A RARE PRODUCT: GENTIAN SCHNAPPS

Real gentian schnappsEnzner – can only be found in Galtür. Why that’s so, how it came to be, and most importantly, why there’s so little schnapps around even though it’s so good – that’s one of those fascinating stories which only Paznaun can tell. And us.

The gentian is a very special flower. It’s beautiful, wild and secretive, which is why for hundreds of years people have believed it has very special healing powers. It is supposed to be good against flu, rheumatism and stomach cramps, and when it, or rather its roots, are distilled as schnapps, it also tastes fantastic. The problem, though, is that gentians are very rare. They are protected by law and cannot be harvested any more, picked or dug up.

The only exception is in Galtür, where the roots of the spotted gentian have been distilled into schnapps for hundreds of years. When it was protected by conservation laws in the 1980s, the people of Galtür fought for their high-proof healer – and won. After a legal process that went to the highest courts, the people of Galtür were awarded a special exemption. Which is why the real, true gentian schnapps (not a schnapps which only tastes of gentian because of added artificial flavourings, as you find elsewhere) can still be found in Galtür – and only in Galtür.
Dried gentian roots
But there isn’t very much of it, because of the strict regulations covering the production of what’s known in Galtür as “Enzner”. Each year, a maximum of 1 300 kilos of gentian root may be dug up and processed into schnapps. And who can dig up those roots is also strictly regulated. Of the 250 families in Galtür, 90 apply each year for the right to harvest gentian. A total of 13 families are actually allowed to do so – selected by drawing lots at the Galtür fair on 8 September each year. Every winner can dig up 100 – 120 kilos of gentian roots, which is enough for a little more than 7 litres of schnapps.   Something as delicious and rare as this is obviously not drunk regularly. Gentian schnapps is only brought out in Galtür on special occasions and with special people. But perhaps that should always be the case with schnapps.