rugenbrau whiskies tasted

Review: Alpine Whiskies

Visiting the Rugenbräu Distillery where alpine single malt whiskies are being made!

This year my fiancée and I decided to go visit Switzerland for our summer holiday. Not really a trip you’d initially associate with whisky, but they actually do have a couple of distilleries. Not to far from our campground was the Rugenbräu Distillery. Known for their beers, but also their alpine whiskies and gins. So we decided to pay them a visit, and we were pleasantly surprised by what they had on offer.

Visiting a distillery you always hope for some nice exclusives and that was exactly what immediately caught my eye. They had several experimental bottlings available, all hand filled and at cask strength. One of the employees saw me attentively checking it out, and approached me to ask if I wanted to have a little tasting. I, ofcourse, immediately took her up on her offer.

 I asked for her advice on what to get, and we talked a while about whisky in general and the flavour profiles I liked. Based on that she adviced me to try one of their standard offerings: The “Rock Label”. And then move on to the distillery exclusives. I had already spotted an Islay Cask which I wanted to try, and from our conversation I found out it was a Laphroaig cask (which sold me on the decision even more). Aside from that she told me I had to try their “Akazien Cask” (Acacia), as it was their most unique whisky.

By the end of that tasting she recommended one more whisky to me, the “Portwein Cask”. Considering how well her advise had played out until that point I took her up on that advise and I must say that I was not disappointed at all. But before I get too much into that here…It’s time for the tasting notes!

Tasting Notes:

Swiss Mountain Single Malt Whisky “Rock Label”

Stats:

ABV: 50,1 % (100,2 proof)

Age: 7 years

Distillery: Rugenbräu Distilery

Owned by: Family Owned

Category: Single Malt World Whisky (Switzerland)

Awards: IWSC: Silver (2020/2021), DistiSuisse Silver (2020/2021)

Chill Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

On the nose the first thing that comes forward are raisins, followed by some nutmeg and hints of cinnamon. There’s a hint of smoke, which comes from the whisky being finished in charred Swiss oak barrels. This is recognizable in the sense that there’s no peat, it’s more a “campfire” smoke. Even though it’s a relatively high ABV there’s no alcohol on the nose at all.

Palate:

The palate is very sweet. There’s loads of caramel but behind that it’s hiding some fruit as well. The thing that immediately popped in my mind was raspberries. There’s also a slight nuttiness to the dram however, more specifically hazelnuts.

Finish:

The finish is long and gets slightly bitter. The oak tannins take a more central role the longer you wait. The raspberry lingers too though, which makes it altogether a decent finish (if you don’t mind a bit of bitterness that is).

Verdict:

All things considered I think this is a good dram, though I must admit it’s not a bottling I was eager to bring home with me. There’s nothing wrong with the quality, but in comparison to the other drams I tasted it was not that special either. Considering the fact that a 50cl bottle sets you back 64 CHF (roughly 66 euro), the price point is a bit too steep for what it has to offer. But ,that does not mean the price point isn’t fair (odd as that may sound). Considering how expensive everything is in Switzerland, it’s not too bad. But it’s still a lot for someone used to the prices in the Netherlands though.

Rating:

82/100

Value:

D

Distillery Exclusive: Akazien Cask (Hand Filled) 

Stats:

ABV: 59,6% (119,2 proof)

Age: 7 years

Distillery: Rugenbräu Distilery

Owned by: Family Owned

Category: Single Malt World Whisky (Switzerland) Cask Strenght

Chill Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

Even though I was told of it’s uniqueness beforehand, I still found myself surprised. This is unlike any whisky I’ve ever had. The nose is very malt forward, but there’s also some lime and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Unfortunately there’s also a more unpleasant aspect to the nose that faintly reminds me of paint thinner. But most of it is simply something I can’t put my finger on…

Palate:

This whisky has a very dark palate. There’s black coffee, dark chocolate and dark brown sugar. The oak tannins are also very forward on this one. Even though this whisky has a very high ABV, you wouldn’t guess it from the palate. The burn is only ever so slightly there.

Finish:

The finish on this one is very long. The coffee and dark chocolate notes remain, but slowly fade over time. As the flavours get softer it starts reminding me of mocha. This is definitely a finish you can spend some time with.

Verdict:

This is a special dram. A lot of whiskies claim to be unique, but usually it’s not too hard to find a dram which is at least slightly similar. With this one I do not consider myself up to that task. You have to love bold flavours though, because the “darkness” of the flavours can be overwhelming sometimes. Even though this was clearly not my favourite, I did bring a bottle of it home with me. The uniqueness of it is what sold me on the dram. The distillery exclusives are very fairly priced at 32 CHF (34 euro) for a 20cl bottle.

Rating:

78/100

Value:

B

Distillery Exclusive: Islay Cask (Hand Filled)

Stats:

ABV: 49,5% (99 proof)

Age: 9 years

Distillery: Rugenbräu Distilery

Owned by: Family Owned

Category: Single Malt World Whisky (Switzerland) Cask Strenght

Chill Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

There’s some mild smoke upfront, but unlike the Rock Label here there’s definitely peat involved. A hint of lemon is present and there’s plenty of light brown sugar to be found. This has a very delicate nose. The whisky was originally matured in oloroso casks (like their standard offering) and then finished for four years in ex. Laphroaig casks, which is probably why the peat is so subtle. The whisky itself is unpeated after all. A very impressive nose.

Palate:

There’s peat smoke, but once again it’s subtle. Unlike anything you’d find in regular “peated” whiskies. There’s also licorice root and some strawberry. It has a thick feel to it and as it spreads through your mouth hints of powdered sugar start showing up. It’s delicate (considering the peat note) but also wonderfully complex.

Finish:

The finish on this one is also long. Perhaps not as long as the Akazien Cask, but similar to the Rock Label. The powdered sugar gets more intense on the finish, while the licorice root slowly fades. There’s also a malty note and altogether I suddenly find myself thinking of “oliebollen” topped with powdered sugar. Oliebollen are a dutch delicacy we usually eat around new year’s. If I type “oliebollen” in google translate it says “deep fried doughnut balls” though, and that does not quite do it justice.

Verdict:

This is an absolutely wonderful dram. I’m a big fan of peat and personally I would have loved to taste a “fully peated” expression, but nonetheless this is great whisky.  I can see how this could be the perfect dram to introduce the “peated whisky” category to someone who’s never tried it before. There’s enough peat there to peak your interest, but nowhere does it become overwhelming. I think the choice for ex. Laprhoaig Casks was a perfect one. The oloroso and peat smoke are caught in a beautiful harmony. The price for a 20cl bottle is 32 CHF (34 euro) just like the Akazien Cask and if you ever find yourself near Interlaken, Switzerland I’d highly recommend that this is the one you pick up!

Rating:

90/100

Value:

A

Bonus:

Distillery Exclusive: Portwein Cask (Hand Filled)

Stats:

ABV: 58,7% (117,4 proof)

Age: 5 years

Distillery: Rugenbräu Distilery

Owned by: Family Owned

Category: Single Malt World Whisky (Switzerland) Cask Strenght

Chill Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

The fruit jumps out of the glass with this one. There’s blackberries but also strawberries and cream. Almost like fruit taffy. This is overwhelmingly sweet, perhaps a bit too much for me actually. But if you happen to have a sweet tooth…

Palate:

Once again there’s loads of sweetness and fruit. The blackberry and strawberry are both still present. It actually made me think of a “forest fruits” lemonade. There’s more complexity to the palate though, as there are also hints of eucalyptus present.

Finish:

Another long finish, as I’ve by now come to expect from this distillery. In the finish there’s suddenly an oaky quality coming to the front, which leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste on the sides of the tongue. But the biggest flavour lingering is strawberry cream.

Verdict:

This dram is sweet, perhaps at times a bit overly sweet. But still, I could easily see myself enjoying this after dinner to pair it up with dessert. Don’t get me wrong, when I say overly sweet I mean sweet for a whisky. Compared to most liquors this is still not sweet at all. (I always get a sour look when from my fiancée when I let her taste a whisky that I call sweet, because she HAS a sweet tooth and is always disappointed by what I describe as sweet). Once again the same price applies at 32 CHF (34 euro) for a 20 cl bottle. And even though it’s another great dram, it’s less unique than the previous two offers. I’ve got the feeling you can find similar experiences in other “port finished” whiskies.

Rating:

84/100

Value:

B

And that concludes my Swiss whisky tasting notes. Thanks for reading!

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine rating and value.

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