Whiskey is usually synonymous with oak barrels and dark pubs, but two Swiss distillers have discovered a new way to create whiskey: At high altitude. Started by Pascal Mittner and Rinaldo Willy, Orma sits nearly 11,000 feet above sea level on St. Moritz’s Corvatsch Peak in Switzerland’s Engadin region, making it the highest distillery in the world.
Corvatsch, known for its ski hills and hiking trails, is the tallest mountain in the Bernina Range of the Alps. The summit offers spectacular views, but it isn’t exactly a traditional spot for a distillery.
A few years back, on a warm day in August, Mittner and Willy scaled Corvatsch as a way to celebrate Willy’s recovery from cancer, the founders told Travel+Leisure. After completing the hike, they decided to make it an annual tradition. A few consecutive years of summiting the mountain gave them the idea for Orma.
Mittner and Willy chose the location because of its high-altitude. “At this altitude, the distillation process occurs at a temperature around 10 degrees lower than at sea level,” Willy says on the company’s website. “That means: More aromas and a higher complexity is preserved.”
The lower distillation (or boiling) point also means that less heat and energy are required to create the whiskey, making for a more eco-friendly process.
The distillery focuses on single malt, small-batch whiskey, using spring water from the mountain and Alpine herbs as ingredients. Once distilled, the batches are brought down from the summit and aged in local cellars and monasteries; except for the Corvatsch batch, which is aged in the distillery’s basement on the summit.
Orma distills 12 different whiskey offerings that can only be sampled at the distillery itself. So, if you’re looking for a taste, you’ll have to travel to the Corvatsch summit.