Dutch independent bottler Kintra was founded right around the same time I seriously started to get into single malt whisky. That would’ve been 2009 or 2010. Still going strong a decade later, Kintra has evolved into more than just an independent bottler. Actually, whisky releases from Kintra are pretty rare these days. But there still are some every now and again, like this (relatively) new Balblair 2012 8 Years which has matured in a refill sherry hogshead.
I suppose interviewing Erik Molenaar, Kintra’s founder and owner, was one of my first forays into writing about whisky. At the time I had already written some pieces for Whisky Passion, which was (and still is) the leading whisky magazine in the Netherlands. I also started blogging about six months earlier. Writing had been my profession ever since I graduated university. But I still wasn’t entirely confident approaching whisky people for interviews. After all, why would they talk to me?
I should probably also mention that I was still employed back when I first talked to Erik, instead of working freelance like I do now. I was editor-in-chief of an independent magazine published for the students and employees of Saxion, a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands that also turned out to be Erik’s alma mater.
When I learned about that fact it was exactly the kind of excuse I needed to contact Erik. Not to interview him for my blog per se, but to feature him and his whisky endeavors in the university magazine I worked for. That felt like a pretty legit reason to bother him. Of course the interview ran much longer than I needed, which I kind of banked on. So there was a lot of material left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. With approval from Erik I published a longer version of the interview on this very blog.
Recently I talked to Erik again for the first time in about two years, which is fully to blame on the pandemic. Usually I would see him at least a handful of times a year at various whisky festivals. But those have been few and far between. So, when I saw on Facebook he would be promoting his various brands at a store no far from where I live, I hopped in the car.
I was glad to hear the pandemic had actually worked out okay for him. Like I mentioned earlier, Kintra is no longer just an independent bottler. The company now also imports and distributes numerous spirit brands, while they also have a distilling arm called Wagging Finger. Erik does most of his business with specialist stores, not bars and restaurants, so the pandemic didn’t have as much of on effect on his business as you might expect.
Actually, he recently launched one of his most inspiring projects to date, working with Michelin-starred restaurant Librije to create two botanicals spirits, Revenge and Rumour. One spirit is based on rum, the other on genever, both are distilled at Wagging Finger distillery.
Very long story short, Kintra is doing well, even though whisky drinkers might sometimes wonder why Erik doesn’t release new bottlings too often anymore. We all sure could do with another superb one like this Glenturret. I suppose that just makes it all the more special when he actually does, like this Balblair 2012 8 Years from refill sherry hogshead #3237.
Balblair 2012 8 Years (57.3%, Kintra, C#3237)
Nose: Faint notes of rubber and gunpowder, but nothing to get too worked up about. Next up is dark chocolate, some orange zest, burnt caramel, molasses and dried apricots, with just a whiff of shortbread and vanilla. Taste: Somewhat yeasty with a tinge of bitter hops, but also plenty of dark caramel, a bit of tobacco, cloves and nutmeg. Finally some nougat, toffee and meringues. Finish: Lingering spices and dark vanilla notes, with finally some burnt toast.
The influence of the refill sherry hogshead is apparent, but the Balblair 2012 8 Years from Kintra is not the most complex whisky. It's the caramel/toffee/vanilla flavours that stand out most. To me it could do with a little more excitement.