Ernie - Ernst Scheiner
Kilian. Grave Digger. Metal Whisky
St Kilian Distillers. Whisky Made in Germany
The limited Signature Editions by Master Distiller Mario Rudolf have been setting standards for a whisky made in Germany since 2019. In addition to the sensational whiskies of the Bud Spencer series, the mild and smoky whiskies of the film partner Terence Hill joined them at the end of the year. St. Kilian's cooperation with the German metal band GRAVE DIGGER has opened up further paths to impressive smoky whiskies.
NOT ONLY THE COLOURS CONVINCE "IT'S A CRACKER"
The eyes of fans of the metal band Grave Digger light up. A specially styled bottle by St Kilian and the high-quality label with the Grave Digger logo promise a long collaboration with lead guitarist Axel Ritt and band. In intensive collaboration with whisky maker Mario Rudolf, the rocking whisky connoisseur has selected a whisky that surprises the eyes, nose and tongue with impressive complex potential. For a long time, the two tinkered with a multi-layered blend with strong aromas and flavours. They searched for the ideal recipe.
In the truest sense of the word, a liquid work of art was created in which many, many people worked together: Foresters, lumberjacks, coopers, farmers, winemakers, maltsters, brewers, distillers, plant technicians, designers, glassmakers and finally a whisky maker and a musician. All those involved have combined their professional expertise in the final product.
A red gold with purple reflections shines in the glass - Mario Rudolf himself speaks of a copper colour. The little strings of pearls forming on the inside wall of the sample glass as it is carefully swirled announce: 'Attention I am strong in alcohol'. 47 % vol. mark the measurement.
Indeed, upon smelling, strong youthful alcoholic notes combine with lots of smoke and cinnamon perceptions. Restrained impressions of vanilla and other aromas add to the balance. Fruity notes of fruit or berries delight. Associations of dried fruit arise. The nose thinks of fruit sweets...The fresh vinous associations are reinforced by the reddish colour of the whisky.
THE FINESSE OF THE WINES COMBINES WITH THE GRAIN AROMAS OF THE WHISKY. A WIDE-RANGING POTPOURRI OF SENSORY PERCEPTIONS IS TO BE DISCOVERED, THE VARIETY IS GREAT.
IT INSPIRES. THE SPICINESS THAT SETS IN AFTER THE SWEETNESS AND LATENT PERSISTENT FRUITINESS CREATE A FASCINATINGLY LONG MOUTHFEEL THAT IS ENVELOPED BY NOT TOO STRONG, RATHER DISCREET SMOKE IMPRESSIONS.
THE TUNES OF WAR SHOWS ITSELF BALANCED, FASCINATES WITH REDDISH REFLECTIONS IN THE GLASS AND INVITES YOU TO SMELL THE AROMAS WITH PLEASURE.
This great whisky offers lots of delight and pleasure and does not need to shy away from international comparisons.
A BLIND PARALLEL TASTING IS RECOMMENDED WHEN TASTING SMOKY WHISKIES.
The basis of the whisky was a Scottish smoked malt from Glenesk with a phenol density of 54 ppm, which Kilian distillers processed on site in Rüdenau in wooden vats during a long fermentation to produce a top-fermented whisky beer. The pitched yeast produced a bundle of intriguing fruit flavours that are found in the distillate and ultimately in the final product.
Double-distilled in 6,000-litre copper stills, a fruity, smoky New Make appeared in the Sprit Safe, where the cut-off points probably did not reach into the finish.
As the cut kicked in around 59.5% vol, they gave the distillate a less smoky structure with characterful meaty flavours. Instead, the advantages of a Scottish distillation method are very evident. The pre- and post-distillate from the fine spirit are mixed again and again together with the low wines from the preceding first distillation stage of the raw spirit still. Nothing of the aromas and flavours is lost in this way.
The blending of the low wines, foreshots and feints takes place in a separate container that stores the smoky mix in the fine spirit bubble until the next distillation process. This ensures that the smoky distillates do not mix with the non-smoky ones and always retain their individual aroma profile.
Nothing, but absolutely nothing, of the aromas and flavours is lost during distillation.
"In a way, it is our soul that returns,"
Master Distiller Mario Rudolf confirms the methodological approach. His skill in crushing the smoked malt, his choice of yeast for fermentation as well as the temperature curves during distillation and the use of the dephlegmator in the Lyne Arm of the Spirit Still guarantee a range of distillates that mature into whiskies in 284 different barrel cultures (as of December 2021). The cask strength is 63.5 % vol.
"The Tunes of War, now that's a new level, [...]"
Axel Ritt is proud of the St. Kilian single malt whisky declared as "Heavily Peated". The popular song title of the Grave Digger sends a signal with an exclamation mark to their large fan community.
Kilian's Master Mind, Mario Rudolf, has once again achieved another masterpiece.
The Franconian, who loves to experiment, searched the large and diverse treasure trove of cask cultures for his own malt whiskies, which would enable an expressive variant of a new St. Kilian single malt. His ideas for the Grave Digger TUNES OF WAR whisky took shape in a selection of exclusively "vinous" casks, to which he entrusted the smoky distillate for maturation three and a half years ago.
"Smoke and wine" should form a bond according to the wish of Iron Finger, Axel Ritt. For the metal musician
"... the cooperation between two strong brands, the process ... the communication was very important."
He wanted to be actively involved in the genesis of the whisky personally and not just bring a bottle with a band logo stuck on afterwards to the fans. Therefore, there were many discussions, tastings and finally a joint final product over a year that fulfilled the expectations of Axel Ritt and his band members:
"This is exactly what would be good for the band, but also for St Kilian."
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT TUNES OF WAR?
To begin with, such a melange recipe of 'wine' whiskies is rare on the international scene. This type of whisky will enrich the spirits trade's range internationally and nationally in the future. Mario Rudolf is strengthening the trend in Germany with his creations.
The recipe was composed solely of St. Kilian single malt whiskies, which previously received their aromatic imprint in 225-litre premium French oak barriques. Previously, however, winegrowers had aged red wines in the traditional casks to give them a complex woody flavour:
Dry Pinot Noir from the wine-growing region of Franconia, more precisely from Bürgstadt from the renowned Rudolf Fürst Winery.
high-quality Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines from the Bordelais region of Pomerol, where the famous Château Pétrus is located.
A virgin, fresh, first-class barrique from French oak can cost up to € 1,200 at traditional cooperages.
Here are examples of French red wine barrels
Colour and balance brought further St. Kilian whiskies into the cuvée, which in turn matured in oak casks in which Portuguese winemakers had previously given a young purple-red Ruby Port wood tones such as vanilla and spice for a short period.
Master Blender Rudolf selected his own whiskies for the TUNES OF WAR, which matured for three and a half years first in the distillery's warehouse and then in the nearby Bunker City in the Odenwald at an altitude of 440 metres.
"...that's three and a half years, others can't manage that with fifteen years of maturity...it's still a mystery to me how St. Kilian manages to do it in such a comparatively short maturing time, which speaks for the high quality of the individual components...that's madness,"
Axel Ritt marvels.
"The result, a uniquely creamy-sweet melange of red grapes, ripe apples and juicy peaches with warming peat smoke."
can be read on the St. Kilian website.
Only 6340 bottles of the impressively distinctive smoky Grave Digger TUNES OF WAR, Batch 1, will enter the market. Good to know, the whisky retained its natural colour and was not chill-filtered to preserve the aromas and flavours. A smart black Grave Digger designer carafe of 0.7 litres costs 59.90 euros. The team bottled the whisky by hand on site at the distillery.
AND IT WENT BOOM AGAIN. A RARITY
The Kilian smoky METAL TURF BEAST single malt variation with a powerful 49 % vol. can be classified as another total work of art from the St. Kilian manufactory.
The beast glows magnificently in the transparent bottle. It flaunts a colour density that would suggest an older whisky. The dark to brown-black appearance is reminiscent of a polished Edwardian mahogany table. The smoke clouds are overwhelmingly prominent, reminiscent of a bicycle repair shop. Rubber, oil, tobacco, dry grass mingle. A pleasant fruitiness of dried berries nevertheless remains and mixes with notes of polish. The high youthful alcohol concentration is always present, it gives power to the aroma profile. In addition, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon and smoked meander into the nose. The aroma palette is colourfully mixed, there is so much to discover, depending on the individual association and atmosphere.
This is a single malt that will make the ashtray faction among whisky freaks jump up and cheer. The METAL TURF BEAST is characterised by notes of ash, rubber, cardboard, soot and minerality. The black beast challenges, it appears multifaceted on several levels. The search for aromas makes smelling it a sensory discovery experience. Nothing seems boring, it is a pleasure to discover new aromatic structures again and again.
The addition of water - preferably distilled - opens up additional associations to the individual search for traces. The respective discoveries stimulate conversations in the group. Individually, while tasting, the beats of The Clans Will Rise Again can rush in the ears and thus enhance the enjoyment of the metal fans.
The Grave Digger beast shows lasting aromatic claws. Every sniff and every little pot surprise with new interpretations, challenge. The spiciness and latent fruitiness that set in after the sweetness create a fascinatingly long-lasting mouthfeel, enveloped by powerful clouds of smoke.
This smokiest whisky made in Germany is a phenomenon.
It is the liquid manifesto of the new German whisky wave.
HOW IS THE METAL TURF BEAST MADE?
The starting base was a smoked malt with a phenol density of 91 ppm. As with its twin brother TUNES OF WAR, the industrial malting plant in Glenesk had malted a barley in its bobydrums for St. KiIian. It was not easy for Rudolf to get such a smoky malt from his supplier.
It took him some persuading to bring an "ultra heavily peated malt" to Germany, because normally St. Kilian's partner, the malt house belonging to the global Boortmalt group, does not produce malt with the extreme phenol density of up to 100 ppm.
"During a visit to Glenesk, I was able to convince the malt house's key account export manager, Koshir Kassie, on site...
The entire St. Kilian team made a stopover on a trip to Islay in 2017...We wanted to have a malt that somehow got close to 100 ppm...,"
The enthusiastic style convinced the Englishman.
"Ok, we'll try it, let's see how high we can get,"
Koshir Kassie's response was. His maltsters rose to the challenge. They were happy about the variety and finally about a phenol density of 91 ppm in the malt.
Fortune always favours the brave. In December 2017, the first truck with 25 tonnes of Scottish malt with a 91 ppm stood in the yard of the St. Kilian distillery. To date, the Rüdenau distillery is the only one to obtain such a strongly peated barley malt from Glenesk.
"Annually we get one, even sometimes two trucks with peated Glenesk malt of 91 to 92 ppm,"
"It's a very different kind of smokiness from the 54 ppm variety...of intensity."
Mario Rudolf informs, beaming with joy.
In the meantime, Koshir Kassie, who has risen to the position of Global Key Account Manager, has formed a stable friendship, which both deepened at the Braubeviale in Nuremberg 2019.
HOW WAS METAL TURF BEAST DISTILLED?
WHAT WAS IT MATURED IN?
Double fractionated the distillates with the use of the dephlegmator hidden in the Lyne Arm - spirit pipe.
"The degree of purification, or reflux, was as usual with the other smoky distillates."
Unlike the somewhat "dirty" distilled Turf Peak Master Distiller Edition Hynes and Rudolf did not stretch the middle run well into the finish. "We chose our normal process," Rudolf explains. Nevertheless, impressively robust grain spirits are the result here as well. Per tonne of smoked malt, the distillers achieved 395 to 400 litres of pure alcohol. The lower cut-off point of the middle run in the transition to the after-run was also 59.5 % vol. as usual with the 54 ppm variant.
Rudolf, the 'cask wizard', skilfully used the turbo-maturation of small casks.
He placed the Kilian whiskies in thirty-litre small oak casks in which port or oloroso sherry had previously been indirectly matured.
WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF THE SMALL BARRELS?
Such port and sherry casks are usually up to 600 litres in size. Now, the mini barrels are smaller cask sizes specially reconstructed from the staves of the large barrels by the cooperage Markus Eder in Bad Dürkheim. From the shortened staves of old former Bodega Butts and Port Pipes, the Palatine coopers artfully tied smaller units.
Rudolf had the foresight to acquire a larger number of the butts for his creations in good time. If he had restricted himself classically to bourbon barrels, as is often the case elsewhere, a METAL TURF BEAST creation would simply not have been possible... Kilian did a fantastic job of maturing it there," Mario explains.
"It took four days until all the samples were on my desk."
The "turbo barrels" promote an intensive and faster maturation of the distillates because of the favourable filling quantity and surface relation. David F. Hynes highlights the effect:
"The smaller the cask, the faster the maturation".
As a result, the interaction between the inner wall of the cask and the smoky distillate is much more intense and frequent.
On average, the maturation time of the whiskies selected by Rudolf lasted three and a half years. "For the Turf Metal Beast, significantly more oloroso cask-matured whiskies went into the vatting," informs the Amorbach-born blender. Mentor David F. Hynes affirms the result of three years of ageing in small cask structures:
"You get the flavours of a ten year old."
Mario Rudolf is happy: "The smoke is wonderfully integrated...a gentle menthol spiciness unfolds." The METAL TURF BEAST shows itself "...earthy, ashy smoke with a few medicinal notes, a bit of iodine is also there...we have fruit here again."
Axel "Ironfinger" Ritt raves:
"...this is really awesome! ... What I find interesting is that the peat content doesn't force everything down."
Axel Ritt from Grave Digger
St. Kilian's Grave Digger smoke crackers fascinated. The spontaneous comments of the tasting fans radiated the enthusiasm. So it's no wonder that the smoky rarity sold out in a matter of minutes. Of the 870 bottles, the supporters could only buy one gem each. They were sold on he web within minutes.
For a 0.7 litre carafe of METAL TURF BEAST, Kilian Distillers charged the moderate price of 99.90 euros. Of course, this variant was not coloured with sugar caramel and not chill-filtered, in accordance with the high Kilian quality requirements. The Kilian team bottled the Grave Digger variations on site at the distillery.
Ernie - Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of the portal The Gateway to Distilleries www.whisky-distilleries.net
He documents over 150 distilleries photographically from the inside and describes the production of the whiskies in detail. Since his studies at the University of
Edinburgh, he has been involved with the subject of whisky and has published in specialist magazines such as The Ireland Journal, Kleinbrennerei, Whisky Passion and The Highland Herold. Features and stories have appeared in blogs like whiskyexperts, whiskyfanbl, SHMKR (closed) and whiskyintelligence. As head of the VHS Ingelheim, and now as a whisk(e)y ambassador, he teaches distilling, organizes study tours and tours to the sources of whisky.