Distillery Visit - Bossche Stokers (NL-BOS)

Published on 1 December 2022 at 16:20

A tiny, innovative distillery with unique stills 


Folder Code: NL-BOS, no.078


Gert-Jan welcomed me into a maze of old industrial facilities - the Mengfabriek , right on the Dieze in the heart of Den Bosch. Though hidden away from the historic town centre, Bossche Stokers is still very easily accessible from the train station, which itself is one of the best connected in the Netherlands.


That said, Bossche Stokers is not a big operation with a visitor center for tourists. The two distillers work in a single room where bottles and barrels line every shelf , running the stills on weekends and evenings.


They were kind enough to immediately throw a dram to me and my partner Laura - a dram of their whiskey soon to be released under the DukeTown Spirit label. All other barrels are reserved for fellow Boschenaar Jop Boer and his independent bottling label, 3006 Whiskey . The Duketown spirit label was created in collaboration with a local brewery, who provided an initial batch for a beer brandy produced at Bossche Stokers.



Name : Duketown / 3006 N/A (not released yet)

Age : ~3.5YO

Distillation : Double - Custom 80L stills - shell and tube

Maturation : Re-charred white oak PC and PX sherry



Though not quite cask strength, the sample I was greeted with was in the 50s% ABV, and very rich for such a young whisky. Though little over 3 years old, it was stored in a small cask (octave, I think) in a hot room. It aged quickly, but the spirity nose wasn't harsh at all on the palate. 

Better still, it didn't produce that jarring disconnect between very young spirit and a hurriedly infused cask flavor that you get with some very young whiskies. Rich, fiery, dark-sugar flavors from Palo Cortado- and PX-seasoned, white oak. The oak came from ex-bourbon barrels, but it had been re-coopered, shaved and re-charred before seasoning.


Perhaps the single most unique feature of Bossche Stokers is their stills! They made their own stills, starting with a baby still of only 10L: 'The Minion'. Now they use a row of five 80L stills , funded by selling the copper used for prototypes.

They look like copper eggs with only a tiny pipe coming out of the top and doing an instant 180 bend down: some lyne arm! The condenser is only a few mm of water running around the outside of this pipe. So its a shell and tube condenser… but with only one tube! 

I would have thought this would all mean low copper contact, low reflux, and a heavy distillate. But no - the spirit isn't harsh at all ! It helps that for some spirits, Stokers can attach a column full of copper baffles and wool, allowing for further reflux. Apparently this is only done for sugar ferments, eg, to make vodka, not whisky.


Tasting a dram of Bossche Stokers whisky
Tasting a dram of Bossche Stokers whisky


Bossche Stokers also make a series of liqueurs too. They're fun, but still made with clear care and thought:


Bossche Bol liqueur - If you don't know what a Bossche Bol is, look here. This has gone through some previous iterations (including one with local legends, the Jan de Groot bakery) and now offers a very thick, syrupy chocolate liqueur

Arancello - With fresh orange-juice-squeezing machines being common in Dutch supermarkets, Bossche Stokers figured out how to ferment and distil some of the orange by-products left over. The result is a straightforward but warm and pleasant orange alternative to limoncello!

Limoncello - What makes this unique is that the alcohol involved comes from sugar fermentation, but the notoriously sweet liqueur is sweetened with xylitol to make is safe for diabetics. A kick of extra lemon juice at the end, and Bossche Stokers have made some great limoncello which, unlike some, isn't over-sweet.

Jenever - Stokers make two varieties of lightly aged jenever - Jonske and Meske, slang terms for 'boy' and 'girl'. They make for easy drinking, and are (as the names suggest) on the lighter end of the herbal, juniper-scented jenever spectrum.

Dinand's Noten - A walnut spirit with honey, very sweet at first but mellowing out to a nice flavour. IMO, it'd make a very good soaking syrup for a cake. They only made this liqueur thanks to the help of Dinand's walnut trees and his grandfather, who enjoys shelling enormous quantities of walnuts as a hobby!

Kapotski - a sweet vodka flavored with mango, watermelon, strawberry, and chili. Sold to local clubs and very popular!


Here's the real controversial kicker - “ Dutch Single Malt” 


This isn't whisky. It's fermented and distilled like one, but rather than being aged >3 years, this spirit undergoes an accelerated aging process. Heat and woodchips (from local Brabantse oak , not cheap offcuts!) seasoned with sherry produce this finished spirit within a month .

So - it's called “Dutch Single Malt” because it is made at a single distillery, and it is a malt liquor, but it isn't whisky. Heresy, or innovation? For me, the name is cheeky to the point of being a bit misleading: someone is going to mistakenly buy this, honestly believing it is whisky.


That said, I don't think it's a bad product , or a bad idea to make it. American distillers have already worked on this kind of thing, and so long as it has a status recognized as distinct from whiskey , why not have it as an option? It's never going to supplant the place held by true whisky. 


How does it taste? It's very light, with an almost sawdust-y wood flavour, no doubt from the end-grain of all the woodchips. That might sound like a bad thing - and I wouldn't celebrate that in a true whiskey - but it's easy drinking and available very cheap. Also, given the use of local oak, tasting the wood in a more 'raw' way might actually be a good thing. 


What do you think?

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