Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength review

Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength (2024)

This is getting a bit embarrassing. Just a few days ago Zuidam Distillery won World’s Best Rye for the third year in a row. The Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength came away victorious at the World Whiskies Awards. This seems as good a time as any to publish my review then.

Second-generation master distiller Patrick van Zuidam has long gained acclaim for his rye whiskies. Or I should probably say rye whisky, singular. Zuidam’s Millstone 100 Rye has been making waves ever since it was first released well over a decade ago. But sweeping the World Whiskies Awards multiple years in a row is impressive. Anyone should appreciate that accomplishment, even those sceptical of whisky awards.

I wrote a lengthy article about Patrick’s fondness for rye for Whisky Magazine last year. In it, I detail part of Patrick’s journey and fascination. It was an honour to write about a Dutch distiller for such an esteemed international publication. I would link to the article, except it was only published in print and not online. So I’ll try to recap.

patrick van zuidam

For those who aren’t familiar with Patrick, he’s someone who exudes confidence but is also down-to-earth and modest when he needs to be. He’s also a control freak. When he first tried to distil rye whisky in the early 2000s, Patrick didn’t consult with anyone. That may seem foolish, but you have to understand he had been distilling rye (the grain) for at least a decade by then. You know, because genever? The mashbill of this Dutch spirit often includes rye, and in case of Zuidam’s Rye Genever, up to 70 per cent even.

Also, many well-known American rye brands are partly column-distilled, while Patrick always planned to fully pot-distill his rye whisky. And European producers of rye whisky? There were none at the time. In a way, it’s understandable Patrick just went at it alone. And in hindsight probably the right choice. He decided to explore new frontiers by himself.

“I’m a big fan of the flavour of rye”, Patrick once told me. “For my rye whisky, I really wanted to exaggerate its aromas and flavours, which is why I decided on a 100% rye mash bill. It’s tough to work with, but the flavour is just so captivating that I wanted to push the limits.”

zuidam distillery casks

Zuidam’s rye whisky, including the Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength, ferments for seven to nine days. Two types of yeast are used. “With malted barley, especially when you control the temperature of the fermentation as we do, there’s really no risk of the wash overflowing. But there have been times when I stood ankle-deep in our 100% rye wash. Believe me, that’s not something you’d enjoy cleaning. For rye, it’s crucial to use less grain and create a lower gravity mash.”

The Millstone Rye used to be fully distilled in two German-made Holstein stills. (The rectifying plates in the necks aren’t used for Zuidam’s whisky production.) But now that a couple of traditional copper pot stills were installed four years ago, the second distillation takes place in the new spirit still from Forsyths.

zuidam distillery spirit safe

Zuidam distillery is largely self-sufficient by growing most of the grain it uses. Not just rye, but also barley, wheat, and corn. The first seeds were planted 13 years ago. After starting out with just a few fields, Zuidam’s grain project has since grown to approximately 85 hectares, and Patrick only rarely needs to buy grain from other sources. It’s the result of his need for flavour-driven grain cultivation, instead of more common yield-driven practices.

In a nutshell, I’m a fan of Zuidam Distillery, Patrick’s work and the Millstone brand. The Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength is a limited edition of only 872 bottles. At 10 years it is slightly older than the regular 100 Rye, but it similarly matured in American oak casks. (That’s new oak, not ex-bourbon.) It’s not sold out yet. But if you’re into rye whisky at all, I wouldn’t wait to long and secure a bottle sooner than later.

Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength

Millstone Founders Reserve 100 Rye Cask Strength (52,62%, OB, 872 bts.)

Nose: As a fan of the original Millstone 100 Rye, this is a comforting homecoming. Plenty of black peppercorns, some light floral touches and a generous amount of earthy and bready notes. Some brown sugar, a sliver of thyme, whiffs of lemon, and cardamom too.
Taste: Even oilier than the standard 100 Rye. Hints of orange liqueur, almond paste and honeycomb alongside a peppery arrival. Then a sprinkling of cinnamon, touches of eucalyptus and some grilled pineapple. There’s a bit of juniper too, as well as ginger.
Finish: Long. Warming and spicy. A touch of resin, lingering pepper, more cinnamon, sweet dates and some bitter chocolate. Finally just a snippet of sourdough and even some grassiness.

Much like the Millstone 100 Rye, this Founders Edition is quite the triumph. Flavourful beyond belief... Well, maybe not BEYOND belief, but very flavourful nonetheless. No wonder Zuidam Distillery's rye whiskies are held in such high esteem.


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