On the opening nights of Roland Adlassnigg’s art exhibitions the crowds divide into two groups, those who drink water and those who drink schnapps. He offers them nothing else, just those two drinks.
One group will soon wander home to bed, while the other group will stay and talk…often until the sun comes up. As a sculptor, Roland is continually working, driven by his passion in schnapps and inspired create new concepts. For him distilling and art are united as one.
With every autumn comes the harvest. When all the fruit ripened on the trees and it’s been collected from the meadows and stored in large barrels. This is when Roland Adlassnigg orders a still from Rankweil’s distilling cooperative. With help from a local friend with a tractor, wood is piled high, buckets and bottles are gathered. Cosy jackets and jumpers are brought out from the house to perform their annual duty of keeping out the chilly night air.
Distilling is a lengthy process and you can never leave the still. Wood must be replaced and the fire always stoked. The precious liquids need collecting, the buckets need cleaning and the fruit mash must be monitored. This process needs to be repeated until the very last drop is safely stored.
As a child Roland already knew that distilling was at the heart of the autumn season, his father and his great-uncle both made their schnapps as soon as the nights began to draw in. Today his little son is also learning what the autumn brings and he looks forward to the smell of wood smoke in the air, even if he is not really interested in the still just yet. Rankweil’s distilling cooperative has over 160 members and two mobile stills. Every member can borrow a still when they want to create their own schnapps after the harvest has been gathered.
There is nothing bad about schnapps, it just depends who drinks it…and how much.
After multiple stages of distillation, the condensed spirit is collected into large bulging bottles. Once it has been blended it is then poured into delicate liquor bottles to rest and mature. There are so many myths around the art of distilling that Roland chooses to ignore. While some distillers will wait for a full moon to travel to find the perfect water source, Roland simply chooses to turn on the tap in Rankweil, “I have never noticed an improvement with different water, the water I have here is incredible. For me it is the perfect blend of all the amazing local ingredients, the fruit, the water and the wood.”
There are many other ancient distilling myths that go back generations, like the curse of mixing of different types of sugars, that can make other distillers nervous. Roland however, enjoys experimenting and trying new and alternative ingredients, such as unusual exotic fruits.
Recently he tried making coffee liquor, blending two of his favourite drinks, and did it work? “I think coffee schnapps is wonderful. Schnapps can carry so many different flavours, for example I have a sage schnapps that is prefect for fighting off a head cold. Recently I was on holiday and I saw a huge kumquat tree. I was really lucky because the farmer gave me a whole bucket of fruit. There will be kumquat schnapps next season. An opportunity like this you get only once”.
The schnapps he makes not only plays a role in the hospitality he offers guests to his exhibitions; it is also the art itself. The mobile schnapps still, for example, is an object of art in its own right. It is the ‘alter’ at which visitors to the gallery worship the produce from the hands of Adlassnigg. It’s an artistic approach to the national drink that has, in recent years, been exalted to higher highlights with a price increase and a luxury lifestyle status; it has been placed on an invisible ‘alter’.
“The addiction is the desire for God, and it must inevitably lead to him. We know it is inside us when we step out of our world of logical reasoning and we escape the collective control we live in. So many followers cannot be wrong; they all stand before the gates to God with their pass in their hands. Each pass made from the fruit and the distilled waters from the devil’s workshop. These natural nectars can create the altar at which we pray”, says Roland Adlassnigg.
Occasionally his schnapps plays a role in collaborative work with other artists. Roland distils schnapps every year, sometime he creates a lot and other years, just a little. He only ever makes enough for his exhibitions. If you want to try this delicacy then you can find out when he will have his next exhibition at www.roland-adlassnigg.com.
If you want to explore the world of artisan distilleries then you can find many award winning producers here in the region, all offering you the chance to sample and buy their schnapps and to create your own delicious memories of Vorarlberg.