In March 2013 we made a visit to the Villiers Grain Distillery in Deinze, Belgium. They were established around 1880 when Kamiel Filliers got a license for producing jenever in Bachte-Maria-Leerne in Belgium. At this moment the 5th generation of the family Filliers is still working there as grain distillers on basis of the old recipe from Kamiel Filliers.
At Filliers the jenever is put on oak barrels, ex bourbon from Clermont Spring, for 5 to 8 years. In the warehouses next to the distillery they are matured. The oldest spirit in the warehouses dates back to 1969. Also the Goldlys whisky is aging there in these oak barrels. The name for this whisky came from the River Lys, what means ‘Golden River’, which flows next to the warehouses. In 2006 they did a big renovation to the distillery and modernised it. New techniques, but still combined with the craftsmanship from 1880. In 2007 they did the release of the first ‘double distilled’ whisky on the Belgian market.
Filliers is one of the few producers of jenever that continues to distil its own malt wine. They do this in traditional copper stills. The malt wine is a semi-finished product that is made exclusively from the best grains; it also forms the basic ingredient for all jenevers.It is clear visiting the distillery is mostly for the production of Jenever and Gin. We got a good explanation on the process of the making of Jenever and the use of the Column and Alambiek stills. They have on site their own bottling plant for their different products. You see the similarity’s between the making of whisky and jenever. Jenever is a tripple distilled product here, and the whisky, double distillation.
They have a sort of laboratory in the middle of the distillery, for the development of their products. You see some equipment for the gin making also here. The tour guide told us that the production was running 4,5 days in the week at the moment, and they use their own water springs situated on the property. These get the water from a depth of approx. 60 meters. At the end of the tour we had a taste of some of the jenevers, and also the Goldlys whisky with the Pedro Ximenez finish. The jenevers from Filliers we did not like so much, we missed some depth here in the product. The Goldlys Owners Reserve we had tasted the day before at a shop in Sluis (NL) where we stayed. We found that one too malty, and did not make a strong impression to us. At the distillery we got a taste of the 1st fill Pedro Ximenez finish. This is a bit sweeter and we got some vanilla, wood flavour, citrus, and a bit creamy. But the long aftertaste, and some spices where they talk about, no, we did not found those. Again the malty, dry, aftertaste. But better definitely then the Owners Reserve. But still not something to take home…
We got the idea that the taste was a bit harsh, like new wood, and it went away too quickly, and with a drop op water, it was completely gone. Maybe this is something that just needs to be longer in the cask? We just do not know…. It is a 12 year old whisky, and can not find a time of the finish, but maybe time will make this product more filled with stronger flavours?