DID YOU KNOW THAT A SPIRIT CAN START ITS LIFE AS AN ARTWORK ? THIS IS WHY WE INTERVIEWED THEO LIGTHART WHO WILL TELL US ABOUT IT, ABOUT CRAFT, AND MUCH MORE - PART 3
Dear curious reader,
The last part of the interview with Theo Ligthart. We are discussing Freimeisterkollektiv, the future of distillation in Berlin, and a new residence starting soon in Berlin, a world premiere you may want to hear about right now !. Enjoy !
Tell me more about how you work with the distillers of the collective. Do the distillers have their own brand, still even though being part of the collective for example?
Yes they do.
We don’t want the farmers to be dependent of our brand and very often locally they are very well known, they have their own customers, this is a way to first of all give them an opportunity to experiment things always approached them with the question what would you like to do? Or what you haven’t done yet? You know sometime they are limited, limited by the customers they are serving to, all different reasons, then and with the collective they have the possibility to do something without economic risks. (...)
You have few women in the collective, you told me it is gonna change, but more generally how do you see the situation in the industry ? Don’t you think it has already started to change?
I don’t know but I know that women have good sensory abilities and that’s the most important thing. Everything else you can learn but the palate, the nose, no. To be honest I have the feeling that a lot of distillers who do their product, in the end when it comes to really take a decision, where to bottle it, etc , very often their wifes are incredibly important point of the production process. I hope this is gonna change, I hope the daughters will be in the front to represent the company. I hope this is changing. That would be very positive for the spirits scene.
May I ask again about the collective, how does it work, does the company belong to every of the participants?
We started off as a company and work with the distillers and we took over the whole financial risks, we bought the alcohol from the distillers, but now that we are on the market they gonna be a share in the company that belongs to everyone, all the distillers, and through an elaborate system is being organized so that this share is divided among the distillers, according to how much you participate. First it is very important that everyone participating in the collective has the feeling that they own a share.
Does this exist in other countries?
Not this way. Of course you have Genossenschaft/Cooperatives in the wine world but generally it is also a bit different, they just deliver the grapes.
We are very much focused on the identity of the producers. But we do look a lot at wine cooperatives as an example how it legally works. It is not easy to set up a company where everyone has a certain part. Still it is a flexible company. Everybody feels their share is equal to their participations and commitment.(...)
Do some of you produce in Berlin? I’m asking this because it seems to have a movement of distilleries coming back into the cities, like in Brooklyn, London, Paris cities that are over populated whereas Berlin still have a lot of room and vacant places. So I had the impression that it could become the city where distillation can happen. What do you think about it? Is this a trend? What about Berlin?
This is a good question because for a long time it was only allowed to distill in the cities or aristocrats on their lands. Specially in this region it wasn’t allowed for small farmers to distill. Old German distilleries have actually their backgrounds in smaller cities. And now distilleries are coming back to the cities. For example in the festival there is one in Helsinki, they started the first distillery in Helsinki, the first since 150 years.
Myself I am consulting, I worked as project managers for setting up MAMPE distillery in Berlin whose main products were still produced by external producers but they wanted a more craft approach to some of their products. Till the 70s that was still produced in Berlin but then they sold the brand and it wasn’t produced here in Berlin anymore. And now a couple of years ago, somebody bought the brand and wanted to bring it back in Berlin but still with the actual products produced at external producers. Now they asked me to help them setting up their own distillery here in Berlin and it is now finished already.
But in Germany you have Distillerie and Brennerei. Brennerei is also a distillery were actual alcohol is produced. There is a mash and then the fruits, the distilling process and the alcohol is produced. Whereas a Distillerie is a place where also there is a still but they work with neutral alcohol, which is then turned into something else, like typical gin for example.
In Berlin you have the Preussiche Spirituosen Manufaktur with a long tradition here but but this is a Distillerie not a Brennerei, they don’t produce their own alcohol. They create Liqueurs, Gin, but all start with neutral alcohol which is produced somewhere else.
And there is one guy in Wedding, and he is actually a Brewer and he is actually really distilling, in the way that he has his mash that he is turning into high volume spirits and it is also that now at the end of the year there is a big change in law that will make it easier to set up Distilleries. It will be easier to create a Brennerei. Next year if you can access to a orchard you can apply to a Brennerei status which you couldn’t apply before in the former east German states. When the wall came down no one had those rights in East Germany. And it is also a big difference in financing, the Distilleries (Verschlussbrennerei) are at least 5 or 6 times more expensive to set up. that a Brennerei (Abfindungsbrennerei) (…) so it will give more dynamic to the market, it will be very interesting years to come for Berlin. Speaking of which, you may be interested to know that we will, as the Freimeisterkollektiv soon start a Distiller in Residence program.
Then I guess we will meet soon again to discuss this new endeavour !.
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