Distilling the Dolomites: Savor the Soul of Alpe di Siusi with Wild Craft Gin

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Kate + Vin

WILD CRAFT Gin bottle on display on Alpe di Siusi in the Dolomites
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In a land where the vineyards roll like waves and the wine flows like water, you’d think there’s no room for anything else. But you’d be wrong. High above the vine-drenched valleys of South Tyrol, against the wild-hearted backdrop of the Dolomites, a different kind of magic can be found.

Most stories that begin on the mountain-cradled meadowland of Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) involve a roving adventure from one rustic hut to the next, each step a discovery of breathtaking vistas and the warmth of South Tyrolean hospitality. But as we learned during our recent stay at Hotel Ritsch, there’s much more to Europe’s largest Alpine plateau than just a trekker’s paradise.

In this picturesque setting, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, an innovative spirit has taken root, one that distills the essence of the Dolomites into a bottle: WILD CRAFT Gin. Crafted with botanicals foraged from the very meadows and forests that surround the distillery, this gin possesses a pine-forward flavor profile with floral hints as sweet and soft as an alpenhorn melody.

gathering gin botanicals alpe di siusi
Foraging on Alpe di Siusi.

Intrigued by the origins of WILD CRAFT Gin, we sat down with one of its founders, Michael Malfertheiner, for an in-depth interview. Michael shared the saga of this rare spirit — from the hand-picking of juniper berries to the careful selection of wild herbs and Alpine flowers — each step reflecting a deep love for Alpe di Siusi.

As you’ll discover, it’s not just the art of distillation that sets WILD CRAFT Gin apart; it’s the passion and philosophy of its creators, who aim to capture the pristine beauty of Alpe di Siusi in every sip.

Can you share with us the story behind the inception of WILD CRAFT Gin?

We are a group of five friends who appreciate very much living in the area of Alpe di Siusi and the Dolomites. We thought it would be nice to create the first gin that contains herbs and botanicals sourced from the plateau. Luckily, we also have an expert distiller in our group, Florian Rabanser, who created several gins in his family-owned distillery, Zu Plun.

How does the unique environment of Alpe di Siusi influence your gin?

larch shoot foraging alpe di sisui

Two years ago we started to collect various herbs on Alpe di Siusi for our initial experiment. Florian knew which plants would enhance the flavor of our gin. Our vision for WILD CRAFT Gin was to embody the classic gin essence, characterized by juniper with an intense woody aroma. To achieve this, we carefully selected handpicked ingredients from the plateau, including very young larch sprouts, yarrow flowers, and moss, each contributing to the unique and evocative taste of our gin.

Can you elaborate on the role of indigenous botanicals in your gin and their contributions to its taste?

Certainly, yarrow and larch stand out. The yarrow plant grows wild on the Seiser Alm, particularly along road edges and dry meadows. Its German name, “Schafgarbe”, is derived from the fact that sheep consume this plant when they are sick. The presence of bitter substances, tannins, and essential oils makes it an important medicinal herb.

The larch, an iconic tree gracing the landscape of Alpe di Siusi, distinguishes itself with a
vibrant display of warm yellow-orange hues in autumn, gradually shedding its needles. For
our gin, we carefully select the tender, young shoots of the larch, imparting an incomparable
forest and alpine pasture note to our product. The larch’s unique contribution reflects the
essence of our local surroundings and adds a distinctive touch to the overall character of
WILD CRAFT Gin.

Beyond Botanicals, How is the Spirit of Alpe di Siusi woven into Wild Craft Gin?

michael malfertheiner wild craft gin founder
WILD CRAFT Gin founder, Michael Malfertheiner, taking inventory of freshly picked Alpine flowers and larch shoots destined for the next batch of their signature gin.

Our gin embodies the rich culture and time-honored traditions of the Alpe di Siusi region, and our recommended serving method pays homage to a historical practice rooted in the resilience of local farmers.

In days of yore, before the advent of large machines for mowing the expansive alpine pastures of Alpe di Siusi, the demanding task of manual labor fell on the shoulders of hardworking farmers. Faced with this challenging work, they turned to the pure mountain streams for hydration. To ensure the cleanliness of the water, a shot of schnapps was added, resulting in water that was not only sanitized but also possessed a distinct taste.

Our serving recommendation, encouraging the enjoyment of our gin either neat or with soda water, seeks to honor this traditional ritual. By embracing this historical practice, we aim to connect our gin to the enduring spirit and cultural heritage of the Alpe di Siusi region, offering a taste that echoes the resilience and resourcefulness of its people.

What is the story behind the WILD CRAFT name?

wild craft gin alpe di sisui winter

The name WILD CRAFT encapsulates the deeply rooted narrative of our founding members. Florian, the distiller, and Jan, responsible for product design and marketing, contribute their unique skills to our team. Myself, Michael, along with Markus and Patrick, comprise the trio of passionate hunters within the group.

We have a genuine affinity for the great outdoors, especially during the early morning hours when solitude reigns. As busy entrepreneurs, immersing ourselves in nature alone, observing, and occasionally hunting deer or roebuck, represents pure freedom and the perfect counterbalance to everyday life.

Our connection to nature is not merely a personal passion but also a practical aspect of our business. A significant portion of our botanicals is sourced directly from the wild. Therefore, the name WILD CRAFT reflects our love for the natural world, our hunting adventures, and our commitment to incorporating wild plants into our products, making our brand a tribute to the wilderness.

What would you like customers to experience or feel when they taste your gin?

When customers taste our gin, we want them to be transported to a specific moment in time, much like I was during my first taste of the final version. It took me back to a cool summer morning on a hunting trip on Alpe di Siusi.

wild craft gin founders seiser alm dolomites

Our aim is for the distinctive flavor of our gin to evoke personal memories of time spent in the Dolomites, whether that be hiking, skiing or simply watching the sunset behind Mt. Schlern. We want each sip to connect people to their own experiences in this beautiful landscape.

Is there a preferred way to enjoy WILD CRAFT gin?

Pure, with soda water or with our WILD CRAFT Tonic Water, which also originates from the Dolomites.

How many bottles do you produce each year?

Our annual production is 2,500 to 3,000 bottles.

How do you see your gin contributing to the local economy and community?

wild craft product portfolio
Each of WILD CRAFT’s products captures the essence of Alpe di Siusi.

After our successful market launch in 2023, we founded the Seiser Alm Wild Craft Ltd. company. Our aim is to bring to market more local products from the farms of Alpe di Siusi under one appealing brand.

In addition to WILD CRAFT Gin, we released our own honey — Markus and I are beekeepers too — three different kinds of syrup: stone pine, spruce, and a Seiser-Alm-blend, as well as our very own Tonic Water. This year we are also launching our first tasty herbal tea.

We have a few other products in mind that would fit well in our portfolio in the future. But right now, we remain focused on our gin, honey, syrups, and our new herbal tea. It is a huge task to organize logistics and marketing.

Where else besides Hotel Ritsch can people enjoy WILD CRAFT gin?

Many hotels and restaurants on Alpe di Siusi are offering WILD CRAFT Gin and it can be
found in many liquor stores throughout Alto Adige. Furthermore, gin enthusiasts can purchase our gin online at: https://www.wild-craft.it/en/


Photos courtesy of Fabian Dalpiaz, an award-winning professional photographer from Castelrotto. See more of his amazing photography @fabian_dalpiaz.

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