Having this platform makes me so glad. It means I can sometimes introduce an international audience to smaller producers that I’m passionate about. And Kalkwijck Distillers is such a one. They’re basically my local distillery – I live less than 30 minutes away – and have just launched a new series of whiskies, Higgledy Piggledy.
The Netherlands has a rich history when it comes to grain spirits. Once upon a time we were one of the distillation centres of the world. There are known examples of Dutch distillers coming to Scotland to impart their knowledge. Or members of the Haig family visiting Rotterdam to learn about Dutch distillation. I’m just saying, our genever was quite a big deal. I suppose we kinda knew what we were doing.
Much of that advantage is now gone and The Netherlands has been surpassed by many other countries on the global stage. But there are still people here that really know their stuff. A few of those are the ones that run Kalkwijck Distillers, a single-estate distillery. Yes, they grow their own grains. Doesn’t that just make you happy?
I’m kinda taken by their single malt whisky, called Eastmoor. It’s an acquired taste, because their whiskies are distilled on the grain, much like malt wine for genever traditionally was. But as you may know, I’m quite partial to genever anyway, so it’s right up my alley.
Higgledy Piggledy is not single malt whisky. Instead, it’s a range of whiskies made from all kinds of other grains. One is a high rye whisky, containing 80% rye. The other is made from three different grains, all used in equal parts – including some peated malt. And yet a third would be called bourbon if it were made in the United States.
The best of all? These Higgledy Piggledy releases cost less than 40 euros for a 50-centilitre bottle. That’s positively affordable for a craft spirit produced at a single-estate distillery.
Nose: Hints of chocolate with a whiff of tobacco and buttery touches of golden syrup and butterscotch, but also a sliver of oak shavings along with marshmallows, sultanas and a light floral touch. Taste: Rather a creamy mouthfeel but with a touch of aromatic spice, black pepper and toasted oak, yet also tinges of orange peel, cedar and apricots. Then just a quick hit of mint also. Finish: Medium length, somewhat dry, and with a soft, dusty quality. Also a whiff of cough syrup and gentle spices. Ending on notes of stewed apples.
A rich, flavourful whisky that is very more-ish, approachable and dangerously drinkable.
Nose: Pretty shy, although there’s a surprising hint of wood smoke. (I checked with the distillery, and yes, they used some peated malt.) Just a touch of sauerkraut, some gentle notes of lemon, love hearts, and soft stewed fruits. Also, somewhat hay-like at times. Taste: Thinner than the Higgledy Piggledy Corn Whisky. It’s not very prominent, but there’s an undeniable almost ashy, smoky quality. Touches of barley husks, preserved lemon, burnt caramel and honey too. Finish: A touch of leather, some mild spices, and a whiff of breakfast cereals.
Quite unusual and unique. Now, that’s not always bad thing. But the Higgledy Piggledy Grain Whisky is also a little shy. The mouthfeel could be better. More interesting than really good.
Nose: Lovely bready notes accompanied by touches of mint, cloves and black pepper, but then pecan and cedar wood. The fruity side stands out and is highlighted by dried apricots and raisins. Also a few drops of dark caramel too. Taste: An interplay of sweet and spice. Notes of black tea, cardamom and black pepper, but also cinnamon, jammy fruits and just a touch of eucalyptus. Finish: Medium length. Sweet berries, milk chocolate, and cinnamon, but also a hint of licorice.
It benefits from some time in the glass, but overall is just an enchanting drop of rye whisky. The sweeter elements really supplement the rye spice.