Essential oils with amazing benefits for us humans, schnapps distilled with much love and expert knowledge in view of the majestic Dachstein mountain and a whisky which matures for years in eternal ice. Welcome to Mandlberggut in the mountains above Radstadt. My destination for today’s walk.
There are many paths leading up to the Family Warter’s Mandlberggut Farm. Some visitors prefer the tarmac access road and drive up by car or by motorbike, others cycle up the mountain on a bike or electric bike. Hikers and walkers can reach the idyllically situated farm on a short walk from Mandling via the scenic reservoir. If you ask me, the most picturesque way to reach the farm is the circular tour from nearby Filzmoos. Always the imposing Dachstein mountain in view, you walk directly from the centre of the village, first of all taking the forest road and then the Mandling high trail – after around an hour’s walk you come to your destination. On hot days such as today the thick forest offers plenty of shade. You quickly leave life down in the valley behind you and after just a few metres switch into leisure mode. In a good mood, I stomp through the forest with the wind whooshing through the trees, whistle competitively with the blackbirds and unintentionally scare off a mouse or squirrel or two. Sorry, I didn’t mean to. Here in the Salzburger Sportwelt we have so many lovely mountain views. However, the view of offer here of the Dachstein is somewhat unique and fascinates me time and time again. The highest mountain in the area is the namesake for the in-house distillery at the Mandllberg. But more of that later.
Refreshment at the Latschenstüberl
Not far from the charming and lovingly decorated farm, a dog, wagging its tail madly, acts a reception committee. With such an enthusiastic welcome my visit here is sure to be delightful. Meanwhile the sun is already high up in the sky and from the valley you can hear the church bells announcing noon. My stomach rumbles, reminding me somewhat disgruntled, that breakfast has been digested some hours ago. Oh well, time to eat! In the cosy Latschenstüberl guest garden I take of my rucksack, find myself a cosy table in the shade and plop down in an inviting-looking chair. Taking a look at the menu my mouth begins to water. Lots of tasty things, making my choice rather difficult. In answer to the question what she recommends, the friendly young waitress smiles at me and explains she too often has problems deciding. Most of the food on the menu comes from own farm produce, from the own hunting ground and from the surrounding forests. Finest herbs, game sausage meat, home-made bread, tasty spreads. Then how about a bit of everything. The name of the friendly girl is Katharina Warter, she is the daughter of the house and since last year runs the farm together with her sister Theresa. I’m happy to accept her offer to show me around her empire after lunch. And there’s plenty to see, I can tell you that much.
The swiss stone pinewood distillery – where it all started
The guided tour, of which there are at least three daily in summer, starts in the swiss stone pinewood distillery next to the main house. The charming wooden hut originally stood in the valley and is the place where it all started about 15 years ago. Bernhard Warter, the father of the two young ladies and his wife, began distilling oil from crushed needles and branches of the swiss stone pine tree using steam. Oil with amazing benefits, as I learn during the guided tour, as it not only boosts the blood circulation, but also has an inflammatory and pain-relieving effect. It also has a beneficial effect on muscles and joints and a mucus-dissolving effect on the bronchial tubes. Even today the essential oil is extracted here and is very popular. I take a look around the cosy room, wonder at the over 100 year old lederhosen (traditional Austrian leather trousers), smell and test the various swiss stone pine products and learn lots of interesting facts about our local plants and their effects. Quite unbelievable really, what you can achieve with the power of nature. Slowly we head outdoors again. And now to the centrepiece of the Mandlberggut, the Dachstein Distillery, widely known beyond the boundaries of the SalzburgerLand.
Distilled from top-quality water
The schapps distillery with which Bernhard Warter has fulfilled his dream of a lifetime is really beautiful. Through the panorama windows the Dachstein dominates the proceedings here too, the brightly polished copper cauldrons sparkle in the sunlight and the large bar invites visitors to take a seat and to try a fine drop or two. Even though the various schnapps are distilled by Salzburg’s first fine schnapps sommelier and his daughter Theresa, the Dachstein Distillery has, however, become really famous for its excellent whisky and home-brewed gin. The Rock Whiskey is supposedly as strong as a rock and as majestic as the Dachstein, making even long-standing whisky-drinkers break out in hymns of praise and is generally described as fruity-vanillery. The secret is the top-quality mountain spring water from the farm’s own spring, the owner tells us himself, briefly sitting down and confiding in us. Without having to filter it, this soft water is the perfect base for creating great spirits. Whilst I’m still chewing over what I’ve just heard and imagining the journey of every raindrop through the massive mountains in front of me, Katharina puts a glass of water on the table and says: “Try it! You can taste the difference.“ And indeed. I’ve seldom drunk better water than this. As I then also taste a nip of whisky, I also understand why it stands out from the crowd. A great drink, not at all tangy and so varied in its taste that more or less every taste bud on my tongue erupts. Some barrels are currently being stored at an altitude of over 3.000 in the Ice Palace in the eternal ice of the Dachstein Glacier in hand-made oak barrels. Should they survive these very inhospitable surroundings, then in a few years time we can look forward to a very special whisky. The gin is also of the very best quality, features just a gentle hint of juniper berries and tastes different to how you expect gin to taste. And I mean that in a positive way.
A great excursion and holiday destination
In answer to my question where visitors can purchase distillery and farm produce, Katharina shows me the farm shop too. Lovingly decorated, all treasures stand in file, waiting to be tasted and taken back home. The selection is vast and anyone who can’t find anything suitable, is beyond help. If you can’t make it to the Mandlberggut in person, you can order all the good things in the Mandlberggut-Webshop. Generally speaking it has to be said that everything is of the finest quality. This family is living its dream and lets others experience a part of it too. It doesn’t matter whether you just stopping by for refreshment, taking part in a guided tour of the Warter’s empire, learning about the world of schnapps distilling in the Dachstein Distillery, or enjoying a few days holiday in the self-catering chalet- every visit here is sure to be a very special experience, providing strength and energy for everyday life.
Slowly but surely it’s time for me to say goodbye. After I’ve packed away a bottle of gin, I wave and head off back to Filzmoos. What a great day! In case you ever wish to discover this gem in the mountains of the Salzburger Sportwelt, then don’t hesitate and pay a visit to Mandlberggut. You’ll be surprised what you can discover here.
Picture credits: Peter Zeitlhofer