- Lifestyle & Sports
- 08 May 15
... but Irish-Americana supremos RACKHOUSE PILFER definitely liked being in Germany for an Access All Areas backstage pass to the Jägermeister Factory, a killer Deutsch debüt and a high-speed car chase (sort of) across Berlin. Hot Press went along for the ride.
In late 2011, McGarrigle’s bar in Sligo was the scene of a much-storied instalment of the Jägermeister Freezer Sessions, headlined by Le Galaxie. Just a few months later, an impromptu fireside session in the same bar led to the formation of a band that would become the 100th act to play the celebrated showcase series. They’ve only recently finished their long-running and fabled Monday night residency at McGarrigle’s, which has evidently played a huge role in honing their live chops – learning the intricacies of each other's playing, fitting together as a well-oiled unit and developing a vocal togetherness that perhaps only comes from sitting fireside week after week. They’ve lived it together, they’ve grown together. This is Rackhouse Pilfer – and their time is now...
FROM SLIGO TO WOLFENBÜTTEL
It’s March 2015, and Rackhouse Pilfer – they describe themselves as a folk band trapped in a rock band’s body – are on their way to the home of Jägermeister in Germany. As we near our destination, the excitement builds. Perhaps this is how Charlie Bucket felt as he waited outside the gates of the Chocolate Factory. As we approach, the Rackhousers fire questions at Jägermeister’s man on the ground about the secret recipe – I’m hoping for a scoop but, despite the band’s best interrogation techniques, he isn’t for turning and we’re unable learn the names or locations of any of the five people in the world who know the secret ingredients. And in case you’re wondering, we’re assured that deer's blood is not one of them!
We arrive at Jäger HQ in the provincial German town of Wolfenbüttel, population 55,000. The scene is set, the cast present and accounted for (minus the Oompa Loompas), and we set out on our private tour of the factory. Jägermeister offers this same guided tour to the public for free, although they’ve reached maximum capacity in recent years, so you may have to go on a waiting list. Uniquely, what you see hasn’t been created as a ‘tourist attraction’. You visit the real maceration rooms, filtration rooms and store rooms (frosted glass covers a particular section of the store room, where some of the secret ingredients are housed). Jäger staff even pass you in the corridor, as they go about their roles in creating 87 million bottles of Jaäermeister each year.
First we visit the maceration room, where ingredients arrive from all corners of the world. The natural processes that Jägermeister goes through are quickly evident, and are perhaps what sets it apart from the copy-cat products produced in micro-laboratories, high in added sugar, low in alcohol and without natural ingredients. In contrast, Jägermeister’s 56 natural ingredients are aged in 445 oak barrels, crafted from the wood of the local Pfälzerwald. We’re shown a selection of the ingredients, which will ultimately be brought to life by two master distillers. However, because it’s the most expensive spice on earth – almost as costly as gold – the saffron sample on display isn’t real! Given that it is aged for one year in the 100 year-old barrels, it seems almost cruel that our ice- cold shots are downed in two seconds flat.
As we go from room to room, a new aroma hits us each time – at one point vanilla comes to the fore and we’re told that a very limited edition once-off shipment of ‘Jägermeister Spice’ will land on Irish shores just before Christmas. It’s a remix of the classic; made from the same hand-selected herbs, blossoms, roots and fruits, but newly arranged into a cinnamon and vanilla blend. Watch this space...
Next we’re told of the famous bottle... When Curt Mast came up with the original recipe in 1934 – his family still live in the neighbourhood – he chose a special bottle to protect the taste. He tested many different forms by dropping them from high onto an oak floor. The only one that remained intact was the rectangular box-shaped bottle, now seen in more than 108 countries worldwide (an exception was made for the Netherlands, where bar fridges only accept a uniform bottle shape!)
Tour finished, we meander through a sleepy neighbourhood to the Jägermeister Hotel. Not open to the general public, Rackhouse Pilfer
are tonight’s sole occupants. Each room comes with specially commissioned Jägermeister artwork, Jäger chocolates on the bed (even Willy Wonka didn’t think of mixing chocolate with Jägermeister) and yes, there’s a mini-bar complete with the world’s favourite herbal liqueur...
LIVE IN BRAUNSCHWEIG...
There’s a quick change at the hotel and then it’s time for sound check and gig. Despite it being only their first German appearance, news of the gig has spread and hardcore fans – German and Irish – have travelled from across Germany to witness an epic two-hour set with favourites from their brilliant Love And Havoc album as well as hugely promising new material. The band’s confidence in the live arena shines through. It’s clear why they were named the Jägermeister Live Band of the Year. A toast to the band – ice-cold shots straight from the freezer – and it’s off into the Braunschweig night to party the German way...
Next stop, Berlin, and what better way to see the city than by Trabant? The band squeeze into three iconic 1950s cars – 6-foot 3-inch banjo player Mark fits sideways across the back seat – for what becomes a comedy caper across the capital. We hang onto our seats for the hair-raising, whistle- stop tour of the city that ensues, taking in all the sights, from the Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery. The gallery is a 1.3 km-long painted stretch of the former Berlin Wall, the largest open-air gallery in the world with over one hundred paintings by international artists in a striking memorial for freedom.
Despite some dubious lane changes and momentarily driving on the wrong side of the road, the Rackhouse Trabi convoy arrives back to base unscathed. Next, it's a dash to catch a flight for a gig in Monaghan later that night... My guess is that their tireless work ethic and appetite to play great live shows will ensure Rackhouse Pilfer stay in the right lane... and go places fast. Watch this space...
SHIRTY PRETTY THINGS
In 1973, Bundesliga team Eintracht Braunschweig became the first football club in the world to have a jersey sponsor, when Günter Mast, the nephew of Jägermeister creator Curt Mast, came up with the idea of putting the Jägermeister logo on the front of its shirts. Later that year, the Bundesliga officially sanctioned jersey sponsorship. Within three years, the English league had followed suit.