A couple of months ago, Birgitta Rust opened her distillery at the Europe harbor in Bremen. "The first of its kind in northern Germany", she's convinced. But even if there should be competition somewhere else, noone can compare to this very qualified lady's success. At the most recent "Destillata" (pretty much the European championship of distillers) in the Austrian Hall in Tyrol in March 2012, Birgitta was awarded a silver medal for four of her scotches (Williams, Quitte, Mirabelle and Schlehe) - pretty darn good for a beginner.
For many years, the 50-year old Birgitta was employed with a Hamburg-based consulting company. In 2009 she ventured out and used her financial means to start her own business. In the early stages, it was not enough -of course- to be impressed by the aromas of the beverages only. Neither did it help that she was familiar with many good scotches from Austria, thanks to her father, who was partially responsible for her career change and who lives along the Mondsee Lake. After all, this is a very complex and challenging trade that has to be learned thoroughly. Well, Birgitta Rust did so with no issues. She passed her journeyman's examination as the only female in her class and was often made fun of due to the fact. Nevertheless, she remained determined when she was first not supposed to be allowed to take the examination. She also gained a lot of experience from top distilleries in the Black Forrest, South Tyrol and Austria.
For instance, she spent some time working for Hans Reisetbauer, who is known as the "Master of Austrian distilleries" in the Azberg near Linz and who has his own orchards surrounding his home called "Palace". "Blue-Gin" is one of his most popular products. Not to forget, of course, his 12-year-old Single Malt Whisky. Every now and then he experiments with the crazy marc from a Trockenbeerenauslese from sweet wine star Egon Müller from the Saar (whose products show the aroma of the not so pleasant noble rot).
This man gave Birgitta a hand and now says about her products" "Very pure products. She works very clean. I particularly like Williams and Quitte, but not so much the Schlehe." Reisetbauer gave her some tips for her selection of fruit: "She did well for a beginner, but you won't know how good a distiller is until some time has passed. She will have to be ambitious."
However, she seemed to have one thing about her that should help her succeed and that's something that teacher Reisetbauer remembers quite easily. "She talks a lot and often", he laughs. Birgitta Rust can let her products speak for herself (raspberry, hazelnut, plum, rosehip, mirabelle and walnut). However, she needs to learn a lot about sales. Her most important target groups besides private customers are restaurants, caterings, hotels as well as deli stores. Her prices reflect her confidence; they start at 26 euro for hazelnut (0.35 l) and end at 75 euro for roeship (also 0.35 l). Retailers and restaurants pay less of course. But they get a lot of quality in return.
Her current line of products will be expanded in the future. After all, the north has plenty of good fruit. Also, she is thinking about making Whisky. She is already dreaming of her "First Hanseatic Malt". The malt can be obtained from the various springs in south Germany and the water from Bremen or around the area. The right size of kegs will also not be hard to find. Birgitta has already gathered production info from Reisetbauer as well as other experts. A couple of days ago her shipment of malt arrived and she was able to give us a preview: "I think I'll have it done in 2015."
In order to generate sufficient funds for her business, she regularly gives workshops, classes and company events. "I want to explain the theroy and practice of distillery". Of course we think she also wants to make sure that people are aware that her business is a lot different from a distillery that produces for wholesale customers. (r.knoll)