Six months ago, spirits expert Gearoid O’Gallaghan (The Whisky Jack) and craft distiller Nienke Oostra (Filosoof Jenever) formed a plan: “We’re gonna make our own whisky!” Almost simultaneously, they added: “But we ain’t gonna spent six million Euro upfront to build a distillery.” So the two friends rented space and equipment at Wagging Finger Distillery in The Netherlands and buckled down to work. In the following months, they tried out different ingredients, refined their three-grain mashbill and revised all steps and stages of the production.
When they had exactly the spirit they wanted, Gearoid and Nienke entered phase two: On November 22, they filled their first cask, namely a 40 litre ex-bourbon barrel from New York-based King’s County Distillery. Though it was significantly more expensive than a comparable container, the two whisky makers never questioned the investment. “We craft a very good, clean spirit,” they explained. “And then we put it in a top-quality barrel from a distillery we personally like.” I get their point. When you aim at making something great, you better make sure that every link in the production chain is great as well!
Three years from now, the mentioned vessel will give birth to the inaugural release of Odds & Evens – thus the name of Gearoid and Nienke’s new-found whisky brand. It refers to a card game that demands both skill and chance from those who play it. Just like whisky making… another reason for the choice of name is the fact that you can play along with it. “Take our pre-order business model, for example,” Gearoid told me, “when you buy our unmatured spirit now, we owe you. So we’re at odds. But when we deliver the goods in three years, we’ll be even.”
To show how much fun being at odds with them will be, Gearoid and Nienke invited a small circle of friends to a private tasting of their new make on December 5. It took place at Bar Oorlam in Hamburg – a cozy craft beer joint that Nienke set up one and a half years ago. Over the course of two hours, they filled their guests in on the exciting first chapter of the Odds & Evens story. Going for maximum transparency, they answered all questions readily and shared with us a ton of details about their approach, their philosophy, their vision and their next steps. Of course, they also treated us to their unmatured spirit, both in reduced strenght (46 per cent) and raised strength (54 per cent). And, let me tell you this in advance, all the heartblood they put into the making of their soon-to-be whisky absolutely paid off!
At 46 per cent – which is also the strength in which Odds & Evens’ first 3-year-old whisky will be bottled – the new make was meaty and sturdy with a lot of mushy apples, grapes, berries and cereals in the nose, plus a reluctant smokiness further back. The palate was initially very sweet with sugar cubes, pears, bananas and blueberries. With time, it also developed a slight saltiness. The smooth and fruity finish had garden fruits, violet pastilles and very dark chocolate. Even without any wood maturation, this was already a very flavorful and highly exciting drop! When bottled with eigh per cent more, the new make was less sugary and fruity. The 54 per cent version smelled of barley, cotton candy, cocoa and a bit of wood smoke. On the tongue, it felt heavy and strong with green fruits, cocoa powder, mirabelles and toasted bread with butter. The long and fulfilling aftertaste offered red fruits, chocolate sauce and mild coffee. It left be both stunned, psyched and craving for more!
Admittedly, Odds & Evens’ charged price of 89 Euro for a combi package consisting of 500 ml single malt whisky and 125 ml new make is not a steal. But now that I have heard the spirit’s story and tasted its quality, I understanf where it comes from. This is a true labor of love made by wonderful people with thought, skill and passion. I will be happy to follow their next steps closely and sip the first Odds & Evens single malt whisky when it is ready. If the idea of a hand-crafted small-batch whisky with a unique character and an international DNA sounds good to you, I would recommend you to do the same!
Odds & Evens New Make (Reduced Strength) (New make / Europe / 0yo / 46% / ~25 Euro)
Odds & Evens New Make (High Strength) (New make / Europe / 0yo / 54% / not for sale)
Odds & Evens @ Web: http://oddsandevens.eu/ (Whisky)
Odds & Evens @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Odds-Evens-100787708062746/ (Whisky)
Filosoof Jenever @Web: http://filosoofjenever.nl/ (Nienke)
The Whisky Jack @ Web: http://www.thewhiskyjack.com/ (Gearoid)
Bar Oorlam @ Web: https://www.oorlam.de/index.php (Location)
Buddelship @ Web: http://www.buddelship.de/ (Craft Beer)
*** I was kindly invited to the tasting by The Whisky Jack. ***