For Martin Weber and Lynn DeLean-Weber, fruit brandy is a family affair. In 2013, the husband-and-wife team, who own Edelbrand Pure Distilling in Marthasville, Missouri, along with daughter Tess DeLean, decided to experiment with making the vinars, or fruit brandies, that Weber grew up drinking in Switzerland. Their basement moonshine project has since expanded into an award-winning distillery with six different vinars: apple infused with plum, pear, grape infused with dill, cherry, apricot and plum. Most recently, Edelbrand’s apple-plum brandy won gold at the national Washington Cup Spirits Competition in Kansas City.
Tell us about vinars. Vinars is a term in Romansh, a language spoken by 40,000 to 45,000 [people] in a small mountain region in Switzerland; it means dry fruit brandies distilled in single-batch runs. A lot of people in Switzerland with their own fruit trees do it. In my family, my grandpa was making his own mash; my sister’s husband makes his own mash and has it distilled. –Martin Weber
In Switzerland, you’d never end a meal without vinars being served. That’s where people sit and talk, and there’s no rush. –Lynn DeLean-Weber
How do you make your vinars? We use a hand-cranked crusher to create a chunky fruit sauce, or mash. We fill tanks with mash and add water and yeast, and let the mash sit in the tanks for three to four months or longer, which gives the final product more flavor. On a Saturday and Sunday, we set up the copper stills at 5:30am, load the mash in and heat a water bath around the stills, [which] takes about 2½ hours. We put the distillate through two runs over two days. We use our own well water to dilute the spirit from 160 proof to 80 proof, or drinking strength. –M.W.
How do you source your fruit? We get our apples at Rasa Orchards in Lexington, Missouri, and Thierbach Orchards in Marthasville; we get our grapes from Lost Creek Vineyards in Hermann. All the other fruits come from the West Coast, plus Roger Hotop of Hotop Family Stand at the Soulard Farmers’ Market in St. Louis, another family-run business. –L.D.W.
Why did you decide against opening a tasting room? It’s the right decision because our goal is to make the local economy grow. It’s third- and fourth-generation farmers out here [in Marthasville]. By us not having a tasting room, we encourage people to support local retailers that sell our products. –L.D.W.
What does the future of Edelbrand look like? A micro-distiller produces less than 50,000 gallons of product a year; we do 120 gallons a year. We’re focused on the best quality and tinkering with it each year. We’re not waiting for someone with investment. You’re never going to see a large commercial still with “Edelbrand” on it. It would change the whole thing. –L.D.W.
Edelbrand Pure Distilling, edelbrandpuredistilling.com