Dutch Courage Aged Gin 88 (44%, Zuidam, Batch 001, 2013, The Netherlands)

Over here, summer has now seriously started. For the time being anyway, so it would be no use, and somewhat odd to try to review a nice heavy hitting, iodine clad, peated Whisky, now would it. Sure, I could go for a nice Rum, since that is a distillate that loves these kinds of temperatures. However, yesterday, after spending most of the day outside, I suddenly had a craving for a nice Gin & Tonic. Looking back I only reviewed only one Gin on these pages, since I guess, Gin more or less belongs in a good Tonic, and not a lot of people drink Gin neat. By the way, I can’t stress that enough: Tonic must be good if you want a nice experience, without downplaying the role of Gin of course. That would be almost blasphemous now wouldn’t it. The first Gin I reviewed here was the organic Gin of Hven, which is excellent, and worthy of my reviewing method of tasting it neat. If it’s good neat, it must be good with Tonic right? Not the case, but a good start. It all depends how the combination will work. Today we’ll have a look at a Dutch Gin, made by mad professor Patrick van Zuidam. No ordinary Gin, but an aged one. This one has aged in new American oak barrels. Let’s try this one neat as well, so I can familiarize myself with it, and work out which Tonic to pair it up with.

Dutch Courage Aged Gin 88Color: Citrus gold.

Nose: A very appetizing smell. Lot’s of citrus. Sweet orange skins and other citrus fruit skins, with hints of fresh (not sweet) orange juice. Nice soft Juniper comes next. Not overpowering at all, it is used with taste. Spicy, sweet cinnamon and (toasted) oak. It actually smells like spices used for baking cookies. The slightly sweet profile (It’s not an old Tom, mind you), is enhanced by the vanilla-like notes coming from the American oak. Although it is aged, it hasn’t been ageing for a long time I guess, it doesn’t smell like a very old distillate to me. It has kept it youthfulness, but the ageing did give it an extra layer, making it softer and “rounder”.

Taste: Slightly bitter and definitively sweeter than I expected. Still not an Old Tom though. Heaps of nice (sweetish) citrussy notes. Nice Orange notes, but also some more fresher citrus components. As with the nose, the juniper is present, without overpowering, allowing for great balance. Spicy, the cookie spices are here too, but this time with a shift towards licorice. In the background a vanilla pudding note, which adds to the perception of sweetness (or “roundness”). All that is present in the finish which seems to be built around sugared anise seeds. Nice. Again, Gin, for me, is often not meant for sipping, but just like Hven, it is unbelievably drinkable. Maybe it is a sort of hybrid between Gin and Genever (the granddaddy of Gin, which most of the time is consumed neat).

One day I made two G&T’s, for me and my wife to try. I paired up this Dutch Courage 88 with Indi Tonic and for comparison the well-known Hendrick’s with the also well-known Fever Tree. Although the latter makes for a very good G&T, one easy to enjoy, however, the combination of Indi with Dutch Courage was something else. Softer, excellent bitters, with a lot of aroma’s presented in excellent balance. Definitely a must-have Gin. I’ll have a go at this Gin soon, paired up with some more Tonic’s. Recommended!

For the completists, I also did a head to head with Hven Gin. The Zuidam is more accessible, sweeter and benefitted of oak ageing. The Hven is obviously unaged, but also even softer on the nose, more restrained. The taste initially also shows some sweetness, and for a moment nothing happens, but it doesn’t take long for taste-evolution to take place. These two are actually very nice to try one after the other, like they were meant to be together. Both are excellent sippers. Luckily I don’t have to choose between them, because both are worthy in any liquor cabinet. My advise, buy the biggest bottle available, both of them.

Points: 81 (and believe me, that is quite a lot of points for a Gin by itself).

UPDATE (29-6-2016): I did a H2H2H with Hven, Hendrick’s and this Zuidam. First of all the Hendrick’s is the one best behaved. It’s nice and friendly and definitely the subtlest. You can’t go wrong with it and it a worthy sipper. The Hven is sweeter and a bit bolder. Bigger if you want, but also somewhat simpler. Another good sipper. This Zuidam however is something exceptional. It is big and dirty. Tasting the three side-by-side, this one seems to have some goût de pétrole you get in good Rieslings. Less typical Gin I guess, but very special nevertheless. For me a must-have.

Millstone 12yo “Sherry Cask” (46%, OB)

Non Scottish Single Malts a.k.a. world Whiskies are taking over the…uhhh…world. Sure, Scottish Single Malts are still in high demand, especially in countries that are fairly new to them. They are embracing them with much love, as long as the local government permits them to. However, there isn’t enough well aged Whisky to go around the world. Thus, opportunity knocks for the rest of the world to step up their game. Add to that the growing interest of local products and you know where this is heading. Some countries already had a prosperous Single Malt culture, but were ahead of their time, and almost didn’t manage to stay afloat for the current boom. Just look at the history of Irish and New Zealand Whisky to name but a few.Luckily most of them have survived and see a bright future ahead. Then there is a second group. Whisky from countries that didn’t have a blooming local Whisky culture, like Sweden and The Netherlands, again to name but a few, because there are many, many others. I already reviewed a Rye Whiskey from Millstone (Zuidam) from the Netherlands and this time we’ll have a look at a proper Single Malt Whisky. I still have an old expression with the cream label. As far as I know there were two small batches of this, one made up from only two casks, and one made up with three. I only don’t know which of the two I have here…

Millstone Sherry Cask 12yoColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Sherried, definitely Oloroso, but quite dry and elegant as well. Spicy with nice wood, but also some honey sweetness. Wonderful fresh (and slightly soapy) fruity acidity. Good spirit in good casks. I also get some licorice, quite surprising for a Dutch malt. Creamy vanilla, maybe from American oak. Towards the end some nice red fruit notes appear as well as some lavas. Nice development.

Taste: Very creamy but less integrated than the nose suggested. Some light raisins and warming. Almonds and a bigger nutty aroma altogether. The Sherry cask bestows even a winey note to the Whisky. On entry, the cream has a sweet edge to it, although the wood and the Sherry quickly overpower it with a nice and spicy dryness, never to let the sweetness take over again. I’m guessing Oloroso again, but probably a high quality one. A two-faced Malt. Towards the finish a medium kind of bitterness emerges, but in a soft way. It like chewing on a pencil. The finish itself is of medium length. In the aftertaste a slight burnt note, with even a hint of tar.

A Whisky which is great already and still shows lots of potential and is definitely something The Netherlands should be proud of. Kudo’s for Patrick and the Van Zuidam family.

Points: 84

Millstone 8yo “100 Rye” (50%, OB)

Millstone 100 is a small batch Dutch pot still distilled Rye Whisky (without an extra “e”). This is a review about one of the earlier bottlings, because by now the look is different. The glass bottle is the same, but the label is now black, more in line with the rest of the Millstone Whiskies, although across the line some different shapes of bottles are used. The new black label informs us of the many different guises of the number “100”. The whisky is a minimum of a 100 months old and is bottled at 50% ABV. (The American 100 proof), and the Whisky is made from 100% Rye and only filled into new American oak only (100% again). The use of the American proofing system and the use of American new oak casks makes it obvious what kind of style of Whisky to expect. 100 Rye is made from 49% malted Rye and 51% unmalted Rye.

Zuidam Distillers was founded in 1975 by Fred van Zuidam under the name Baarle International. Earlier, Fred worked some twenty odd years at De Kuijper in Schiedam after which it was time to start for himself. He bought a piece of land in Baarle Nassau and built his distillery there, starting with a range of high quality liqueurs, basing his recipes on the best ingredients he could buy. Next step was the distillation of the traditional Dutch drink: Jenever, the spirit Gin was derived of, both sharing juniper berries as an ingredient. 

Today the distilling is done by Patrick van Zuidam, the son of Fred. Gilbert, the other son is handling the business end of the distillery. Patrick had a passion for Jenever and Korenwijn and from that started experimenting with his dream drink: Whisky, resulting in the Millstone line of Whiskies. By now a lot of Millstone expressions have seen the light of day, of which this 100 Rye is a very succesful one.

Millstone 100 Rye 8yoColor: Copper orange brown.

Nose: Sweetish and thick in its aroma, straying away from the American Rye’s which for ma always have a sort of florality in the nose. This one is very clean and closer to a fruity nose. Initially maybe even sweet, with a lot of wood influence. Pencil shavings. The wood is easy and in no way overpowering. Small hint of soap. Well integrated aroma’s, but not very complex. The thick aroma from the starts dissipates a bit and dries out the whole, but memories of it come in and out. If smelled for a prolonged time, it reminds me a bit of Rum, or Rhum Acricole. Dry Rum obviously, including hints of red fruits and a fresh citrussy note. Lime and some delayed mint. Deep and fruity altogether.

Taste: Starts with wood and some sugary sweetness. Quite hot on entry with a nice bite. Here a little soapy florality is present. Rye it is then! Nice dusty wood. Sawdust and nuts. For those of you that also have tasted Patrick’s Jenevers and Korenwijn, there is some of that in here too, unmistakable. For me this Whisky has a special effect as well. After the big body, the finish seems a bit weak at first, but after that a bigger aftertaste emerges. And a very tasty aftertaste it is, with some sweet orange, nice. Over time the finish grows bigger too. This Whisky need some time to breathe to grow a bigger finish, but I have to say that more air also hurts the balance a bit, since the dryness and the wood really take over and the florality stays soapy.

Ain’t this something. It has hints of Jenever and Korenwijn, smells a bit like a Rum, but is a Rye Whisky with quite some evolution over time. Well done, I have to try a newer bottling to see if Patrick has dealt with the soapy florality, then again, maybe it’s just me.

Points: 81

Zuidam Flying Dutchman No.3 (40%, The Netherlands)

Here we have a Rum from the very well-known Caribbean Island of the Netherlands, ehhhh, well, actually the Netherlands are closer to the north pole than the Caribbean, so what the hell did Patrick van Zuidam thought he was doing over there? At least he’s from the southern part of the Netherlands. People who like to submerge themselves in “Carnaval”, not entirely the same thing the Brazilians are doing, but never the less. Lets not get distracted now. Word is that Patrick’s brother Gilbert (the marketing) needed a Rum in his portfolio, so Patrick (the distiller) set out to make him one.

Zuidam Flying Dutchman No.3 (40%, The Netherlands)Color: Light orange gold.

Nose: From a distance when pouring: banana. When sniffing from the glass; Semi sweet, Thick and fruity, but over time the sweetness gets less and less. More wood influence combined with a slightly smelly organic smell. Not necessarily bad mind you. Hints of mint from the wood. Spicy, creamy toffee and molten vanilla ice-cream. Dark chocolate and mint, yes, hints of After Eight.

Taste: Yes great balance between wood and distillate. Not too sweet. Wood is the first thing you’ll notice, quickly followed by a hint of a grain distillate like Jenever, which makes it stand out from any other Rum (in the world). Next up some caramel and semi sweetness. Wood and (fresh) almonds, but also a tiny citrussy note, lemon. Caramel, toffee, milk chocolate with vanilla and vanilla ice-cream. Hard powder candy sweetness. The strange vegetal note from the nose is in here too and is noticeable on the tip of your tongue, right before the body starts forming in your mouth. Vegetal and some fresh oak, seem to make it up. Lacks a bit of complexity. Short finish where the balance loses out, almost like it breaks up into the components its made up of. Not a lot of after taste.

What I do like with this Premium Dark Rum is that Patrick managed to get the wood to play a part in this Rum instead of overpowering sweetness. OK, lots of experience from Jenever and Millstone Whisky. For me it tastes like an unfinished product though. A project that was started up, and left us with a Rum that has been aged for three years, and then was forgotten. Good enough for the time being. Patrick seems to be on the right path here, but also seems to have lost interest in this Rum, concentrating on Millstone and Jenever and Korenwijn. I’m guessing this Rum will become better when Patrick has aged himself somewhat more…nudge, nudge. So in the end not a bad Rum, but something that has potential, not fully explored yet. There is also a colorless version of this Rum, but if I understand correctly, that is essentially this dark Rum, stripped of its color and some of its aroma’s…

points: 80

Glentauchers 8yo 2005/2013 (46%, Dewar Rattray, For the Specialist’s Choice The Netherlands, Sherry Puncheon #900389, 403 bottles)

We are now in the middle of the rise of NAS Whiskies and very soon most Whiskies in our regular shops will have a names instead of a number or a vintage even. Whiskies that do have an age statement will be confined to airports and other travel retail outlets. But that’s only one of a few possible futures. What will happen to the Independent bottlers? Will they have a way to survive. Today many of them are capable of releasing pretty good Whiskies, although mediocrity is creeping into their products as well. How long will casks of Whisky be available to them? Are we going to see only affordable yet young Whisky from them as we already see with NAS Whiskies from the distilleries themselves. After the Ledaig I reviewed last, here we have another young Whisky coming from a Sherry cask. Glentauchers this time. Earlier I reviewed an older Glentauchers. also from a Sherry cask that was pretty good to say the least…

Glentauchers 8yo 2005/2013 (46%, Dewar Rattray, For the Specialist's Choice The Netherlands, Sherry Puncheon #900389, 403 bottles)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Sherried, creamy and fresh. Herbal and woody. Nice creamy oak, yes creamy oak. Fruity candy. Very likeable. Powdered. Quite a lot of vanilla. It really smells like a Sherry cask made with American oak.

Taste: Creamy and funky Sherry. Real acidic fruitiness right from the start. The creaminess and fruitiness don’t necessarily mix together well, especially when a paper-like note appears. In time that strange mixture passes and reveals more sweetness with the vanilla coming back here too. Paper and cardboard make up the finish, but not by itself. Notes from wood, mocha, Cappuchino, cigar box and creamy vanilla are also here to stay but mainly the fruity acidity returns with a vengeance. Whisky candy. Do you know those fruity gello’s in dark chocolate. That kind of fruity acidity contrasted by sweet dark chocolate. Accept this and you’ll be ok. Interesting stuff.

Although this has some flaws, it is also highly drinkable. This may not fetch the highest score, but it most certainly is nice to drink. Don’t analyze this to death, just grab it for the fun of it. Make it your daily drinker. I often rant a bit about reducing Whiskies, because sometimes the reduction makes the Whisky thin and watery. This time however I will hold my tongue, since I don’t feel reduction hurt the final product. It is good like this. I’ll stop now and pour myself another dram.

Points: 84

Leprechaun Imperial Stout (7%, 33 cl)

Leprechaun (new label)Lets finish off this dark month with an equally dark Beer. After Fonkel and Marieke why not try another dutch Beer. This time one brewed by De Naeckte Brouwers from Amstelveen (near Amsterdam) in The Netherlands. This pair of brewers, Michel Lagrand and Ab van der Veen are brewing beers for a longer time, about 15 years, than the guys from Oostenburg (Amsterdam) and therefore have a larger selection of ten Beers to choose from. The fully dressed guys have their own brewery. Naeckte (naked) doesn’t mean the brewers brew their Beers with their pants down, but naked in this context means honest and pure, stripped of all fuss.

De Naeckte Brouwers LeprechaunColor: Black-brown, with (not a lot of) beige foam.

Nose: Sugary (but not candied sugar) and dark. Roasted and dark malts. Mocha and some nice freshness. Very nice and balanced nose, full of dry caramel.

Taste: Bitter upfront and in the body. Hops and hints of laurel licorice. Roasted malt, coffee and the darkest of Ethiopian chocolates. Burnt sugar and caramel. Having said that, the Beer isn’t over the top. It is bitter but not very bitter, it’s still a Beer to enjoy and the notes present themselves easily. Slightly acidic. No fruits, but the acidity spells out hints of lemon, or maybe not, as the Beer gets warmer and warmer while I’m tasting it, more and more, the acidity starts to resemble a nice Riesling (without the goût de petrol). This acidity transports into the finish, which for me makes the beer nicely balanced.

Actually quite a light Imperial Stout. I have tasted others that were very animalesk and cloying. This is quite clean and “naked” so it probably is what the brewers intended…

Don’t drink this Beer too cold, it will just kill all the nice notes this Imperial Stout has. It’s a clean, light and elegant Imperial Stout. Nice!

Points: 83

Santpoorts Bier – Blonde Tripel (8.5%, 33 cl)

Santpoorts Bier logoSantpoorts Bier is a very locally brewed and sold beer. It is made in Hillegom by Brewery “Klein Duimpje” (Tom Thumb) and made for the “community” of Santpoort (near Haarlem in The Netherlands). With the proceeds the instigators hope to fund their own brewery in Santpoort (2020). This first Santpoorts beer is called a Blond Tripel and boasts a hefty 8.5% ABV. Blond as in blonde or a lightly (colored) beer, and Tripel after the Belgian Abbey and Trappist beers. Looking at the list of ingredients: Pilsner malt, Carapilsner malt, Munich malt, wheat malt, Challenger hops, Saaz hops and yeast. It doesn’t seem to be a Belgian Style Tripel, since a lot of typical Pilsner malts are used, so somehow I’m expecting a more Pilsner style Beer that is higher in alcohol.

The beer I’ll be reviewing here is from the first batch (best before date: July 2014, I aged it a little). By now, a second batch has been released called ‘Reprise’ (orange label again) as well as a winter beer (blue label) and a just released Spelt Weizen Beer (green label), that isn’t even on their website yet!

Santpoorts BierColor: Lively, yellow, almost orange gold. Murky, with a lot of yeast deposit. A lot of ivory foam.

Nose: Fresh and spicy, fruity (banana and peach without the sweetness). Very appetizing. A city after the rain and a distinct hint of warm plastic. The beer starts out fresh, lively and fruity, but quickly turns into something more broody. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Pretty “dirty” if you ask me. Fresh egg-white and new wood. Whiffs of cold dishwater. A very unusual nose. After half a year of ageing the nose didn’t change much (I’ve tried this beer when it was just released).

Taste: Dark, and a nice hoppy bitterness which almost seems woody. Pretty fruity, hot butter and has a lot of fresh (baker’s) yeast and a note of polyester. This polyester component is also easily recognizable in Hoegaarden White. Polyester is a maybe bad word here, but I’m using it for lack of a better word. Santpoorts Bier isn’t warming so it seems a lot lower in alcohol. This beer is advised to drink at 10 degrees Centigrade, but I like it better, when its colder. It finishes a bit like a Pilsener does, with its typical acidity, but the perfect bitterness this beer has, does a lot for balance. When freshly brewed, it was said to be nice already, and doesn’t need a lot of ageing. I tried it a few times and not a lot happened in half a year. The beer seems young (easily recognizable in the yeast taste, it has a lot of fresh yeast notes, ánd a lot of yeast in the deposit), but most definitely has it’s potential.

I’ve opened a lot of bottles of this to have people taste this and it is a very vigorous beer. You can’t Always open it without spilling some (and in some cases, a lot). In the glass the little yeast balls are moving around very quickly, like a speeded up lava lamp. Quite a stunning view. The beer is very lively!

Conclusion. To me, this first batch seems to be somewhat of a work in progress. It does have its charm, but it isn’t perfect yet. Overall I like the beer, but I didn’t care that much for the polyester notes and the “Pilsener” finish, but the start and the body (the middle part) are already quite good, as is the perfect bitterness of this beer.  The brewers are on the right road, but in my humble opinion, some more work has to be done. By now a second batch has been produced, called ‘Reprise’ which I haven’t tried yet.

Points: 74