Last summer, I went on a field trip together with my wife Dini and my brothers Flo and Martin. Our destination: Klein Amerika Distillery in the Netherlands (located just a few kilometres behind the Dutch-German border). There, we had a super-nice meeting with the founders of the small farm distillery, Robert and Benny. They told us how they got started, what gear and ingredients they used, which production methods they applied, and lots of other interesting things.
Since their product, which goes by the name of Zevendal Single Malt Whisky, has yet to come of age, we did not try a fully matured malt that day. Yet, we were offered generous portions of Klein Amerika’s new make – both unpeated and peated. I remember that I liked them both a lot. However, as time passed, the details faded from my mind. Luckily, I recently got the chance to refresh my memory. Cause one fine day in December, Robert and Benny wrote me a message on Instagram, asking for my address. As it turned out, they had a little surprise for me. And a short while later, a beautiful tasting box found its way into my mailbox! It included Klein Amerika’s unpeated and peated new makes as well as a one-year-old cask sample and three alternate spirits (Grappa, Bierbrand, Pot Still Whisky).
In this article, I will focus on the two base spirits for Klein Amerika’s single malt whiskies. They are both being made on the distillery’s busy Arnold Holstein still with barley provided by Castle Malting in Belgium and string yeast coming from Fermentis in France. The water originates from the well on the farm distillery’s premises. Whereas the first distillation run is similar for both, Robert and Benny do things differently in the second run: There, the middle cut is shorter for the unpeated new make and longer (and thus including more feints) for the peated new make. After spending some quality time with these weighty, punchy, and characterful distillates, I must say: I am now awaiting Klein Amerika’s first whisky release with even bigger anticipation!
Zenvendal Whisky New Make – Unpeated
(Unmatured spirit • The Netherlands • 65 per cent • Double distilled)
When I sniff the unpeated version of Klein Amerika Distillery’s yet-to-be-matured malt spirit, I register a sturdy and dry distillate that is heavy on grain and crop. After a short while, a lemon curd freshness unfolds. It paves the way for more spritzy fruit notes: crunchy rhubarb, unripe kiwi, lime peel. Underneath, there lies a thick layer of creamy white choc mousse and chewy toffee sauce. In the mouth, I get a nice mix of puffed rice and milk chocolate. Plus soft pastry and yellow fruits. Without being mellowed down by the years, the high ABV of 65 per cent puts the oral cavity aflame in a good, invigorating way. Once the burn has dissolved, the spirit culminates in an expressive finale. The key notes in the finish are unsweetened porridge, brandied raisins, grated lemons, and mushy cake with lotsa cocoa powder and lemon icing spread over it. I am really looking forward to learn what this good, strong spirit will taste like when it got at least three years of rest …
Zenvendal Whisky New Make – Unpeated
(Unmatured spirit • The Netherlands • 63.5 per cent • Double distilled)
In the nostrils, the smoke (35ppm) feels damp and earthy; somewhat mezcal-like. It appears together with pronounced notes of grain, hay, zest, and spritz. In the mouth, the peat whiff mingles with thick nougat paste and crumbly butter cookies. There is also an assortment of fruits (some dried, some pureed). I find the electrifying burn to be milder here than in unpeated new make – maybe that’s because of the slightly lower ABV; or it is because I drank the unpeated new make first, so my mouth already got more accustomed to the strong alcohol. (The latter explanation seems most likely to me.) The aftertaste has vapors and nuts mixed with lemons and berries. Plus a slightly bitter gobstopper note and a spoonful of icing sugar. This – again – is a highly intriguing distillate with some kind of a Campbeltown edge and lots of big, bold aromas. I am sure it will do mighty fine in the cask!
Zevendal New Make “Unpeated” (Unmatured spirit / The Netherlands / 65% / Double distilled)
Zevendal New Make “Peated” (Unmatured spirit / The Netherlands / 63.5% / Double distilled)
*** Samples kindly provided by Klein Amerika Distillery. Thank you. ***