Whisky and Mostello at Distillerie Farthofer: The Emerging Epicentre of Austrian Whisky

Published on 14 June 2024 at 17:55

Little did I know the day I was about to have, rocking up to the little station of Mauer-Ohling in Austria. I walked up the hill to see Distillerie Farthofer , a distillery I first heard of over a year ago. Making whiskey from barley, oats, emmer, aged in casks used for mostello, a pear-based drink they invented themselves?! I had to see this!

What I saw was the result of a 2007-10 renovation of what used to be a keller for the farm across the road. The interior design came from South Tyrolean architects. Tours start here with a 20 minute film.

Farthofer makes a very wide range of spirits besides whisky, such as award-winning vodkas and the full Germanic gamut of liqueurs/schnapps. Mostello barrels are stacked up around the tour area: this is the Mostellaria

However, I only found out now, after arriving, that this space is no longer the home of the Farthofer distilling operation. They have built a whole new distillery 12km away , which will now become the largest center for whiskey production in Austria!

Out the back stands an old cider press, of the type used here for centuries. Another stands in a public square nearby. Josef shows me their two hybrid Holstein stills , previously used for whisky: one is damaged and undergoing repair during my visit. 450L and 250L capacity respectively, these were used for double distillation (including 2 column plates).

Like the new distillery (below), the Mostellaria is powered by a biomass heater , fed with local wood chip and elephant grass. Excess heat energy is sold to the neighboring fire station and school. Farthofer are now producing specialty malts at this older facility, such as an old rye variety being malted for a Vienna bakery . By comparison, the new facility produces malt for themselves and for other distillers specifically.


Mostello is all organic and unfiltered, only becoming clear with age as the yeast sinks. The oldest vintage comes from 2005. Tasting a 9 year aged example, I find it has a musty aroma like a tawny port. Absolutely mouth-watering - sweet and rich . The pear aromas are there, of course, but they're not honestly that strong like a fresh pear or juice; more on the edge. In fact, the nose has every kind of fruit bouncing around in it. There's no American oak vanilla in there - Josef confirms that Mostello only ages in Austrian and French oak casks.

Unaged Mostello 'new make' smells like grain, and tastes like a light, sour cider . Returning to the 9 year old vintage after trying this, the nose smells like cherry cola bottles. Don't assume you need to like pears to enjoy this - it's like a fruit soup ! While the unaged stuff is interesting, I think the aged kind is definitely superior. 

(L to R): the older, sweeter variety and the 'new make'


There's a slight difference in ABV between the two kinds: unaged mostello is 18.2% while the 9 year old has 21%. 


Speaking of which, that oldest batch of Josef and Doris' is even more refined and elegant than the 9 year old. Next, I get to try the dry variety - and it's dry already! The oak here really adds a whiskey-like note, and the overall taste is a little sour. It reminds me of Scheibel Mühle whiskey a little. 

Josef tells me it's more for mixing and serving cold, presenting me with a spritz recipe. We end on a mostello vermouth - a little bitter for my taste , but I must confess, I don't have much experience with vermouth. After all that, I still can't get over that first one, the 9 year old!


Now that we're all mostello experts, what about the Farthofer whiskies? Farthofer won Best Craft Distillers at the 2021 Craft Spirits Awards in Berlin. Each one is based on a different grain, with some different aging but a clear focus on the use of Farthofer's distinctive mostello casks. First, we have Emmer Mostellofass , distilled in 2015 and bottled at 41.4% ABV.

This has a reasonably dark color, and a smell almost like perfume or sassafras/root beer . Does the fragrance stray a little into being soap-like? I had to come back later to work out the aroma: lavender. It has quite a long finish, with a slightly bitter edge comparable to the vermouth mostello. Overall, the closest whiskey to this comes from Lambertus, but it's still very unique! The mostello notes from the cask come through right at the end, and are quite different to the floral first impression.

Next, we have the Bio Schlägler Roggen mostellofass , bottled at a cask strength of 55%. This organic whiskey uses a local variety of rye over 120 years old; the name comes from a local monastery. Farthofer cultivates this grain themselves. The mashbill is interesting: 100% rye, but only a little is actually malted. While 55% is pretty low for a cask strength expression, you really feel the punch on the palate with this dram.

Warm, spicy, all those rye notes you're looking for - but then some of that same floral character comes through as the finish approaches. It's amazing. You start with the rich rye grain, and then the whiskey slowly blends into a very distinct finish. Farthofer has also distilled some chocolate rye malt, Josef reveals, but it's still aging at the moment…

As great as the rye is, next we have a grain I'm very excited about as you rarely see it in whiskey nowadays: oats! The Bio Nackthafer mostellofass (46%) is made from 'naked oats' (hence the name) and has a smell I just love. It's somehow… fuzzy? A fuzzy grain and bourbon note on the nose, then some creamy apricot and yogurt notes come through.

Josef explains that the extra fat content of oats are responsible for these qualities adding distinct esters to this whiskey. As he talks, I take a sip. On the palate, there's something akin to Fanta? It all fades into mature oak on the finish. Absolutely a whiskey I want to come back to. 

Continuing with more single-grain whiskies*, we have a corn whisky: Bio Mais 2016 , bottled at a 'cask strength' of 49.5% and aged in starkbierfass . These casks come from New Age Brewing and were used twice before this, hence the very light color . While I've seen some new corn whiskeys in Europe (eg P & M, Moon Harbour), including malted maize ones, most still stick with American oak to add that classic vanilla to the corn's sweetness.

*Which are also 'single grain', if whiskey terminology wasn't already confusing enough…


Doing something different here at Farthofer, the result is a 100% corn whiskey (including a little malted corn) with an earthy, savory depth on the nose . It does remind me a little of the Baie d'Arcachon, but with a spicy sweetness creeping across the palate. Caramel hits the back of the mouth, with the beer cask possibly adding a little maltiness . Exhaling after a sip, there's more sweet aromas; almost a little corn chowder. It's sweeter than the Moon Harbor overall, earthy rather than maritime iodine. 

Finally, we have what many of you were probably waiting for: a single malt, the Bio Gerst 2018 . Aged on re-charred red wine casks with a mostello finish, it has a dram mustiness I'm unfamiliar with. It's pretty young, and there's some taste of that - but also a contradicting woodiness? It reminds me of a well-aged single grain Scotch whiskey more than anything else. 

The tannins from the red wine are mild, only appearing alongside more floral notes and a savory doughiness. This is Farthofer's only single malt . While it might actually be my least favorite of the line-up, it still has a delicacy and sweetness that stands out from many other German and Austrian whiskeys I've tried so far. I think the rye and oat whiskeys are real standouts here. The corn is especially thought-provoking, however you find it personally.

One final note - look at the bottles ! Only 500ml, these are elegant and use glass stoppers. I really like the distinctive edge they add to the range. The wax stamp and paper seal add an appealing old-fashioned touch, and you can also see coordinates there for the field where this grain grew!

The New Distillery

Lucky me, Josef drove me up to the new distillery to meet the whole AWA and see the facility! This new facility cost 11 million Euros , and ended up larger than originally planned. Local fields had to be rearranged, working with farmers to exchange parcels of land. 

The Austrian Whiskey Association - there were 12 people present, with 2 distillers absent. 5 women were present, Doris and Jasmin included. Not quite parity, but closer than a lot of places for sure. After the tour, they all had an annual meeting - and we all got a mint julep made with Farthofer oat whiskey . While they talked business, I got to spend time with the distillery cat, Kushlo.

Among the grain fields, Farthofer also grows elephant grass which provides 30% of the total fuel requirement, and sources some of their wood chips from an adjoining forest. It all powers a brand new 600KwH heating unit, used for all malting, brewing, distilling - and Josef's mother's house. The resulting wood ash is used as a fertilizer on local fields. 

A quick word on elephant grass, in case you (like me) haven't heard of it before. Cenchrus purpureus (also known as Napier or Uganda grass) can grow with little water and poor soils. Like oilseed rape, it's one of those plants that improves the quality of soil as it grows, even before you re-fertilize the land with its ashes.  

The woodchip barn has a lovely cut-wood fragrance, and is made from timber itself. I can see dried sap on some of the beams, that's how new the building is! 

The malting drums are just enormous . Especially after my last distillery trip to the craft producer Naguelann, this is just jaw-dropping in scale. Josef explains that they had actually planned for just one malting drum, but one of their clients was so hungry for malt that they went with this larger facility. 


Their products include chocolate rye malt , which Haider has used at her own distillery since the 1990s. I got to taste a few grains - in this state, you do taste some chocolate, but the grains themselves are also quite sour . Using the whole grain in a mash, Jasmin explains, lends an intense toasty flavour to whiskey. 


When I visit, we can see emmer malt swishing around inside one of the drums, rotating slowly but relentlessly. Alongside rye, some spelt (dinkel) malt is made here, but 70% of what Farthofer produces is barley malt . This spends three to four days sprouting in the drums before being dried and roasted. Every step is controlled automatically, and every grain Farthofer uses comes from the surrounding area in Lower Austria. 


  • 3 malting drums (capacity of 10 tonnes each)
  • Local peat used for dark rye malt!
  • 100% rye malt, light and dark versions
  • Short 72 hour fermentation
  • Two 500L stills
  • New make stored in big tanks outside
  • Austrian oak, 3 to 18 years of ageing


The tall copper column you can see here is for stripping methanol out of other spirit washes where the levels are much higher than whisky. At the end of distillation, Austrian excise still dictates using an old form of spirit safe from 1948 . It works mechanically, rather than electronically, preventing any kind of digital interference. Honestly, this is how it should work - you shouldn't be able to hack into something like this!

The day was a great chance to talk to other distillers from around Austria, including Benjamin Kuenz , whose distillery is experimenting with apple-, pear-, and beech-smoked malts. I was incredibly lucky to see and meet all the AWA, which led to me receiving Haider whiskey samples which you can read about here . Farthofer went from a small but interesting distillery (as I imagined it) to an incredible, enormous distillery that every whiskey fan needs to know!

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