Though I only discovered Dutch whisky company The Barrel Baron recently, I am already a fan. After all, co-founder Marcel Kip and his partners are total malt maniacs offering both top-quality indie bottlings and exclusive cask shares. One release of theirs that especially caught my attention is the upcoming Cley 4 Years Old with an Oloroso finish. This limited edition release is the first-ever single cask bottling from the Rotterdam-based micro-distillery (which I love so much that I volunteered to run their German social media accounts). To learn more about this release in particular and The Barrel Baron in general, I sent Marcel a few questions via e-mail. Here’s what we talked about …
BarleyMania: The Barrel Baron is a young, go-getting company. You first appeared on the scene in 2020 and released your debut bottling in 2021. You started with an independently bottled Secret Speyside 26yo, followed shortly after by a single cask Glenrothes 26yo. Before we come to speak of those two whiskies, please introduce The Barrel Baron to us: Who are the people behind the company? What motivated you to enter the indie bottling circuit? And what are your plans and targets for the future?
Marcel Kip: The Barrel Baron, based in Eindhoven in The Netherlands, is a company consisting of three partners including myself, Domien Korndörffer and Johan Richardson. As you mentioned, although we have recently released two bottlings of Speyside whiskies, this is not actually our core business! Our goal is to allow whisky lovers to participate in ownership of whisky casks. The participants purchase a share of our cask and, at the time of bottling, are entitled to the amount of bottles of whisky relevant to their share(s). This may well be after a number of years (although we do look at purchasing casks where the remaining maturation time is within three years), but in this way people can enjoy unique whiskies which they would otherwise be unable to try; and this for an affordable price!
If, however, during our search for suitable casks we come across an excellent whisky that is ready for immediate bottling, then we will go with that. But our emphasis is on cask participation and we have already had six cask releases including a couple from Dornoch, Ardnamurchan, Ben Nevis, another Dutch distillery called Eaglesburn and an American Bourbon.
BM: As said, your first two single cask releases were well-aged Speysiders. One came from an undisclosed unit and the other from Glenrothes. Can you tell us a bit more about these two releases? How did you obtain the casks – and how hard is it for a new player to get their hands on really good and well-matured spirit? What makes these two stand out in your opinion? And how were the reactions from the dramming community so far?
MK: Over the years, I have built up a considerable network in the whisky world including distilleries, private whisky enthusiasts who own casks, and extremely motivated people who are professionally active in tasting and appraising whisky.
Through these contacts we have gained access to a large number of casks and – more important than that – to samples! This is extremely important in order to make an informed choice. Yet, they are often very difficult to get hold of (not only for newcomers, by the way). This is what distinguishes us from a number of competitors who simply purchase a cask on the basis of good-luck from a broker.
During the tasting of samples from those casks, we were so convinced of the quality of both the Secret Speyside and the Glenrothes that we decided to have them bottled immediately. We can certainly say in all honesty that both of those bottlings were received very enthusiastically by our clients.
BM: Your third single cask bottling has already been announced: On 3 July 2021, you’ll be the first-ever indie bottler to launch a single cask whisky from Rotterdam-based micro-distillery Cley. Since I run their German Facebook and Instagram accounts, it should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan. Consequently, I am helluva psyched for this special release and can’t wait to learn more about it: How did the collaboration between The Barrel Baron and Cley come to be? And what can those who buy a bottle expect from it?
MK: I have been in regular contact with Paul den Dulk for the last several months and after The Barrel Baron had already had two successful releases, we decided to look into how we and Cley could be beneficial for one another – and that has certainly become the case. Paul then offered The Barrel Baron the opportunity to purchase a delightful cask of his whisky and to use it for a special bottling. This special Cley edition is to be bottled for Whisky Event Eindhoven, which is to be held on 25 September 2021. This event has been organised for many years by our partner, the off-licence Van der Heijden Wijnen en Gedestilleerd.
In preparation for this, we sent twelve specially selected people a blind tasting sample from the Cley cask and asked them to write tasting notes. All the reactions were very positive and can be found on our Facebook page. Some people estimated the whisky to be more than ten years old and, among others, the distilleries of Arran and The GlenAllachie were suggested as its place of origin.
BM: Cley is, of course, a much less known brand than e. g. Glenrothes. And The Netherlands are arguably not as famous a whisky region as the Speyside. Do you think it will be harder for you to sell a Dutch whisky than a Scottish one? Or do you expect it to be the other way round? After all, both The Barrel Baron and Cley are really well connected in the whisky world, especially in The Netherlands but also abroad …
MK: As far as The Barrel Baron is concerned our highest priority is quality, it doesn’t really make much difference to us where the whisky comes from – whether it is from Scotland, The Netherlands or maybe Sweden. Of course, there are going to be pre-judgements: “A four-year-old Dutch whisky can’t possibly be much good”. That is why we let twelve people do the blind tasting. And, as shown in the reviews, the reactions were very encouraging and everyone was extremely enthusiastic when we told them where the whisky came from.
Also, even though The Barrel Baron has only been around for a relatively short time, we have already built a considerable reputation. We offer our clients quality and we are open and transparent in our communication on all matters. This has resulted in the fact that we now have a hardcore group of followers who want every release we put out.
BM: How would you describe The Netherlands as a whisky nation? I mean, they are the birthplace of Whiskybase. They are the homeland of well-established bottlers like The Ultimate. And they are the native turf of incredibly well-sorted pubs and bars like Whisky Café L&B in Amsterdam. Recently, however, it seems as if Dutch scene has gotten yet another breeze of fresh air: Young distilleries like Cley have gotten international recognition; upstart bottlers like The Barrel Baron have embarked on exciting journeys; and so on. It seems, The Netherlands are more than ever a whisky force to be reckoned with. Right?
MK: It’s really all about two different aspects. namely the Dutch whisky drinker and The Netherlands as a whisky producer. The average Dutch whisky drinker is passionate and knows their stuff. They are active within whisky groups and visit numerous whisky events. Also, there are plenty of tastings being organized on a regular basis. The demand for good quality whisky is high … how that has come about, I am not really sure, to be honest.
Nowadays there are a number of distilleries in The Netherlands and that number is growing. This has to do with the huge demand for whisky both here and worldwide. There is certainly a difference in quality between Dutch distilleries. But, of course, that applies to Scotland, too.
The Barrel Baron @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Barrel-Baron-101233098438007
The Barrel Baron @ Whiskybase: https://www.whiskybase.com/whiskies/bottler/92487/the-barrel-baron
*** All images used with permisson. They originally appeared on
Marcel’s and The Barrel Baron’s Facebook pages. ***