Everything you need to know about Swiss whisky

Everything you need to know about Swiss whisky

Did you know that Switzerland has its own budding whisky industry? The country imports more than 1,9 million litres of liquid gold every year but what many people don’t know is that there are more than 50 Swiss whisky brands produced across the cantons

An introduction to Swiss whisky

For a long time, producing whisky in Switzerland was illegal - whisky production was only legalised in 1999. Before this time, Swiss law prohibited staple foods like potatoes and grains from being used for distilling alcohol. 

Just because the Swiss are relatively new to the whisky market, doesn't mean that they are not a serious competitor for well-known distillers based in places like Scotland and Ireland. Today, Swiss whisky goes through the same three-year minimum ageing and rigorous distillery process as its more well-known international competitors.

Switzerland has a long history of creating fruit brandies such as Williams and Kirschwasser, which can explain how the country gained its expertise in the malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling and ageing process so quickly. Switzerland has around 20 distillers producing more than 55.000 litres of whisky each year, which puts the tiny alpine nation in a similar league to other whisky nations considering its size. Swiss distillers produce more than 50 different varieties of whisky to suit any taste. 

Swiss whiskey vs Swiss whisky

Many people often note the spelling difference between whisky and whiskey, but are not actually aware of the difference between the two. American and Irish-made types of whisky are usually named “whiskey” while whisky produced in places such as Scotland, Canada and Japan use the “whisky” spelling of the word. 

Most distilleries in Switzerland use the spelling “whisky” but don’t be surprised if you come across several bottles of Swiss “whiskey” on your way around the local liquor shop. 

Swiss mountain whisky

Today, there are several whisky producers based in the Swiss mountains. One of the most recognised Swiss whisky brands is the Swiss Mountain Single Malt Whisky "CLASSIC", which uses traditional production methods to create a stunning taste only found in the Bernese Oberland, achieved mainly through a seven-year-long ageing process.

This whisky has a hint of malty caramel and sherry, with a layer of fruitiness stemming from apricot, peach and honey flavouring. This whisky is brewed by the Rugenbräu upland beer brewery in Interlaken, a family-run enterprise which has been manufacturing alcoholic beverages for more than 150 years.

Saentis (Säntis) malt Swiss alpine whisky

Another great option for those looking to try some home-grown Swiss whisky from the Alps is Saentis malt Swiss alpine whisky. This whisky has several variations, with the Trinity edition coming in at around 52 percent alcohol content with a blend of flavours from smoky to woody, earthy and fruity. 

The Himmelberg, Sigel, Marwees, Finest Selection Alpstein, Apricot Liqueur and Plum Malt Liqueur come in lower strengths than the Trinity edition. The Saentis whisky is so famous that there is even an Appenzeller Whisky Trek where you can hike to collect 26 whiskies at 26 Alpstein inns to win an original Appenzeller belt with a real silver buckle from the dairyman, Roger Dörig, as a “finisher trophy”. 

Orma Swiss whisky

For something a little different, you could always try a traditional Romansh whisky for a taste of a Swiss culture that is often neglected. This whisky is backed with Swiss traditions and symbolism and aims to turn a small glass of whisky into an experience or ritual of sorts. 

There are 14 different variations of Orma, with the company also producing some other alcoholic beverages such as gin. The manufacturer also offers tours and events at the distillery, as well as tasting sessions, and has in the past even done a train ride from Chur to St. Moritz for those seeking a whisky experience with stunning alpine views!

Sit back and enjoy some Whisky Suisse!

Great Swiss whisky is not reserved for the Alps and German-speaking areas though, as there are also amazing alcoholic treats from the French region of Switzerland. Just because many of the largest and most famous Swiss whiskies are from the Swiss German side of the country, doesn’t mean there aren't any great options for those in other regions of Switzerland!

Why not head online to find your closest Swiss whisky distillery and book a tasting? Or attend the Swiss whisky festival and discover a large variety of whiskies. Make sure to pay attention to the flavours, smells, textures and experience of each drink, because if you find one you love, you can often buy a bottle to take home or give as a great gift!



Emily Proctor

Former Editor at IamExpat Media.

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