Whisky Tasting, Vom Fass, Bamberg, Germany
Originally published on my A Travel for Taste blog on February 10, 2013
Good Sunday to you! You may remember that I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) here in Germany. Last year I picked up a contract to teach ESL on the local U.S. Army post. The students are family members of U.S. Soldiers and other people involved in running the base, such as locals who work in the commissary and so forth.
The group is as diverse as you can imagine! I have students from Central and South America all the way to Africa. A lot of the women are here with their children while their husbands are deployed to Afghanistan. Given their unique situations and varying levels of English proficiency, the group was a challenge for me. However, it’s turned out to be the most fun group ever!
Last week I conducted a workshop where I took the group to a local gourmet shop downtown. The shops name is Vom Fass, which translates to On Tap in English. It’s a franchise location of a larger chain, and they even have locations in the USA.
The shop sells beautiful olive oils from many countries, and some of the oils are flavored with lemon, chili peppers and so on. They also have a wide selection of vinegars from basic stuff to the real-deal balsamic from Italy and those flavored with fruit and wine. You can also find wines, liqueurs, and even Scotch whisky in the cask there.
If it sounds like a commercial, then my mission is accomplished. I LOVE this place! Not only are the products right up my alley, the two German women who run the place are wonderful. They treat everyone like treasures and shopping there is always a treat.
They offer whisky tastings a couple of times a year as well. They suggested to me that they could present a whisky tasting to my group in English, which was perfect for us! So we set up a presentation for last Wednesday evening. Here are some shots I made while waiting for my students to show up:
As is the case most of the time, not everyone showed up who’d promised to be there. In fact, only one of my students, Carmela, came that evening, but she brought along her husband and brother-in-law.
The owners, Catharina and Silvia, set up a nice table with some baguette slices and water for us (they are the ones in black shown here):
She also provided me with this photo opp:
Of course we had to toast the first of the three whisky samples she gave us. Carmela’s brother-in-law Gibran is here on the left, (short!) Carmela is in the middle. You can see Carmela’s husband Ivan’s hand and mine in the lower left corner:
Along the way we learned how to enjoy whisky, which is not to drink it cold or on the rocks because it mutes the flavors. We learned how to add a few drops of purified water to bring out certain qualities of the whisky. We also learned what shape of glass is best and how to warm it in our hands to further enjoy the qualities of it.
Here are the three guests taking the presentation very seriously:
And here is Carmela sampling the roasted barley, or malt, which is the main ingredient for whisky.
Interestingly, the barley malt we tasted came from the local Weyerman malt processing plant here in Bamberg next to the train station. It’s a huge, red-brick complex that’s been there since before I first saw it back in 1987 and Catharina said they export malt all over the world. The whisky we sampled may very well have been made from barley malted at Weyerman! As an aside, the plant smells like burning bananas to me on certain days. Not sure why.
Other things we learned:
Whisky originated in Ireland and Scotland. Its name comes from the Gaelic for “water of life.”
Up to a certain point, making beer and whisky are identical processes. At that crucial point, if you add hops, you’re making beer. If you distill it, you’re making whisky!
When it’s spelled “whisky” it’s from Scotland and you can call it Scotch. When it’s spelled “whiskey” it’s from other places like the USA, Ireland, or Canada.
The term “single-malt whisky” means it came from only one distillery. “Blended whisky” means it came from more than one distillery and is blended by a sort of middle-man outfit. “Bourbon whisky” means other grains besides or in addition to barley are used.
Here are Silvia and Catharina making sure we got the correct sample amount!
By the time it was over, Catharina had educated us well. The ladies were gracious hosts and we had a wonderful, informative time. I’m so thrilled at the job they did for our little group!
Of course, afterward we shopped the whole store. I bought a whisky-tasting kit that has 8 sample bottles and we all sampled oil, vinegar and liqueur as well. I think the shop made out pretty good on our purchases!
After the presentation and shopping, the four of us newly educated whisky experts went to a nice dinner at a very good local Indian restaurant. What a great evening! I invite all of you to visit me with the promise that I will personally introduce you to Silvia and Catharina myself!
Take care and have a great week!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: