Brad and Monika Spalding have melded their Australian and Austrian heritages to produce a stunning schnapps distillery – and two restaurants – in the Snowy Mountains.

Story By Sheridan Rogers

The stark, boulder-strewn country of the Alpine Way in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales is not a place you’d expect to find a little bit of Austria. Yet just 11 kilometres out of Jindabyne, a town well known to skiers en route to the ski fields, former ski-instructor Brad Spalding and his Austrian wife, Monika, have built a stunning schnapps distillery and restaurant surrounded by a sculpture park.
As soon as you drive through the gates onto the property, you become aware of a unique sense of style, which successfully marries Aussie and Austrian influences. Brad’s training in art and design at La Trobe University has clearly been an influence, as has the work of world-famous Austrian sculptor Andreas Buisman who was artist-in-residence on the property for a year. Buisman’s polished granite boulders are a knockout, as are the rusty sculpture balls and many of the other works of art that are cleverly placed in situ around the distillery and homestead. The path leading to the distillery is studded with stylish rusty-looking outdoor lights, and not far from the front door is a magnificent bronze life-size brumby.
The property was originally a riding school and Brad has cleverly converted the former saddlery into a casual eatery with a gleaming large copper still in the middle of the room. It’s here that people gather to taste his schnapps made with fruit sourced from their adjacent organic raspberry farm and from local producers in the Tumut, Batlow and Snowy Mountains region.
While the fruit is all-Australian, the techniques for making Wild Brumby Schnapps are Austrian, passed down by Stephan Hagleitner, Monika’s grandfather, who was distilling schnapps in the farmyards around the Austrian village of Kitzbühel long before Brad and Monika were born. The distilling of schnapps is steeped in centuries of tradition and it was the joining of the two families that was the genesis of Brad’s Australian schnapps production.
“The Europeans hold their cards close to their chest when it comes to the art of distillation,” Brad says. “After years of working as an instructor on the ski fields of the Alps in the Austrian Tirol, I began to refine my taste for the finest schnapps,” he says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: April/May 2011