Spheric Spirits is a Germany-based independent bottler that's been in operation since 2018. Founders Benedict and Claudio bring a ton of previous experience from across the spirits industry and around the globe into their approach to selecting and bottling spirits for their label. The independent bottlers focus particularly on the unique, funky flavours of “Old School” whisky.
Whisky Auctioneer is delighted to partner with the Spheric Spirits to present the first opportunity to acquire the earliest bottle numbers from their first ten releases (available to bid on in our January Auction). Here we talk to Benedict and Claudio to find out more about their backgrounds, the ethos of the company and the exciting things independent bottlers can offer…
First of all, tell us a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Claudio and I are old High School friends. We have both lived, studied and worked in various exotic locations such as Kolkata, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Cairo, Arctic Norway, Scotland, Mexico. We've always made sure to stay in contact, have visited each other and travelled together. We both share an ongoing fascination for culture and traditional crafts, may it be textiles, art, food, or fermentation and distillation, which brings us to the subject we want to talk more about in this interview: high quality alcoholic beverages.
Whilst Claudio focused on physics and later on general business, I studied the biosciences of brewing and distilling. I learned the practical aspect as an apprentice at a traditional former GDR (Eastern Germany) distillery, and the theoretical aspect at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. I also got practical knowledge from working at, and learning from, various distilleries around the globe.
When our paths crossed again Claudio and I created Spheric Spirits, combining both our passion and expertise. Also, both of us have entrepreneurial and experimental spirits. As a result we don’t merely experiment in the laboratory and publish the results on paper; our motivation is to show that it works in practice. Even though we both have backgrounds in science and innovation, this is so to say only a side product of what we do: our goal is to produce delicious, traditional, crafty, nerdy spirits to share with others. First and foremost, of course, old school Scotch Whisky.
What brought you into the world of independently bottling spirits?
We consider ourselves predominantly as producers of old school Scotch style whisky. But we also like to showcase what we consider 'old school' Scotch whisky by indie bottling the great stuff from the past. Besides that, you need to live off something while your own productions are maturing for years.
So we combine the necessary with the beautiful, and offer what we find great Scotch whisky to the public in order to taste and share.
What is the ethos behind Spheric Spirits that makes it different among so many independent bottlings that are trying to make an impression?
Spherics, as an indie bottler, has a very narrow search profile when it comes to selecting casks. We really focus on what we think is "old school" Scotch whisky. That implies that we only bottle fully matured individual casks, we don't correct them through reracking 'finishings' – that is a relatively late innovation in the industry.
What is not really prioritised any more [in the industry] is the elegance and the finesse derived from long interactive maturation in less active wood, made possible only in rare climatic conditions such as in Scotland. Along with a more hygienic, ethanol-yielding, and time efficient production process the fermentation derived molecular complexity of the new-make-spirit has also diminished. In our productions in collaboration with various distilleries across the globe we try to focus on exactly these old school complexities. And all our indie bottlings of existing Scotch malt whisky showcase this former "old school" elegance as well.
Releases are always bottled at cask strength and are, of course, never colour adjusted or heavily filtered. And, if a cask needs more time, we let it further mature in an old Speyside dunnage until each cask is ready to be bottled at its prime. Thanks to some private investors we are able to be patient and not constrained by having to bottle for cash flow.
We also take the time and effort for each of our releases to have a unique label designed by one of our illustrators to further reflect the cask’s individualism, and every bottle is numbered to present the natural limitation.
What would you say are the benefits to choosing a whisky from an independent bottler?
Us Indies are the small boutique, nerdy option for whisky lovers. We are free from commercial restraints such as uniform taste or look. We can let the individual character of each cask or batch shine in its raw form, unaltered. We can provide casks the opportunity to concentrate naturally towards an optimal drinking strength, which might vary from cask to cask. The original producers don’t have that luxury, they generally need to offer the product along very tight brand guidelines.
Original producers and indie bottlers complement each other. Someone who is new to whisky will most likely start with original bottlings: once you find a whisky which you really like you can be sure that you get the same great taste also in a year, or in ten years, or for a friend as a present. But indies can offer a lot of diversity and nuances in taste and expressions which go beyond the original bottlings.
There is a place for consistency, brand recognition and reproducibility. That is a craft by itself and is the field of the original producers. But there is also a place for individualism, limited supply and unique taste experiences. And I think that this is what most of our fellow indie bottlers and Spheric Spirits really stand for. Maybe it might be a cheap metaphor: but it is like the digital recording which you can repeat where and whenever you want versus the live performance which happens once and never comes back in this very same way. But again, I don’t want to judge here: I listen to a lot of digital recordings as well.
Benedict, you’ve experienced working with a range of spirit producers all over the world in various roles, from developing the whisky at Aurora Spirit Distillery in Arctic Norway to working at Dornoch Distillery in the Scottish Highlands to producing Mezcal in Mexico and collaborating with Nc'Nean distillery to making Schnapps in the Alps. What have been some of your key learnings from some of the places you’ve worked?
It keeps fascinating me to see how different cultures utilise their raw materials and how microbiology was tweaked to ferment them into storable and often intoxicating beverages. Distillation is a form of refinement and thus I've learned to appreciate the raw materials and the complexity of fermenting them above distillation. But, of course, I still love finding myself in front of a warm copper pot still making my cuts.
Whisky so far has not seen much when it comes to experimenting different enzymatic approaches of dissecting multiplex carbohydrates into fermentable sugars and utilising microbiology to better understand fermentations. This is really an area in which the whisky industry can learn from other places and genres – without even breaking any of the tight rules set by the Scottish Whisky Association.
The take home message is very simple: There's something you can learn from each spirit and from each spirit maker from around the world.