On the brink of our latest adventure into Scotland, we decided to visit the youngest distillery in the Netherlands. In Deventer – one of the oldest Hanseatic cities in the Netherlands, the Wagging Finger distillery is put together with a lot of experimenting, love and passion, is already operational and bottling their first batch of Gin.
The distillery sprouted from the mind of Erik Molenaar, a well known and loved personality in the Dutch whisky scene. He has developed a large following of disciples around his successful high quality independent whisky bottling brand “Kintra”, named after the beautiful Kintra Farm on Scottish island of Islay, where Erik asked his wife Mirjam to marry him.
Having the dream of the independent bottling business grow into something successful, it was time for another dream. A new distillery, unlike the large corporate distilling companies selling marketing nonsense instead of a quality product. A new distillery, with products of their own, grains from local fields and a solid traditional Dutch foundation. A new distillery, wagging their finger at all those companies forgetting about their craft. A new distillery, paving their own path, exploring their own seas and learning from their own experiments, incidental mistakes and lucky brilliant results.
Erik found capital, took the plunge by quitting his job in March 2015 and started the Wagging Finger distillery from scratch. With finding a first temporary location for his distillery in a business park in Deventer, they have purchased their first (used, and rather intensively so) 150 litres still and necessary equipment from German stillmaker Carl. The still has received the name of Erik’s great-great-grandmother Willemijn, and is the stern portrait of the company’s image, always keeping her watchful eyes on the daily operations.
“Willemijn” was delivered in January 2016, and with some distilling training in the pocket, they started experimenting their first batches of gin. With the 150 litres per batch, they now receive a quantity of around 48 litres of 88% alcohol by volume, which is brought back to 44%, rested and married for three weeks, before being hand-bottled into the two-faced 70cl bottles. There is no need to be a rocket scientist to calculate that in less than three months after the first, highly experimental run of “Willemijn”, her first beautiful product is ready to go on the market.
Exercise #1, a small batch of only 1400 bottles, is a fact, exercise #2 is in the making and undoubtedly ready to leave its home soon. Because distilling small batches in the earliest stages of having a distillery is not an exact science (yet), the first batches will quite possibly differ between each other. To make sure the direction the traditionally progressive company is going is the right one, they will need the help from anyone they can. They love feedback on their facebook page and their (almost finished) website will get a tasting room button to leave comments and notes as well, so they can take anyone’s advice about their offspring to mind, and actually do something with the info we – the consumers, will give them. Even (especially?) when we think the product is crap (which it is not).
So… We have not yet talked about whisky.
Well, that is because there isn’t any yet. And what is more, they have not even started making it. The reason for that is quite simple, they have still to move from this temporary location to a new location at a former boiler house about one and a half kilometer away, which is currently under construction. Once this location is ready, a new 1500 litres still will be installed from where the malt will be distilled in small batches.
Meanwhile, to create revenue and experience, the distillery will keep making their batches of gin, experiment with aging, create a genever and a corenwyn, start milling and have a go at creating their own (neutral) spirit. The intention is to – eventually – do everything in-house, from grain to glass at their fully operational distillery somewhere in May(-ish) of 2017. Around this time, we will return to the distillery and inform you all about the next steps. Stay rebellious, keep doing the things we don’t expect, show the world you do have the guts to do what we (geeks) all dream about starting to do, continue on the path you have started at take some detours – or better yet, make them, and we are sure there truly will be glory at some point of your adventure, which will most likely be sooner than later.
More photos can be found on our Facebook page of our visit to the distillery