine that is still to be found in the staves shall later complete the whisky. Depending on how big the cask is, up to 50 litres of wine can still be stored in the staves. Also were we told that the Hammerschmiede does not produce whisky during the summer time because it is too warm then. Production mainly takes place from the middle of October until April. About 25,000 bottles of whisky are produced every year, including a lot of single cask bottlings. What I found very interesting is the fact that the angels’ share in the Harz Mountains is almost on par with that in India. While the angels only take away ~2% each year in Scotland, Indian and obviously also German angels are much thirstier. Due to the warm summers and very cold winters in the Harz Mountains, the latter steal up to 10-12% every year.
Finally, we were brought back to the distillery very nice visitor center and tasting bar, where we had the chance to try a wide selection of products from Hammerschmiede. Among others, they presented their standard range including The Journey as well as different cordials, liquors, brandies and rums. On top of that, they also let us choose from two limited single cask bottlings and three varying expressions of their woodsmoked premium malt The Alrik. The Hammerschmiede does not use peat for their smoked whiskies but wood. Unfortunately, the few bottles of The Alrik they had were not to be sold. But both single casks bottlings – one from a sherry cask, the other one from a white wine cask – made their way into my shopping bag. If you want to learn more about them, you will get to read a review on our blog within the next few weeks. One last hint we got from the employees at the distillery was that we should go to a small tavern in the village called Wolfsbach, where they serve a delicious burger with a sauce made with The Journey. We came back there two days later and did not get disappointed. The burger was very delicious burger and the whisky came through very well. This was a perfect ending to our holidays in this wonderful region in the heart of Germany.
Name: Hammerschmiede – Home of Glen Els
Type: Whisky and spirit distillery
Address: Elsbach 11A, 37449 Zorge, Germany
Opening hours: 10am till 5pm (Mon to Tue & Thu to Fri), 9am till 3pm (Sat)
More info: http://www.hammerschmiede-spirituosen.de/ (Website)