As a Dutch drinks writer and whisky enthusiast, I’ve probably not given Dutch whisky the platform it deserves. Even though there are a handful of distilleries located a stone’s throw from where I live. One of them is Kalkwijck Distillers, a single estate distillery producing Eastmoor Single Malt, which is extremely rare in the world of whisky.
The thing about Dutch whisky is that barely any of it is exported. Probably the only brand with any real name recognition abroad is Millstone, produced at Zuidam Distillery. Most of the other Dutch distilleries (by my estimation a few dozen right now) produce whisky for the domestic market. And many sell their whisky mostly in their own region or province.
Kalkwijck Distillers is a small producer in the region of Twente, located in the Eastern Netherlands near the German border. I’ve adopted Twente as my home and it is where I’ve been living for the past 16 years. I’ve been to Kalkwijck a number of times, have written about them for a Dutch publication and an international one. But it has taken me until now to publish a blog about Kalkwijck, almost 9 years since I started Words of Whisky. Shame on me.
So, a single estate distillery. Kalkwijck Distillers is located on a farm and before the company was founded in 2009 they already had been growing crops for Dutch brewers. They still do actually: part of their grains are bought by a cooperation of local craft brewers. Nowadays everything else is used to distil a range of products, including genever and whisky.
Farmer Bert Benus came up with the idea to construct a distillery in an old farm building from 1903, but from the start it was his daughter Lisanne who took the reigns as head distiller. She was later joined by her husband Christian Broekhuizen. The wife-and0husband team now run Kalkwijck Distillers together.
Kalkwijck Distillers practices sustainable farming, rotating crops, using organic fertilizer and doing as much as possible to keep their soil healthy. “We know exactly where our grain comes from,” Christian once told me. “All our grain is traceable. And while there a many factors that influence our typical Kalkwijck flavour profile – like the way we mash, ferment and distil – it’s undeniable that our grains are a big part of it.”
Up until recently all of Kalkwijck Distillers’ spirits was distilled on the grain, much like genuine Schiedam genever is still made. This means that the solids (barley husks for example) aren’t filtered out of the wort before fermentation. And these solids are distilled as well. This adds a very characteristic grassiness and maltiness to their spirits.
But now they’ve installed a new mash tun, allowing them to filter the wort. This tweak in their process leaves more room for fruitiness in the final product, although I’ve been told the first new-style spirit had that Kalkwijck signature too. It’d be very promising if they manage to combine the old and new flavour characteristics in their releases down the line.
The Eastmoor Single Malt I’m reviewing today was released during the distillery’s Open Day a few weeks ago. It matured in a single ex-Oloroso sherry cask and was diluted to a bottling strength of 47 percent. This limited release (295 bottles) was distilled from Irina spring barley harvested in 2016.
Eastmoor 2018 4 Years Oloroso Single Cask (47%, OB, 298 bts.)
Nose: Extremely malty with a distinct farminess highlighted by straw and hay. There are light touches of vanilla custard, marzipan and raisins, but also some chocolate truffles. Taste: An arrival with cracked black peppercorns, a silky mouthfeel and light notes of milk chocolate, dried red fruits and straw. Slightly leathery at times. Finish: Lingering spices and grassiness with oatmeal raisin cookies. Finally some Galia melon.
The Eastmoor Oloroso Single Cask is almost like a mixture between single malt whisky and genuine Schiedam genever – sans the botanicals. The barley and spirit character are dominant but complemented by the time spent in the ex-Oloroso cask. It's exactly up my alley, but if you're an avid Scotch single malt drinker, this might take some getting used too.