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Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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A Vintage Czech Whisky with a Great Backstory

Published on November 06th, 2016 in Shopping

  • Hammer Head commemorative 25 year bottle

  • Labelling at the Hammer Head distillery

  • In Pradlo, at the Hammer Head distillery near Pilsen

  • Bottling at the Hammer Head distillery

The Czech Republic has never been known for quality spirits, though fans of Becherovka and slivovice will surely disagree. But the country actually produces an award-winning whisky which, when it debuted a number of years ago, was a pleasant surprise to many.


It's one of the more feel-good stories to come out of the communist era: An old distillery in Pradlo, on the outskirts of Plzen, had been producing high quality pot-still spirits for many years when the Party elite decided that they should produce a single malt whisky.



Hammer Head Czech Vintage Single Malt Whisky; Distillery, Pradlo (Photo: WIki Commons)

 


With no way to visit Scottish whisky distilleries to hone their craft, the team worked entirely from books, trial and error, and their experience distilling other spirits.

 

In 1984, Pradlo began to mass-produce its whisky. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, however, paved the way for Scottish and Irish whisky and Pradlo's last batch was forgotten, left to age in Czech oak casks.


The distillery was purchased in the early aughts by London-based Stock Spirits who only later discovered the whisky barrels and realized that the contents therein, made of Czech barley and Bohemian waters, were incredibly good.

 


Vaclav Steiner, chief distiller at Hammer Head (Photo: Fox news)

 

This vintage 1989 single-malt Czechoslovak whisky was subsequently named Hammer Head after the noisy hammer mill installed at the distillery in 1928. 

 

It has won several awards including three gold stars at both the 2014 and 2013 International Taste & Quality Institute (iTQi) awards and in 2011, Hammer Head won the Masters award at The Whiskeys of the World Masters event.

 

I am not a whisky drinker myself, but you can read a review of the whisky as well as tips for where to try a dram in Prague from the WhiskyLady blog and at Expats.cz. And though a limited volume of the whisky exists, you can also buy it at the Prague Airport duty-free shops and online at Amazon UK.

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