By Drinks Digest Whisky Editor David Fuller
Drinks Digest was intrigued to attend the virtual Australian relaunch of the Netherland’s Millstone Whisky this week, via a special online tasting led by Managing Director and Distiller Patrick van Zuidam.
While the Netherlands might not be the first place you think of when it comes to whisky production, the Dutch actually have a long and proud distilling heritage – partly due to the fact that grapes do not grow in Holland, despite it being warmer and dryer than Scotland!
Given their lack of grapes, the Dutch turned to locally grown grain ground by the country’s famous windmills. The nation is famous for its gin and genever, which Patrick’s parents have been producing at their family distillery since 1976. But in recent years, the Zuidam distillery has propelled the country to the ranks of quality whisky-producing nations.
“My brother and I grew up in the distillery,” Patrick (above) tells The Whisky List. “Our parents were poor, they worked seven days a week. So after school we went to help, as well as on weekends. We grew up surrounded by stills, I did my first distillation when I was 12 years old.
In 1996, Patrick realised his dream to make whisky when he produced his first experimental barrels. Decades later he’s still passionate about his craft and was a very entertaining, laconic host.
Zuidam Distillers uses grain grown locally around their hometown of Baarle-Nassau on Netherlands-Belgium and milled by the famous Dutch windmills. For their malt whisky they do things slightly differently and circulate the worts over the mash to provide a clear fluid for the fermentation using Belgian brewer’s yeast – using temperature controlled fermentation tanks for a lower temperature and longer fermentation.
We sampled six different whiskies: Millstone Single Malt 10yo American Oak (43%), the very smooth Millstone Single Malt 10yo French Oak (40%), the delicious Millstone Single Malt Special 16 Double Sherry Cask 2010 (46%), Millstone Single Malt Special 17 Double Cask 2010 (46%), the luscious Millstone Single Malt 12yo Oloroso Cask (46%) and the Millstone 100 Rye 8yo (50%)
Our pick is also the favourite of Patrick’s brother, the Single Malt 10yo French Oak, which is first matured in American oak and spends its last year in French oak. The two barrels give the whisky a delicate complexity and fruitiness with hints of vanilla. It’s also easy on the palate with its 40% ABV.
You’ll find the Millstone range online at The Whisky List.