In Europe, village distilleries are commonplace. Every family in one Swiss mountain region had fruit trees and made their own mash. A couple in Missouri is following the tradition of making vinars, a traditional Swiss spirit.

Making fruit brandy is a family affair for Martin Weber and Lynn DeLean-Weber, the husband-and-wife team behind Edelbrand Pure Distilling. The couple draws on Martin’s Swiss heritage to produce vinars, a traditional Swiss spirit, on their farm in Marthasville.

In Europe, village distilleries are relatively commonplace. In the small mountain region of Graubünden, Switzerland, where Martin grew up, every family had fruit trees and made their own mash.

“It is pride and culture that is very ingrained in the old days. My grandfather made fruit mash,” Martin says. “When you visit someone, you immediately talk about the year’s fruit season, and they are quick to offer you a taste of their latest vinars.”

Martin met Lynn after moving to St. Louis to work at a Swiss machining company more than thirty years ago. The pair, who have been married more than twenty years, decided to start tinkering with distilling in 2012 when one of Martin’s colleagues gave him a small, seven-gallon copper pot still.

Those experiments turned into a full-fledged business in 2014, when Edelbrand Pure Distilling received its state and federal liquor licenses. Lynn’s daughter Tess, who now lives in San Francisco and is a part-owner of the brand, and Martin’s oldest son Claudio, who lives in Switzerland, have come during the fall to help make fruit mash, along with the helping hands of countless friends.

The distilling process takes ten hours. Martin starts by crushing fruit, then adds water and yeast to kick-start fermentation. The mash sits in fourteen-gallon tanks for one to ten months, depending on the fruit, to pull out as much of the flavor and aroma as possible. Edelbrand has six varieties of vinars: apple infused with plum, pear, grape infused with dill, cherry, apricot, and plum. The couple found a market at restaurants, bars, and specialty shops in St. Louis and Kansas City.

“When we started out, we thought we were going to be selling primarily to the public and secondarily to restaurants or bars,” Lynn says. “But chefs and bartenders can show customers what’s possible with these spirits. It gets them excited and going into package stores to find Edelbrand.”

The Webers’ hard work seems to be paying off. Edelbrand vinars recently garnered international attention when its grape brandy became a finalist in the Ultimate Spirits Competition in 2019, and its pear brandy won a double gold award at the ADI (American Distilling Institute) Spirits Competition in 2020.

Even though Edelbrand is gaining international recognition, the Webers remain true to their Missouri roots. The state’s thriving agriculture scene has benefited the vinars, they say. The pair sources some of the fruit from local farmers, including Lost Creek Vineyards in Marthasville and nearby Alpenhorn Gasthaus B&B in Hermann, along with a nearby private estate in Marthasville. They enjoy meeting farmers and growers who produce fruit for their vinars.

“People are deeply connected and passionate about what they do,” Lynn says. “We’re in awe of people who do something with what we love, whether it’s a grower or a chef who says they’re thinking about making a sorbet with our pear vinars. We are surrounded by people who recognize the quality found in handcrafted spirits. It’s exciting to be a part of this community.


Photos // Sean Locke Photography

Tips for enjoying different kinds of vinars

The Webers share these unique ways different vinars are enjoyed in Switzerland:

Vinars da meila, apple brandy infused with plum—serve with medium-bodied cheeses, nuts, and dried fruit.
Vinars da péra, Williams pear brandy—if you haven’t tried poached pears soaked in Edelbrand vinars da péra, you need to stop what you’re doing and try this right now.
Vinars da vin, grape brandy infused with dill—holds its own next to espresso and if you’re in an Italian state of mind, add a twist of lemon peel to that cup.
Vinars da plogas, plum brandy—pair with a plum and hazelnut fruit tart.
Vinars d’apricosas, apricot brandy—a few tablespoons gently mixed in with fresh fruit will create a distinctive dessert.
Vinars tschereschas, cherry brandy—when it gets cold and thoughts turn to cheese fondue, make sure this spirit is nearby. Add a little to the cheese after it has begun to melt and also serve in a small open glass to dip bread into.

Read all about some of the distilleries in Missouri here.

Article originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Missouri Life.