Berliner Luft: the mint liqueur that rescued the Schilkin distillery

In 2014, the Berlin distillery Schilkin was shutting down due to lower sales and higher gas and grain prices. But today, luck is on its side and it is posting record profits for the first quarter of 2018: 7.7 million euros have been achieved. This success is partly due to Erlfried Baatz, former head of the beer section of the giant “Oetker”, who took over the reins of this family business and reintroduced Berliner Luft peppermint liqueur.

He completely cleaned up the Berliner Luft brand by taking inspiration from the offbeat packaging of the American beer “Pabst Blue Ribbon”, which is all the rage in the United States. And the result is clear: the distillery sold 430,000 bottles in just four months, more than all the brand’s sales in 2013.

The ascent of the distillery and its saving drink was launched! This evolution is also due to the current conjecture: peppermint snaps have become fashionable again, and much appreciated by young people.

The famous sports brand Puma reuses Berliner Luft’s green to create the basketball “Pfeffiboys”, in tribute to the name given to the brands specialising in the production of mentholated liqueur (“the Pfeffi”). Then, the distillery decided to partner with engravers to create an “underground” edition of the successful liqueur. Then, it was around an Italian spray painting company to imagine a new color to dress the Berliner Luft.

At the moment, the craze for the drink is such that the brand has diversified. It is now available in other flavours: orange and chocolate flavours, pineapple-coconut, and other extra-strong versions. Brandenburg’s door-shaped bottles, or Berlin’s television tower, are particularly popular with tourists.

Today, Berliner Luft accounts for about two thirds of the production of the Schilkin distillery, which also produces gin and vodka. Peppermint liqueur sales increased 138% year-on-year to 2.3 million units sold in 2017.

To better understand the challenges of this renaissance, we must go back a few years.

In 1921, Natalie and Apollo Schilkin fled the Russian revolution for Berlin. Vodka manufacturers founded their own distillery in the Kaulsdorf district: it was destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt in 1945.

In 1971, the East German government took control of the company but gave Sergei Schilkin (grandson of Apollo) the opportunity to run the distillery until 1981, when he retired.

In 1992, after German reunification, the Schilkin distillery was privatised and the management returned to the family: first Schilkin’s son-in-law, Peter Mier, and then the grandson, Patrick Mier. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to save the establishment, the owners sold the business to Mr. Baatz.


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