Many of you have probably noticed that I am quite fond of Tasmanian Whisky. The island does not only have magical and genuine people, but a conducive climate for making incredible whisky. This island and it's capabilities are still truly unbeknownst to the rest of the world at the moment. Like myself, there are a handful of other "Tas Whisky Enthusiasts" that I have befriended due to our shared interest in the islands future. One of those is Matthias Esters from Germany. Matthias and I have very similar expectations in how this style of whisky will soon take over the world. Here is my interview with Matthias discussing his newest venture and import company: Barley Known Malts.
Matthias Esters and Barley Known Malts Interview
In one or two sentences what does you company do?
Barley Known Malts imports whisky from Tasmania to support the local distilleries and to arouse attention for the future whisky island.
What made you want to start Barley Known Malts and when did you start it?
Frustration about my former job as a shipping agent and the feeling I want to start something of my own. Barley Known Malts was founded in November 2016.
Where did the name “Barley Known Malts” come from?
It was a spelling mistake. I wanted to write “Barely Known Malts”, but after I Googled the name a few times, I thought I might give it a try. After my first visit, I realized that this name was quite usable. What do you think about this name? --- "I LOVE it!" - Holly
What is your relationship with Tasmania and whisky?
My aunt and other family friends live there. The first time I visited Tasmania was at the age of 4 and I immediately fell in love with this country. When I was about 14 years old, I lived half a year at my aunt’s place and went to school in Tasmania.
Outside of spirits and whisky, what is your favorite thing to do in Tasmania?
Driving around and enjoying the landscape. Visiting empty beaches. Enjoying local food and spending evenings with family and friends. Bushwalks, I love bushwalks and simply just enjoying the nature of Tassie.
What is your favorite Tasmanian Whisky? (favorite right now)
My current favorite Tasmanian Whisky is the Mackey Single Malt from Shene Estate Distillery. It is triple distilled and has a very clean and smooth taste (dried fruits and spices).
What is Barley Known Malts currently selling/importing in Germany?
BKM is and always will be about Tasmanian Spirits! Currently we have rye whisky, different types of gin and new malt in stock. The next order will follow soon. This first order of spirits was received in July 2017 and it included spirits from Nonesuch, Shene Estate, Redlands, McHenry and Belgrove.
Can you explain for us Americans that are used to the 3-tier distribution and supplier system, how importing and selling alcohol works in Germany/Europe?
In Germany, we never experienced anything like Prohibition so alcohol restrictions are less complicated. If you want to start a business (no matter what you want to sell) you need a simple business license, which costs about $25. After that you will receive a business ID for taxation and must apply for an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number. Each business which deals with export or import needs this EORI number for customs. For selling alcohol you don’t need a specific license in Germany, you’re simply not allowed to sell alcohol to people under the age of 18. You also need to pay a very small alcohol tax, which is now around 1,500 Euros for every 600 bottles. When you sell goods you also need to pay 19% “Mehrwertsteuer”, which is comparable to the GST in Australia-- aka sales tax.
What if any are German consumers opinion of Tasmanian spirits?
Until now there is no opinion on Tasmanian Spirits, but people are getting used to the established countries and producers and are looking for new brands.
- With so many European distilleries starting, why would your consumer be interested in Tas spirits?
In Tasmania it is all about the ingredients and the people who are making these spirits. Tasmania has the purest and cleanest air and water in the world, which definitely effects the taste of these spirits. I’m not only selling a product, I am selling the story behind Tasmania.
- Are any American Whiskeys very popular in Germany?
Well, a few Bourbons such as Elijah Craig and Blanton’s are very popular in Germany, but until now the variety isn’t that big.
What do you think your most difficult challenge will be with this business and who are your competitors?
Marketing will be the tough part, as it is always difficult to introduce new products to the German market. La Masion du Whisky imported whisky from Lark, Sullivan's Cove and Hellyers years ago, but didn’t do the marketing quite right in my opinion. If you don’t know the name of the whisky, it is really hard to find it on their page. I hope I will do it better!
Where do you see the Barley Known Malts in 1 year, 3 years and 10 years?
Year 1 : Tasmanian Spirits will be introduced and accepted to the German market.
Year 3: Opening a store for only Tasmanian Spirits and expanding as distilleries in Tasmania continue to grow.
Year 10: Acting as an ambassador for Tasmanian Distilleries throughout Europe and proving to Scotch lovers that this is another single malt they want to drink.
How can people can follow you… i.e. Website, Facebook, Instagram etc.
What is your most memorable whisky experience?
It was probably my first visit to McHenry Distillery. After travelling 32 hours from Germany to Tasmania I arrived at 10am in Hobart and immediately drove from the airport to McHenry Distillery (2hr drive). I was heading to my highly anticipated meeting with William McHenry, founder of McHenry Distillery. He took me on a short sightseeing tour around Port Arthur and after that I had a taste of different gins and his Three Capes Whisky. So far this was my most memorable whisky experience.
Thanks for your time Matthias and best of luck in the new venture! I have a feeling the Germans, along with most of Europe, are going to be quite pleased to have this kind of access to Tas Whisky once they start tasting.