When Whisky Advocate chose Broger Burn Out as its World Whisky of the Year at the start of the year, brothers Bruno and Eugen Broger couldn’t believe it.
They head up the family business, which has become a leading light of the Austrian Whisky Association. Their distillery is based in Klaus, Vorarlberg, in the far western tip of Austria, nestling close to the border with Germany, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
Whisky production began there in 2008, though there was no shortage of technical experience, as earlier generations of the family had been distilling fruit brandies and other spirits for many years. Although their orderly range consists of just five whiskies, they bring a creative and enthusiastic approach to quality and innovation. For example, their Broger Medium Smoked whisky uses barley kilned over beechwood, like a Rauchbier.
Further diversification of flavour comes from maturing whiskies in a variety of casks, from sherry, port, and Madeira to French Limousin oak and Château d’Yquem casks.
For Burn Out, they knew exactly what they wanted and imported heavily peated Scottish malt to create a burly, bruising, peaty style of whisky.
Q. So firstly, were you surprised to win the award and what did it mean to you?
When Whisky Advocate contacted us in spring 2014 and asked us for tasting sampls, we’ve been speechless. We thought “Wow – how do they know us? Does they already know us in America? “. When we later read the tasting note for our BurnOut, we were completely amazed at how this unconventional description has brought the character of our BurnOut “to the point”. The biggest surprise came naturally in December. First, a couple of emails from American and Canadian dealers and whisky fans arrived – and we didn’t know yet of the award, so this has totally confused us. Later that evening we “googled” and found out that we’ve won this award. The award means a lot to us and makes us very proud. It is an endorsement of our work and our passion. The price shows that our whiskeys are on the same level as large international whiskey brands. The fact that whiskey distilleries small unknown hobby so recognised and appreciated, really nice. What perhaps is not an outsider so aware of is the enormous motivation that draws our whole team of this award. The passion and enthusiasm which we put on the family Broger in our whiskeys have been recognised internationally! Of these, we would not have dared to dream.
Q. How was the news greeted at home?
The reaction in Austria and the Alpine Region was a bit split in two. In the immediate vicinity, all customers, partners, friends and acquaintances were pleased with us and it has brought many to wonder. The national media have reported, the Austrian Television aired a report and it is planned another television appearance in the near future. Among fruit spirits and whisky producers, it looks different – on the one hand, some of them shared honest joy and congratulations with us and they see the positive impact for Austrian / Alpine whiskey in general. On other other hand, you realise there is envy.
Q. Is there a general benefit to the Germanic speaking whisky making regions?
Yes, we certainly think that international recognition like an award from Whisky Advocate helps promote whiskies from atypical countries and makes them more known. The award for “Best World Whisky” has only come to Europe twice. Certainly, not much attention has been drawn to European whisky producing countries in the past. We hope that our award will increase attention for European and Alpine whisky in the future. Especially in the Austrian tourism regions, the local whisky so far has been ignored. “The prophet in his own country” is not considered. Through this award, we now receive requests from other countries – obviously a window has since opened and whisky lovers from other countries are now interested in “Alpine whisky”.
Q. There is a very strong distilling tradition in Europe isn’t there? Was it easy to adapt to whisky?
If you believe the historians, the technique of distillation was invented in the Arab region – and is not necessarily known for its related products today. In our region, fruits are processed for hundreds of years, including the distillation of fruit spirits. The art of distillation has a long standing tradition here. The use of wooden casks for maturation were unknown and Broger started first tests in 1993. At that time, of course, with fruit spirits and even then with our boundless experimentation. We did not just use oak casks but also casks from mulberry, cherry or acacia. Also ran trials with pre used casks of Calvados, rum, brandy and whiskey. What we really had to learn “from scratch”, is the processing of cereals, mashing etc. and of course the different types of grains used. As a new world has opened up for us, we could not imagine at the beginning of our whisky passion about 5 years ago, what was about to come. We are convinced there is still a lot of knowledge waiting for.
Q. Have you witnessed a growth in quality in recent years?
A. In the region in general it’s fair to say that the quality has improved. In our opinion this is due to the fact, that only a few distill whiskey in our region and these distillers were rather unkown but produce excellent qualities based on their fruit spirits heritage. The last few years and the last decade, whiskey enormously gained importance in our area: on the one hand the production of whiskey and whiskey in general as a sipping drink. More and more people become whiskey lovers athey re surprised that there are regional whiskeys. Of course, the quality is hs been increased in recent years: “Practice makes perfect”. With increasing experience and longer maturation of the whiskey, quality has accordingly improved
Q. Is distillation of whisky different to say genever or gin, and if so, have Austrian distillers adapted to it?
The basic principles of distillation themselves are identical, however there is a big difference in the processing of the raw material and the aging in oak casks. It’s not easy if you have to gain this knowledge yourself in a region, which actually is a white spot on the map for whisky production. You have to help yourself with “trial and error”, textbooks, courses, internet research and sometimes you get advice from others. We think we had a great advantage, since we started many years ago to mature fruit spirits in casks. In the production of whisky it takes a lot of sensitivity to choose/select the perfect casks that make the whisky harmonious and unique. In Austria and Germany some distillers produce very good whiskey these days. The exciting with whisky is, of course, the time lag (maturation) until you can say – Wow – this is really something special. We can already enjoy some cask samples of other manufacturers in recent years, there is some great potential in it.
So there are similarities in the distillation process of course, but every raw material is different – Fruits are different than herbs, and of course grain has to be processed in a different manner. A huge difference is the storage in barrels, which is not typical for fruits or herbs.
Q. Please tell me about your distillery
Our distillery has its origins in the distillation of fruits from the parental orchard of Bruno and Eugen Broger. Since 1976 Bruno and Eugen have helped their grandfather, father and uncle to distil their fruits.
In 1993 the first own distillery was bought. Over the years we learnt a lot by doing, by reading specialist magazines, by attending classes and by training our sensors and the whole family of Eugen and Bruno got fascinated by the high-end spirits distillation.
In 2008 we started distilling grain and refining it to whisky.
In 2011 the company Broger Privatbrennerei OG was founded by Bruno and Eugen together with their wives Ursula and Ulrike. Distilling for us is only a side-line business. We are passionate hedonists and we are passionate about manufacturing appreciative spirits.
Our homemade whiskies and spirits convince with their variety, expressivity and intensity of aromas. Our major goal is to collect and preserve the uniqueness and the affluence of each fruit and grain sort: Starting with an enticing scent, tasting a full aroma profile on the palate, and closing in a powerful long finish.
Q. Why did you start making whisky?
We ourselves have been great whisky connoisseurs and as we said, why should we not also venture the time to produce it ourselves? It was curiosity that drove us to explore the unknown field of grain distillation next to the successes in the distillation of fruits and herbs. Whisky is not just alcohol. Whisky is life. You can feel that when you talk to whisky enthusiasts, customers, etc.. For these people, it’s not about drinking, which is about enjoyment and pleasure and have visions. We are pleased to be a part of this community and I think it enables us to keep this a little joy, respectively in the barrel. the bottle convey.
Q It is brave to fggo for such a big, peated whisky. How did that come about?
Within the Austrian Whisky Association we are called the “Limitless” because we are always open to experimentation and trying out new things. Because who does not ventured, nothing is gained. The word whiskey is diversity. We love whiskey in all its variations and we also wanted its own “Smoke and Peat”. We have long needed here to find a supplier for the malt. When we finally get our heavy peated Scottish barley and distilled the first time, we noticed that could get out of it. It was so exciting to follow the cask storage time and the result was a real pleasure for us. One advantage is certain that we are a hobby distillery, and we all go to another day job. This eliminates a lot of the pressure. For us, the passion is important, not winning at the end of the year and therefore we can “afford” to experiment
Q. What are your plans and what are you working on?
Our ideas will last a long time – the theme of whiskey is also extremely exciting and there are seemingly endless possibilities. Each whiskey is different. Later this year we will start to grow local grain to produce a 100% regional product. Of course, the wood for barrels will come from our native forest. It should also be grown very special coarse grains as we are still with the farmer with whom we work in conversation. As far but already ahead – it will not only be barley. With regard to the use of pre used barrels we have a more complex issue. We have an excellent cooper, who produced our new barrels according to our expectations. For pre used Sherry or Port casks the quality of the final product is greatly influenced by the quality of the former. Intercalated product. Here we are still in search of a collaboration with a top winemakers or sherry producer. Maybe with the help of the “Whisky Advocate Award” it will get ahead more easily? Since we are a very small company and therefore can make really small special bottlings, we will continue to experiment with different woods and defaults. We currently have stored in former whiskey brandy barrels. for example, previously perfected our own plum brandy and nutmeg grape brandy. We will see what will be there.
Q. How do you view the future for you in particular but also for the other distilleries in your region?
The future of Broger private distillery lies not in growth. We want to keep our passion and love for the product and to the people. Our happiness is that we can run this as a hobby and are not dependent from the market. Nevertheless, it makes us great joy when specialists such as the Whisky Advocate hear about us “midgets”. We want to bring us into the whisky community. Maybe we or our ideas motivate other. The whisky boom in the Alpine region will continue in the coming years. We are also an embossed by tourism country and our guests with international experience want local produce with an independent identity. For cheap products with low quality level we see in our region very few opportunities for growth. The AWA (Austrian Whisky Association) provides an excellent platform for domestic whiskey producer. Within the AWA, there are a wide variety of burners with very different whiskeys, a wide variety of raw materials and production methods. It is so exciting to share with the other whiskey producers. Although Austria is not large, it regional trends and specialties can already see here. Generally alcohol is not en vogue, this can be seen in a variety of legal regulations and restrictions. But this is our chance – Alcohol may only be the carrier for enjoyment, flavour, diversity, lifestyle, joy and pleasure. The image of alcohol as a “cheap drug” needs to be changed to a high quality product, in which the quality and not the quantity is in the foreground. To this end, we want to contribute.