With Lorenz Humbel, the cherry guru from the canton of Aargau, we talked about the sensory significance of different yeasts for fruit brandies. The words “spontaneous fermentation” occurred several times. These words appear more frequently in the vocabulary of oenophile hipsters in recent years, but rarely in connection with spirits.
What sounds new and exciting has been standard not so long ago. Nowadays, cultivated yeast is generally used in alcoholic fermentation. Fermentation is more stable, controlled and efficient. Unexpected results, as with some spontaneous fermentation, are largely avoided, but one loses differentiation and identity. Uniform taste is the result.
Lorenz Humbel poured samples of his varietal cherry eau-de-vie, whose mash was fermented with different yeast strains. The varying complexity of taste depending on the yeast culture surprised. The destillat from the spontaneously fermented mash from the Basler Langstieler cherry put us in euphoria. After extensive tasting it was clear: we want to introduce this spirit in the Freimeisterkollektiv.
Berry notes, aroma of bitter almonds and pineapple
Subtle chocolate, cinnamon and marzipan notes. slight sweetness
Strong cherry aromas, bitter almond
sweet cherry – Prunus avium
(Basler Langstieler), water, natural yeasts
In the wine production special cultivated yeasts are offered for many grapes. This gave Lorenz Hubel the idea to initiate a research project for fruit brandy yeast, together with the research institute Geisenheim in the Rheingau.
In addition, in a series of tests for natural yeast cultures, he determined how to create optimal conditions for spontaneously fermented mash. If you refrain from instilling the mash with pure-bred yeast, you have to work very carefully. All conditions must be fulfilled perfectly to guarantee an excellent product, emphasizes Lorenz Humbel.
Output should always be an excellent harvest. 2014 was a perfect year for cherries. It is important that it does not rain heavily during flowering and that it remains dry at harvest time. The harvested cherries must be processed quickly, the oxygen supply should be stopped immediately so that no vinegar forms.
Another measure against vinegar formation is the acidification of the mash. Humbel lowers the pH with lactic acid. The fermentation takes place in the cool cellar. Once the fermentation starts and CO2 is produced, the mash is protected. Distilling takes place immediately after complete fermentation. After distilling, the cherry brandy from spontaneously fermented mash must be kept for a longer period, as the esterification takes longer. Patience and effort is rewarded by an exciting product with a different complexity.
The result of this research and previous experience is the BASLER LANGSTIELER, WILD 503.
Distiller | Stetten, Aargau, Switzerland
Lorenz’ grandfather Max Humbel founded the distillery in Stetten in the Swiss canton of Aargau in 1918 as a supplement to his agriculture when he – like many Swiss farmers of that time – was in dire straits. When Lorenz Humbel took over the commercial distillery from his father, the Swiss spirits market was just liberalized. By that time, 80 percent of the distillates consumed in Switzerland came from within Germany. Meanwhile, the relationship has reversed. The traditional distillery had to react to this change. With the focus on Kirschbrand (cherry eau-de-vie), Humbel made the right decision. He consistently focused on quality and expanded his range of certified organic spirits. In the search for suitable cherries, he came across a book from 1937 titled The cherry varieties of German Switzerland. The author and botanist Fritz Kobel classified over 300 different varieties of cherry. Enthusiastic and inspired by this publication, Lorenz Humbel started to distil varietal cherry brandies in 1995. Today Humbel has already mashed and distilled well over 20 different varieties of cherry, and continues to search for cherries that broaden the aroma spectrum of its outstanding brandies.