Whisky made in Germany St Kilian Distillers Irish-German Crossover Bud Spencer Whisky – Whisky News

Whisky made in Germany

St Kilian Distillers

Irish-German Crossover Bud Spencer Whisky

Ernie Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries

The St. Kilian distillery of Rüdenau in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, sent over a thousand tasting sets with the new Bud Spencer whisky edition to its steady growing fan group. Distillery Manager Mario Rudolf and distillery founder Andreas Thümmler presented an informative and thematically varied online tasting from their Still Room. Their special guest, Master Distiller and former Managing Director of Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth and current Director of Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, set the pace: David F. Hynes.

The passionate engineer in chemistry, Hynes also a graduate of Harvard Business School, originally planned the German St. Kilian distillery together with Investment Banker Andreas Thümmler. They share their passion for good whisky in a longtime friendship, which actually formed the basis of the success of today’s Kilian whiskies. Since 2016 distillates made from domestic and Scottish malted barley – Glenesk Maltings – have been bubbling through the 6,000-litre copper stills. They had been manufactured by Forsyth’s famous coppersmiths in Rothes during the pre-Brexit period. The Kilian team around Distillery Manager Mario Rudolf installed the classic copper Swan Neck Pot Stills in a former disused textile factory. The wooden washbacks came also from Scotland, from Dufftown. Local Frankonian craftsmen refined and set the distillation equipment in place. The result is an impressive state-of-the-art distillery which is admired by thousands of visitors.

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Motivation and Perspective

Master Brewer Mario Rudolf – a former Production Manager at the ecological Bavarian brewery Neumarkter Lammsbräu https://www.lammsbraeu.de  – was taught whisky distillation by the experienced David Hynes. The spiritus rector trained the Franconian in all details and helped him to do an internship with the Scottish whisky icon, Billy Walker. Furthermore, the experienced long time Master Distiller, Alan McConnochie, introduced Rudolf into modern production methods of the Scottish whisky industry. At the East Highland distillery Glendronach he imparted the highly motivated brewer diversified insights into the Scottish way of whisky distillation. Rudolf studied intensively the foundations of distilling and maturing in detail.

Back home at St. Kilian Distillery he has consistently diversified the methods of brewing and distillation. A range of highly acclaimed Kilian distillates have developed since. David Hynes had skillfully opened the gates to a new and fertile German world of whisky. For keeping with Irish traditions, the accomplished distillery plant developer integrated a reflux condenser into the lyne arm of the spirit still. This dephlegmator device, some kind of pipe spiral through which cooling liquids flow makes for higher or lower reflux reaction. This tool has since allowed Rudolf to finely control and adjust the amount of reflux of the condensed alcohol vapors within the lyne arm into the pot. The desired New Make character may be clean, pure or bold and robust. The individual adjustment water cooling temperatures of the dephlegmator increases or decreases the onset of purification of the particular distillate. As a result, the reflux condenser generates a range of distinguished flavour profiles within the new make spirits. The temperature of the cooling liquid largely structures the spirit: “multiple distilled Irish style of whiskey” or “…a very harsh whisky full of character.” This very special way of distilling malt spirits is quite exciting and challenging for the Kilian Team. A broad variety of spirits is the result.

At Kilian distilling is done just like in Scottish still houses. Foreshots and feints are added to the low wines. This thrilling mixture is redistilled during the second runs in the spirit pot still. It makes for complexity. Therefore Master Distiller Rudolf speaks respectfully of the “Soul of Kilian Whiskies.” However, there are two of them: a non-peaty and a peaty version. Foreshots and feints are collected and kept ready in separate tax-sealed steel containers. “None of our alcohol is discarded.” German distilling tradition has it that foreshots and feints are not redistilled when the mash is composed of fruit. Their negative aromas would overdub and spoil the subtle fruity flavours of the middle cut when redistilled.

Diversified Cask Management

By now Kilian Spirits have been maturing in 255 different cask “cultures”. Since 2016 the warehousemen filled 7560 casks which are located primarily in a so-called Bunker City. The former U.S.-Depot covers more than 70 hectares of forest at 440 meters above sea level in the nearby hills of Rüdenau. By comparison, Great Northern Distillery has got 297,600 casks maturing in warehouses throughout Ireland. The prevailing and constant temperature at Kilian’s bunker-warehouses – former Cold War ammunition storage – is unique and creates a very supporting microclimate for maturing whisky. David Hynes admires Mario Rudolf’s nuanced and versatile wood management. He charmingly calls him a Whisky Wizard of Wood. Rudolf works creatively with the range of casks. The Kilian Master Blender creates very special vatting recipes again and again to compose new convincing whiskies. The variety of casks types, wood and sizes make for a different and highly sophisticated approach to integrate the particular flavour components of Kilian malts into the vatting or end product. The whisky community admire Rudolf for his excellency of fining new recipes again and again. His customer related detailed transparency makes for a much better understanding of the Kilian Way of Whisky Making.

Founder and only owner Thümmler is pleased with their success. The accolades of 60 international medals give them international recognition and motivitation. In 2021 the LPA will reach 300,000 litres of Kilian malt spirit. When they started five years ago their production was around 60,000 litres of pure alcohol. Not for long, they will expand to 600,000 litres a year and work 24/7 shifts. The team is growing. Further expansion of double sizing is planned.

Bud Spencer Strikes Again

It was probably the most successful and surprising whisky launch of the German beverages market. Let’s take a look back. Covid raged in December 2020 when a new whisky brand hit the shelves of German liquor stores: a single malt from St. Kilian under the name Bud Spencer. The launch made people sit up and take special notice. The media response was fierce. The late Italian actor, please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud_Spencer,

stirred multiple emotions and empathy among his German fans. No wonder that the first batch was sold out in just a few weeks. “We had to deliver more bottles as fast as possible,” Rudolf recounts, “in total, well over 30,000 bottles poured into the market with Bud Spencer Batch 1.2. We were surprised and overrun by the success. We reached our production limits.” The single malt at 46% vol with fair pricing delighted large sections of the whisky community in Germany. Bud Spencer whisky also found new connoisseurs who, until then, had tended to see a German whisky on the sidelines. Within a few weeks, Saint Kilian was literally on everyone’s lips. What a great marketing success, what a brilliant product placement! The peaty Bud Spencer Single Malt version from Rüdenau soon expanded the St. Kilian portfolio. Such a phenomenon has never been seen in recent German whisky trading. The outcome was immense.

However, the intended Bud Spencer whisky stocks were coming to an end. “We were overwhelmed by what had happened the weeks before Christmas last year,” Rudolf recounts, “probably the biggest whisky release there has been in Germany…unfortunately we couldn’t serve the demand…for quite some time…how to cope with it all was the vital question?” The management at Kilian had to rethink their strategies. Old project ideas were taken up and resulted in “…a strong innovation…an international blend…” For Andreas Thümmler, it was a natural consequence of the previous collaboration “…that both Master Distillers create a whisky together.”

The Cross-Border Surprise: Bud Spencer Batch 2.0

“Batch 2 of the new Bud Spencer Whisky is a crossover of the Master Distillers who have virtually built Saint Kilian. A blend composed by Mario and David,” Thümmler, who hails from Rüdenau, was so pleased, “I am personally very excited…this is simply a classy blend.” The whisky, he pointed out, not only manifests the trio’s close collaboration, but also their mutual friendship. The demand made them inventive. Creatively, they solved any supply problems, because Kilian’s stocks did not allow a new edition of the previous Rudolf-vatting recipe of 80% bourbon and 20% Amarone cask-matured Kilian whiskies. A new product had to be created. “Why not merge the whiskies distilled by Mario and David?” thought Thümmler. Plans and ideas evolved. GND samples were exchanged for months. The team created something absolutely new that has never been seen before in recent German distilling history.

Without any import and customs problems, a pot still whiskey that was just over three years old and a similarly aged single malt arrived in Rüdenau. The whiskeys came in thousand-litre IBC containers from the Great Northern Distillery which the Irish whiskey patron, Dr. John Teeling, founded in Dundalk in 2015. The triple-distilled spirits had previously matured in bourbon barrels in Ireland and were selected and vatted by Hynes and his GND team. It was Rudolf’s challenge and task to compose a blend by using some of his own Kilian stocks. He choose double distilled single malts which had matured in specific Italian Amarone and other red wine casks and married them with the selection of Irish GND whiskeys. The task was rather difficult as the new blend had to match some way or another the former red wine flavour profile of the first Bud Spencer Whiskies. The new Irish-German Bud Spencer would have to meet the charismatic aroma of the well-received whisky. The result was a “blend” of 18.75% Amarone cask-aged and other red wine barriques-matured double-distilled non-peated Kilian malts, which were married with triple-distilled 18.75% GND pot still whiskeys and 62.5% GND single malts. The final blending session was completely done by Rudolf alone at St. Kilian distillery.

The mash bill of the GND pot still whiskey was composed of a larger part of malted barley and a smaller part of unmalted plus some other grains like rye and oats. The grain cocktail was distilled at the former Harp Brewery in Dundalk. Hynes and Forsyth had converted the former beer brewing kettles into pot stills. He also installed a cooling reflux spiral in the horizontal lyne arm of the spirit pot still. A special pipe to lead the condensing heavy alcohol vapor mixture from the lyne arm directly back into the kettle to get redistilled again. “The Pot Still is a very concise product,” Hynes pointed out to the German viewers, “…the GND pot still whiskey is a typical Irish historically grown distillation variant.” In the new Bud Spencer Batch 2.0 Mario and David have not used any GND grain whiskey at all, as it would be the case with traditional Irish or Scottish blended whiskies.

At this point critics could be advised: It is perfectly legitimate for a German whisky distillery to choose such a cross-border method of cooperation and expansion of its portfolio. The origin of the particular product is clearly and transparently formulated on the label. The consumer is well-informed. We might also consider the special link and interrelation to St Kilian. The missionary Saint came originally from Ireland to Frankonia during the 7th century. Therefore Saint Kilian is very closely based in the history and culture of the region where St. Kilian Distillery is situated. The congenial trio of Rudolf, Hynes, Thümmler is also linked to each other in different ways. They have cooperated and worked together to create Kilian Whiskies and a new crossover whisky. The mild Bud Spencer whisky is the result of a close German-Irish cooperation within the European Union. Furthermore the fascination of Bud Spencer Whisky Batch 2.0 lies in its intercultural relation: Italian actor, Italian and French wine makers, German and Scottish malsters, Irish distiller, German distiller and a Franconian investor. By the way the glass bottles were made in Italy. This is what Europe is all about, working together in a prosperous mutual friendship.

What does the new Bud Spencer Whisky taste like?

The whisky unfolds in the glass, its light, slightly greenish-warm color is reminiscent of a white wine like a Pinot Grigio delle Venezie. The oily legs suggest an aroma rich whisky with a dense body. The nose is by no means disappointed, intense fruity-fresh aroma bundles please as well as notes of toffee. Joyful is the positive expectation of a tasty full-bodied whisky. The fruity, honey-sweet, creamy and oily flavour with a fair dash of vanilla thrillingly fascinates tongue, palate and nose. There are especially the emerging not too spicy, peppery notes that harmoniously balance the young whisky. Lingering spearmint impressions lead into a fresh whisky. David Hynes likes the flashing of an old fashioned Irish character of Pot Still in the Bud Spencer blend, he is quite enthusiastic because his “…Pot Still pushes to the front…very forward.” Mario Rudolf’s integrating blending skills result in a very tasty and enjoyable charming whisky…an everyday tipple and the whisky appears to be older. “Italy, Ireland and Germany are integrated in a perfect blend,” the whisky maker promises. David and Mario were not wrong with their expectation. The instant reception by their fans was positive. They were thrilled by the new recipe and the fruity flavour profile of Bud Spencer.


The “mild” Bud Spencer Batch 2 resulted in 27,000 bottles, which were bottled by hand at the distillery at 46% abv, not chill-filtered and without any caramel coloring. The “distinctive” Bud Spencer bottle will hit the shelves of specialist retailers this October 2021. The German retail price is a moderate 39.90 euros for a 07 l bottle. A smoky Bud Spencer variant will follow soon. New markets may be developed in Hungary and Italy, because in these countries the actor Bud Spencer is a very popular figure, in contrast to his poor reception in Ireland. The latest release of Bud Spencer Whisky is also available at the St Kilian Distillery.

Let’s keep in mind: The European Union made this intensive cross-border cooperation quite  easily possible. There are no trade and tax barriers. Direct sourcing of high-quality casks within the EU and from the USA allows St. Kilian Distillers the production of attractive whiskies meeting international standards. European law gives the German whisky makers the creative opportunity to use any wood for whisky maturation – in Scotland, only oak is allowed to shape the whisky. The cross-border EU-wide cooperation with distilleries, national and international cooperages, bodegas, wineries, etc. makes for a highly individual and diversified selection of cask qualities from Europe and the world.

Contact: www.stkiliandistillers.com

Ernie Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries at www.whisky-distilleries.net

and publishes articles in the German whisky magazine The Highland Herold www.highland-herold.de and the trade magazine Kleinbrennerei www.kleinbrennerei.de.

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