Fine schnapps have been distilled at the Nigglgut in St. Veit for several generations. Max Gwechenberger (Nigglbauer) took over his parents’ business, and has now been leading it for 21 years and has widely expanded the product range. With his know-how and passion for schnapps distilling he has been awarded several major awards. We chatted to Max about what makes his schnapps so special and how much work goes into making them.
Interview with schnapps distiller Max Gwechenberger, Nigglbauer
Fine schnapps have been distilled at the Nigglbauer for several generations. Have you always wanted to continue this tradition?
Yes. There was no question for me. I had the opportunity and the luck to realise this plan.
How many schnapps varieties did you start out with and how many kinds do you offer at the moment?
It was two to three schnapps in the beginning. I’ve been distilling for 21 years. Now my range includes between 40 and 50 different kinds.
Can you briefly explain “from the fruit to the schnapps” – what effort do you have to put in?
Only perfect fruit is mashed, and at exactly the right moment of ripeness. The mash is then fermented under specific climatic conditions (temperature). The fermentation duration lasts from seven days to around three weeks. Afterwards the mash is distilled using rough and fine distilling processes.
A genuine top-level schnapps requires a storage time ranging for a minimum of one year to four or five years until the schnapps has reached its optimum maturity.
Can schnapps be tasted at your farm?
Farm sales are possible per prior appointment. Purchasing a schnapps always comes with a tour of the distillery, the mashing room, the barrique warehouse and the schnapps cellar. Schnapps can certainly be tasted there.
What’s the most popular schnapps with your customers?
The most popular schnapps with my customers are pear schnapps and berry schnapps varieties, such as elderberry, rowanberry and raspberry. The barrel-aged schnapps (barrique schnapps) are popular as well.
Root schnapps, such as masterwort and gentian, have recently seen a strong increase in popularity. Gin is also among the most popular mixed drinks. I offer two types of gins – classic & blueberry.
Which schnapps is your absolute favourite?
Among my absolute favourites are rowanberry, masterwort and a good pear schnapps.
What makes your schnapps special?
All our schnapps are 100% distillates, meaning they are distilled from pure fruit. The fruit is matured for a long time, is full of fruit aromas and distilled carefully and gently.
Some of the fruit is harvested directly on my own farm while most comes from all over Austria, predominantly southern Styria, Lower Austria and Burgenland.
Which awards have you won so far?
Salzburg’s distiller of the year 2015
Salzburg’s distiller of the year 2016
Newcomer of the year 2017 at the renowned schnapps event Destillata
Top 3 of the farm trade fair in Wieselburg 2019 among 550 distillers from seven countries
A good schnapps is something special. Can individually designed gift packages be purchased from you?
Yes – we print individual company logos on the labels and packaging in all sizes and price ranges. A special gift that is always well received.