Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, co-founders of The Whisky Exchange, and Patrick van Zuidam, master distiller of Zuidam Distillery, go back quite a few years. As the brothers are celebrating their 50th year of working in the world of drinks, they’ve partnered with Patrick to select two of his Millstone whiskies.
One just 5 years young and peated, the other a respectable 26 years of age and unpeated. Both matured in a single Oloroso cask. And not just any Oloroso casks either, but true solera casks.
It’s been a while since I spoke in-depth with Patrick about his fondness for solera casks (just before the pandemic hit), but this is what he had to say back then. “My brother calls it an obsession, all these sherry casks I buy. I don’t do seasoned sherry casks.
“Nothing is right or wrong in our business. It’s just a simple irrefutable fact that seasoned sherry casks produce different flavors from bodega or solera casks, whatever you want to call them. I call them shitty old casks, and they give a very different flavor profile.
“I love the flavor these old sherry casks give me. When you open the [warehouse] door here, that smell, you can’t compare it with seasoned casks. This gives you, I think, a flavor profile that is more unique.”
Solera casks are expensive and rare. Go ahead, try and find whisky that’s matured in ex-sherry solera casks. I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s not exactly common either. And I would dare say there’s no distillery in the world that exclusively buys solera casks and no other sherry casks at all.
Millstone 1996 26 Years Oloroso (42.4%, OB, C#4152)
Nose: This is reminiscent of very old Armagnac. Bold notes of sultanas, figs and orange marmalade with touches of marzipan, nougat and walnuts. Also a whiff of fennel, red berries and dark chocolate. Just incredible. Taste: Oily mouthfeel. Plenty of cranberries, touches of aceto di balsamico, some leather and raisins. Also dates, tobacco leaves, luscious plums, mangoes, a bit of lychee and just a touch of cinnamon. Maybe even some rhubarb syrup. Finish: Long with touches of prunes, mint and walnut skin.
Quite an insane whisky that shares a lot of DNA with aged brandy. And the low abv is no issue at all. What’s that quote again? “No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.” I suppose that applies here.
Millstone Peated 2017 5 Years (54.7%, OB, C#170444)
Nose: Opens up on hints of crème brûlée, coffee grounds and rich caramel with a whiff dark chocolate, damp wood and lots of campfire smoke. Sweet fruits are lingering in the background. What a great marriage between spirit and cask. Taste: Nice velvety mouthfeel. The smoke is a tad more pronounced than I expected. Burnt toast, smoked bacon and ashes combined with just a tinge of rubber. Also gingerbread, warming spices and grilled pineapple in the background. Finish: Long, somewhat dry and with a good amount of ashy smoke.
I was extremely taken by the nose, but the ashier and drier notes on the palate tempered my enthusiasm slightly. Don't be fooled by that comment though. Instead of an excellent whisky, I'd still rate this Millstone Peated as one that is truly good.
Not that it should matter, but as a Dutch person I can only be extremely proud of the whiskies Zuidam Distillery produces. The two new exclusives for The Whisky Exchange are no exception. Still available here.