Autumn is the time of year in Tirol when preparations are in full swing at local distilleries to turn local fruit and turnips into schnapps. As winter arrives, the distilling process begins. When it comes to drinking these fine, fruity and formidable creations, however, there is no special season. Anytime is good! Just remember one thing: if you are invited to a local person’s house and offered a glass of schnapps, it is considered impolite to decline. Scroll down to find out about some of the best schnapps from the region. “Cheers!”, or as we say here in Tirol: “Prost!”
Meisterwurz schnapps has been made in Tirol for hundreds of years. Made from the Meisterwurz or masterwort plant, it has a fresh and fruity taste. Masterwort is a flowering plant native to mountain pastures. The Zillertal Valley is particularly well known for this schnapps variety. Thanks to its high concentration of essential oils, the masterwort plant has been used for many centuries to treat all manner of ailments. In some parts of Tirol, people still burn masterwort incense in their living room in order to drive away evil spirits.
Krautinger is a schnapps famous throughout Tirol and particularly associated with one specific region: Wildschönau. Indeed, it was Empress Maria Theresia herself who, centuries ago, gave the inhabitants of this region in the east of Tirol the exclusive right to produce Krautinger schnapps. Back then this monopoly was awarded to 51 local distilleries. Today, the tradition is continued by around 15 distilleries still producing this turnip-based spirit. The ingredients, including the turnips themselves as well as the beech trees required for the distilling process, are all sourced from the local region. The taste can best be described as unusual and intense. It is no surprise that locals call Krautinger “medicine and elixir all in one”!
The gentian (“Enzian” in German) is a flower typically found in pastures and meadows throughout Tirol. The schnapps which is produced from it has an aromatic and bitter taste. It is often used as a natural remedy for an upset stomach. Enzians grow at up to 2,500 metres above sea level and do not blossom until they are ten years of age. This is why all wild gentians growing in Tirol are protected by law and must not be picked. The gentian roots used to make this schnapps are grown and harvested specifically for this purpose. The schnapps is rarely available to buy in shops – the scarcity of ingredients makes it simply too precious and rare to sell. If you really want to try some, we recommend visiting the village of Galtür. A number of families there have been granted a license to produce gentian schnapps, so if you are lucky they might just have a glass of it left over for you.
Pregler is another schnapps associated with a specific part of Tirol: Lienz in East Tirol. Indeed, this variety of schnapps must be made in this area for it to be called a “Pregler”. The ingredients are different kinds of apples and pears grown in the region, with some distillers even including plums in the mix. There is even a special guideline from the Austrian Food Authority on what can and can’t be in a “Pregler”. The resulting taste is clear and fruity. By the way, “Pregeln” is a dialect word still used in East Tirol today as a synonym for distilling schnapps.
5. Stanzer Zwetschke
The village of Stanz near Landeck enjoys a sunny location and dry climate that make it ideal for growing plums. The Stanzer Zwetschke schnapps is famous throughout Tirol and beyond. Indeed, no fewer than 53 of the 160 households in Stanz have a license to produce this schnapps. If you fancy trying some, we recommend a visit to the state-of-the-art distillery of Christoph Kössler, one of Tirol’s most well-known and successful schnapps producers. “Schnapps”, by the way, is a word which Kössler himself doesn’t like to use. Instead, he prefers the term “fine fruit brandy” to describe exquisite spirits produced through distillation.
6. Schnappsbrennerei Rochelt
The Schnapsbrennerei Rochelt is a distillery in the village of Fritzens which quite simply makes some of the best spirits in the world. This family-run business uses only the finest fruit and berries harvested by hand to produce 20 varities of outstanding schnapps, including everything from apple to rowanberry. Once the distilling process is complete, the schnapps is left to mature for around ten years in huge open glass balloons kept in the loft. Only then is it ready to be bottled, sold and enjoyed.
Tirol Schnapps Route
Selected distilleries in Tirol offer visitors the opportunity to see how schnapps is made – from growing the fruit to distilling the mash and, of course, tasting the delicious end product. The Tirol Schnapps Route is a walking trail connecting several of these locations in different areas of the region.