A Gin Workshop with Gebhard Steng
Why not try it for yourself? Guests create their very own gin at the STENG Estate at the Rotenberg mountain in Lauffen, and discover which recipe is the best one for them.
Distilling equipment, spindles, filters and measuring beakers: at first glance, the distilling cellar of the STENG Estate on Rotenberg mountain looks rather like a chemistry lab. But everything here revolves around making your own flavour. This is the kingdom of Gebhard Steng, who leads the gin workshops. The estate is a family business, previously run by both his father and grandfather, and it has been based in Lauffen since 1962. Like his predecessor, Gebhard Steng also cultivates grapes and potatoes, which thrive in the fields and vineyards around the estate. Lemberger, Riesling, Schwarzriesling and other varieties of burgundy have grown in the Neckar region’s fertile soils since Roman times.
The early potato varieties Annabelle and Berber are particularly sought after. They are traditionally grown in Lauffen’s fine, crumbly soils and are often harvested earlier there than in other growing regions. The produce is cultivated using green, ecological methods – another tradition which Gebhard Steng is now the third generation to continue. “But the time came when I wanted to try out something new”, he confesses. So, he redeveloped the company to create an operation that specializes in processing the produce as well as growing it. Gebhard Steng began by distilling classic fruit spirits, liqueurs and traditional brandies, and has now been producing his own wine for five years. He sells his products both commercially and to restaurants, as well as in his own shop, of course, where customers can also taste these noble liquids.
If you ever talk to Gebhard Streng, you will quickly notice that his passions include receiving guests and talking about festivals, on top of producing his wares. That is why the estate now also has a sun terrace, on which guests can be served with the distillery’s drinks, a rustic bar, and a large event room for hosting weddings and other celebrations in partnership with regional caterers. The estate’s large still stands in the events room, so guests can observe the distilling process during the celebrations if they wish.
Experimenting with herbs, spices and flowers
Gebhard Streng’s repertoire includes his own gin, but this is entirely coincidental. “The demand came from the gastronomy”, says Gebhard Streng, who has since started to supply regional restaurants with his own gin, called Just Gin.
Why has gin become a cult drink in recent years? “The great thing about gin is that it is versatile”, the workshop leader explains. Juniper, coriander and angelica are the core elements of every gin. “Beyond that, you can experiment as wildly as you like”. Herbs, spices and flowers, such as lemongrass, nutmeg or rose petals, can be combined with each other in many different ways, meaning the gin can always be reinterpreted anew.
That’s why Gebhard Steng launched his workshops, in which the participants can produce the cult spirit as it tastes best to them. He always starts the workshops with the theory, then he talks about the history of gin and explains how to make a macerate of alcohol and herbs. He also philosophizes about the three flavour profiles – floral, aromatic and citrussy – that the botanicals impart to the gin. Actually, it’s always the same: “Everybody’s fingers start to itch after tasting no more than three gin samples”. During workshops, the participants are able to create their own personalized herb mix from the many botanicals available in the cellar: orange slices, lemongrass, cardamom, cloves, rose petals and many more. Some of the ingredients, like mint, lavender and rosemary, come from the estate’s herb garden. “Then we get the distillery running”, explains Gebhard Steng and starts the demonstration right away. He fills the still with alcohol and the botanicals, and switches on the hotplate to supply some heat. “Meanwhile, it’s cooled with water, so the alcohol steam turns back into a liquid gin”.
A Passion For Gin
Just like Love
The clear liquid flows drop by drop into a copper receptacle. It takes approximately 20 minutes for Gebhard Steng to distil around 400 millilitres of pure gin and adjust it to the desired drinking strength – he uses a spindle to add distilled water, thus deciding gin’s alcohol percentage. He also bottles the gin himself, and labels the bottles. What is he holding in his hands? “A London Dry Gin. It’s unfiltered and so is one of the higher-quality gins”. Regardless of the variety, the distiller hopes that his workshop participants will find one thing: “the gin of their lives”. Gebhard Steng compares creating a gin with two people being in love: “Ultimately, it’s all down to the ingredients interacting in the right way”.
☀ STENG Estate
Always something going on
A house concert, tastings of Swabian tapas and fine wines, a hike in the countryside around the estate, a sundowner (or other cocktail) on the sun terrace or the potato festival – events are organized and festivals celebrated all year round on the STENG estate. Do you fancy a “Yoga Meets Wine” session, for example?
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