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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Dutch Courage?

We recently received something fairly unusual in the post here at Caskstrength Heights. No, not a monthly subscription to 'Traction Engine Times', but a whisky that certainly surprised us both, in more ways than one... perhaps even more surprising than accidentally receiving Joel's secret copy of the Wholesale Flange Catalogue.

Can this be a whisky I first thought... it''s from The Hague!?

Of course, the Dutch are famous for a lot of very cool stuff, including of course, the creation of gin, (clearly excellent in anyone's book)

By way of a potted history, gin came to life back in the early 17th century when
a certain Dr Sylvius, a professor at one of Holland's leading universities, had been attempting to create a medicine for kidney conditions, using grain based alcoholic compounds. His turning point came when experimenting with an infusion of the Juniper berry- the oil of which was widely regarded for containing therapeutic properties. The medicine was an instant hit and the name, 'Genievre' or 'Genever', based on the French word for Juniper prevailed. Over time, the name became colloquialised and Dr. Sylvius effectively became The 'Father of Gin'. Some accolade, don't you think?
Little did he know that his discovery would very nearly erode the foundations of English society due to its highly intoxicating power.

Study the famous Hogarth painting 'Gin Lane' below and you'll get where i'm coming from!

Anyway, my point was that the Dutch made a damn good, aromatic and highly drinkable spirit, which is now enjoyed the world over.

So what the devil are they playing at, making a whisky??

Well, hold your horses because for centuries they've also been tinkering with the brown stuff too.

Van Kleef is one of the oldest distilleries in Holland, with records dating back to 1842. As well as a range of fine Jenevers, bitters and liqueurs the distillery has been bottling it's own whisky, runs a small museum and reportedly had the very first telephone number in the Hague - number 1....
(Oh, and whilst Van Gogh lived in The Hague, he bought his alcohol from here too)

We were sent a sample of the 'Idiotes Whisky' by a friend of ours who was passing through Holland on the way back to Japan and we must confess- we have absolutely no information on it....! the distillery site is in Dutch so any translation help- please get in touch!

Van Kleef - Idiotes Whisky - 40%

Nose: Grainy, gristy and clear apple juice, with some tropical fruit notes. A little hint of smoke starts to emerge, but this is extremely clean and well polished. I have no idea how old this is, but I would hazard a guess at around 5 years??

Palate: Sweetness in the form of honey, heathery floral notes and some distinct buttery elements. It has a surprising similarity to a young Longrow and a real freshness which clings to the tongue. Perhaps some slightly mild botanical notes to boot.

Finish: The fresh apple notes give way to some almond paste. Lightweight, sweet and very clean indeed.

Overall: Well, that was a total surprise. As i'm into my second dram I am thinking about taking a trip over to the Hague as soon as possible. I recently stopped off at Amsterdam Airport and picked up a couple bottles of Jenever. I wish i'd known a little more about this hidden Dutch jem!!

Anyone care to enlighten us some more here??