My reviews have been few and far between lately (for lots of reasons) but now that my Whisky Advent Calendar has arrived from Kensington Wine Market, I'll be trying to do some on a much more regular basis. The Dec 1 entry in the calendar comes from Zuidam, a Dutch distillery run by the father and son team of Fred and Patrick van Zuidam, that's spent most of its lifetime making gin, but started bottling its own whisky in 2007. Before I get to this little mini though, I happen to have two other Zuidam whiskies (the brand is called Millstone) kicking around so I'm going to do them first before I try the one in the calendar.
The first bottle, a birthday present from Pam a couple of years ago, is their 10 Year Old French Oak expression (which comes in a very cool black wooden box, a ribbon around the neck and some hand labelling). It is primarily matured in first-fill American oak but spends a final year in French oak. This is Bottle No. 1989, distilled Sept 22 2004 and bottled Mar 29 2016.
The colour is a medium-to-dark gold. Very rich and fruity on the nose, and almost sooty....vegetal, even - like when I haven't cleaned my BBQ in a while. Blackberries, strawberries, grilled plantains. Smoked paprika. Black cherry, and black liquorice. With water it becomes even more vegetal - think damp forest floor - and very umami. This seems to have been quite the active cask, as it's hard to pin down the malty spirit within. Very distinctive, though.
On the palate the malt comes forward, with some rich vanilla, a basket of red and black berries and lots of spices: paprika, cinnamon, chili. Wine gums. Very dark chocolate. Angostura bitters. Tannic. Again, the oak is quite dominant (though water tames the oak and highlights the malt), and overall pretty powerful for a 40%er.
The finish brings more spice (add nutmeg), some dark cocoa and bitter oak. Not a breezy, easy-drinking malt, this one. There are lots of rich flavours and tannic oak here, so keep that in mind - but it's never boring, that's for sure. Now, let's see how it compares to the next bottle...