If someone compiled a list of Germany’s best whiskies in 2021, there is a good chance that The Nine Springs would be on it, too. In its first eight years of existence, the brand – which was born in the small town of Worbis in the federal state of Thuringia in 2013 – has constantly grown and evolved. With expertise and passion, the good people behind it have created excellent spirit, grown a strong network, and gained a fine reputation. The next item on their agenda: To build an all-new distillery in close proximity of the old one.
When my wife and I visited The Nine Springs two-or-so weeks ago, the construction work had already started. Thus, Distiller Daniel Thrien not only gave us a detailed tour of the current production facilities; he also showed us the building site where The Nine Springs’ upcoming home is being erected. Afterwards, he took us to see Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein, too. The latter is a medieval castle about ten kilometres away from the distillery. The team of The Nine Springs have leased it from the borough that owns it and turned the place into an amazing world of whisky experience. Among others, Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein hosts a hotel, a restaurant, a coffee roastery, a wedding chapel, a distillery shop, a tasting room, a bar, a children’s playground, and a viewing platform. Furthermore, it has several cask storage rooms. And last but not least, it provides a rich selection of nicely displayed exhibits that tell of the castle’s century-old history.
Before we come to speak about Burg Scharfenstein, however, let us take a look at the distillery first. The Nine Springs is being made at No.9 Spirituosen-Manufaktur, which resides on the premises of the time-honored Neunspringe Brauerei – a traditional beer brewery that exists since the mid-19th century. As businesses, No.9 Spirituosen-Manufaktur and Neunspringe Brauerei operate independently of each other. Yet, they are both managed by The Nine Springs’ founder Bernd Ehbrecht and they also share parts of the equipment (e. g. the mill and the mashtuns). Since the initial steps in the whisky making process are pretty similar to those in the beer making process, it makes sense to leverage these synergies. At one point throughout the production, however, the brew and the spirit go seperate ways. For the whisky, the next steps are the washback (where yeast is added to the mash in order to convert the barley sugar into alcohol), the copper still (where the barley beer is turned into new make via distillation) and the cask (where the new make rests for a minimum of three years in order to become genuine single malt whisky).
At any distillery, the still room is one of the most exciting places for me to see. At The Nine Springs it harbors an automatic Arnold Holstein still, on which the new make gets triple distilled. According to Daniel, the still gives the spirit a delicate nuttiness. Additionally, I tend to find lots of creamy chocolate and wild berries in The Nine Springs’ excellent whisky, too. But these are just Daniel and my personal sensations, of course. Your taste buds might discover totally different notes during the degustation. And I would love to read about them! So, if you already had the chance to try some whisky from The Nine Springs, feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you liked it.
As said earlier, we did not only get to see the current distillery, but also the new one. It is currently being built in an old storage depot on the brewery premises. In the times of the German Democratic Republic, the building housed a factory that produced plastic crates for cola bottles. At the moment, you still need a bit of imagination to get an idea of what the new production site will look like. However, if everything turns out as Daniel described it, the place will be amazing! Among others, there will be a dedicated still room, a huge cask warehouse with a gallery, and a classy tasting room with a well-sorted bar … all under one roof! I am very curious to follow this development over the next months. Needless to say, I will go to Worbis again and see The Nine Springs’ new distillery from up close when everything is up and running.
A fifteen-minute car ride away from No. 9 Spirituosen-Manufaktur sits Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein enthroned on the Dün mountain chain. If you had visited this century-old fortress a couple of years ago, you would have found it in a pretty run-down condition. With this knowledge in the back of your head, the place’s transformation is even more impressive! Everything looks classy, stylish and inviting; in some areas, the old architecture got preserved. In others, it got enriched with modern elements. A good example for this is the bar: It got erected inside one of the castle’s towers. Whereas the thick brick walls pay homage to the place’s history-laden past, the spectacular glass floor adds a modern touch. Two more highlights for me: The beautiful distillery shop and the rustic storage rooms for the private casks, which got established inside the castle’s dungeons. And let’s not forget the observation platform atop the tower, which gives a beautiful panorama view of the surrounding countryside.
By now, one thing should be clear: For whisky fans spending time in Thuringia, Burg Scharfenstein is a must-go destination. However, it also has a ton to offer for visitors who have not yet been bitten by the whisky bug. After all, the place is rich with history, impressive to the eye and filled with fun activities for all kinds of people – no matter what’s their age or preferred beverage. If you go there as a family, for example, I could imagine that your kids would really enjoy the sight of the dungeons or the view from the tower. Also, there is a good chance they would have a blast with the various sensory games on offer (such as identifying different aromas only by sniffing). And when you and your partner enjoy a cup of coffee or a dram of The Nine Springs out in the sun on the spacious terrace, the little ones could have a cup of cocoa and a yummy piece of cake. Sounds good, right? So why not spend your next vacation in Thuringia? My family and I just did and we had a lovely time – also because we received such a heartfelt welcome from the fine folks of The Nine Springs and Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein!
Name: No.9 Spirituosen-Manufaktur
Type: Whisky distillery
Address: No. 9 Spirituosen-Manufaktur ; Neunspringer Straße 4 ; 37339 Leinefelde-Worbis ; Germany
Opening hours: By arrangement
More info: https://www.number-nine.eu/ (Website)
Name: Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein
Type: Medieval castle
Address: Whiskywelt Burg Scharfenstein ; Scharfenstein 1 ; 37327 Leinefelde-Worbis ; Germany
Opening hours: See website
More info: https://whiskywelt-burg-scharfenstein.de/ (Website)
*** I was kindly invited to this private tour by Bernd Ehbrecht of The Nine Springs. ***