Jopen Whisky

Three new Dutch whiskies

"Are you available upcoming Monday?"  A small text in my Whatsapp popped up.
Sender: Whisky friend Monique. "I'm invited for a whisky launch, how would you like to be my plus one?" I did not ask what whisky, I just responded with: " Let me check and clear my agenda!"
And that was how I ended up in Haarlem on a Monday, in the Jopenkerk,  for a launch of three new Dutch whiskies.
Now let me get to that first: Dutch Whisky. Yes. There are several Dutch brands of Whisky. (Remember the Torpedoed Tulip?) Some are very well known internationally, others act more on a local level. And, since whisky is getting more popular, we will see more whiskies popping up all over Europe. 
Now back to this one: Jopen Whisky.
Jopen is known for its specialty craft beers. That's how I knew them. And enjoyed them. (One of my all time favourites is the "Annie are you oak aged?"
And now,  after the launch of three new whiskies, I will know them for their whiskies!

Now, Jopen is not the first (craft) beer company to step into whisky.
Some brewers actually stopped being lazy and took their half-finished products and distilled it. Duvel did it, Gouden Carolus and even vandeStreek beers did it. (To name some Belgian/Dutch brands.)
Not all having a great success. Why? Because you might end up with something funky. A while ago I reviewed the American Dead Guy Whiskey. Made from one of their more popular ales, it is a fun drink, but I would not call it a whisky.
Same goes for some other beer-producing-turned-distiller brands.
It always seems to be a secondary product and therefore not getting the attention it deserves during producing it.

That's a little different with the new line-up by Jopen. Acquiring a micro distillery, they were able to give it focus. Being presented by Jopen CEO Michel Ordeman and distiller Rutger Vismans, I got a nice back story of how this whisky has come to be.
Not only is it not a beer whisky, with hops, but Rutger also focussed on several types of casks. Leading to a whole set of 5 year old whisky that forms a nice single malt.
More on the whisky itself later, but a quick sidestep to the facts I just mentioned:

1) Several types of casks were used. That is actually something I like to hear. It means this was not a random experiment by Jopen. An experiment, yes. But thought out and seriously approached, leading to some fun small batch whiskies.
2) 5 year old whisky. As I often see with whisky experiments from producers that normally produce something else (Like beer.), the whisky is being bottled as soon as it is  able to be called whisky. So after 3 years. Jopen made the choice to let it age a little further and create a more mature dram as a first whisky.

Jopen Single Malt

About 10 minutes before the first whisky was to be served, my train arrived with a 20 minute delay at Haarlem station (Thank you Dutch railways!). So a firm walk looking like a semi-jog made me arrive just in time.
Steaming just a little from my unexpected workout in wintercoat, I greeted Monique, got introduced to Rutger and smelled a whisky. Yes, I smelled something that I liked. And next to me popped up a tray with glasses, containing the first whisky of that evening, the Jopen Single Malt. (Actually a small batch whisky.)
Aged for 5 years and bottled at 46%, this whisky is a single malt consisting of whisky aged on new oak, ex-bourbon and a small part on Oloroso sherry casks.
Like I mentioned, I smelled it when walking in and taking my coat off. And now I had it in my hand. Almost immediately a pairing snack of  a soft red beet arrived.
The whisky left some thin legs in my glass after a twirl and has  a full golden color. (To be honest, I do not know if any coloring was added.)
On  the nose it is a very soft whisky, but still full of aromas. The new oak was something I got straight away, followed by a red fruity vanilla. On the following sniffs I got some spices and earthy notes, going towards the smell of spilled new make  in a dunnage warehouse.
The taste was very friendly and sweet, followed by some herbal spices on the back of the tongue. I got some hints of white pepper .
The finish is  medium long and maintains that soft pepper feeling.
Pairing it with the beet was spot on. The earthy flavors combined, giving the whisky more fruitiness.

Jopen Rye

Discussing the Single Malt with Monique and having a great time at the venue (The Jopenkerk is a place you have to visit when in Haarlem.), the second whisky arrived.
Again served with a pairing snack, in this case a 'Beeramisu'.
Now, I do like Rye and I was looking forward to this one.
Made with 100% rye, this whisky is also a small batch. Again new oak and ex-bourbon, but instead of Oloroso, this rye has a small part aged on Pedro Ximenez casks. This rye is also bottled at 46%.
First thing I noticed was almost no legs of circle sticking to my glass after a twirl. Thinking it might be the glass, I took a sniff. Not what I was expecting.
The first I got was something sweet&sour. Like those red sour candy rolls. Followed by some green apples. I was expecting something fuller, packing a punch on the nose.
Still on the nose, I decided to try the Beeramisu, which immediately had an effect on the next aromas coming from my glass. Strenghtened by the paring snack, I got something like spilled mocha latte on a wooden table, followed by the fuller rye notes I was looking for. The taste lagged a bit compared to the nose and is a bit more complicated. It is not wrong, nor not there, it is just not for me. Others around me however, had this one as their favourite. And I can understand that. The finish is short and had some of the green apple together with some mocha.

Jopen Peated

Still discussing the rye, I knew what was coming up. The Peated version.
Now, as my followers and regular readers might know: I'm not a big fan of peated whisky. But I seem to be returning on all my previous statements lately, and liking peated whisky more and more.
This whisky is one of those drams that make me keep trying peated whiskies.

Also bottled at 46%, this small batch was aged on Slovenian oak, ex-bourbon cask and again, a small part on Pedro Ximenez. The dram left some clear legs sticking to my glass and the first sniff made me salivate. This is one of those peated whiskies that is not too smokey. You know, those "I'm drinking from an ashtray" type of drams. This is different.
It has a lovely soft medicinal note, slightly going towards iodine and Hansaplast. Followed by sweet malts and laurel. Very slight hint of smoke.
The taste has some more sweeter notes, like burned sugar and molasse and some smoke cured ham on the back of your tongue.
The finish is one of those soft lingering ones, with some peat, caramel and dried fruits.
It is one of those whiskies I can sit down with and enjoy for a longer period of time.
My favourite of the whole lineup! 

Overall verdict

I think we can say we have a new brand on the market!
I liked the Single Malt, was not a big fan of the Rye and really liked the Peated. I think each will be able to get their own fanbase.
Yes, I can hear my fellow snobs: "Young whisky, first try, let's see if they can make it happen."
Well, I think it will stick.  I can see the work that has gone into this, the consultants advised, the matching and combining of casks.
And would it not be great, to have another Dutch brand on the market?
I do not know if it is the case, but I'm hoping for some further aged Single malts coming from Jopen in the future. Maybe a 8-12 year old Peated Single Malt? If I'm very lucky even a single cask? We will see. 

A word of thanks and maybe advice?

This launch was my first ever official whisky launch and I liked it. As mentioned before, the location is one you should visit and next time I'm in Haarlem, I will do so myself.
The whiskies are available (as of today, the day after the launch) at stores all around the Netherlands. (I'm not sure about International shipping, but you might try it  on the Jopen beer website.)

A special thanks goes to Monique, who was kind enough to think of me as a plus one and being my whisky friend.
And towards Michel and Rutger for their explanations and hospitality. With a special shout out to Michel for the BVO at the end of the evening.

That BVO gave me an idea: Could Jopen Distilling Co. advise their consumers on what Jopen beer to pair with the whiskies? As a perfect boilermaker combination?
I would look forward to those beer-whiskies pairings!