Millstone Oloroso Cask: The small distillery with a big taste

Four walls, a ceiling with an odd brown stain that may or may not be growing and a creaky wooden floor: this is where I spend all my time nowadays. 

It’s calming in some ways. I’ve been able to put up a few posters, organise a few photos of me and my partner, and arrange my bookshelf every single day before I get bored and rearrange it. I’ve taken up yoga and realised that my bones make interesting noises when I get up from my desk, but you know what else I have? 

Whisky and World Whisky Wednesday. 

Without these, I’d probably lose my mind – though I don’t think I need to start worrying until the stain starts talking to me. This week I dug into my samples once again and pulled up a wee Dutch drop, the Millstone Oloroso Cask from Zuidam Distillery in the Netherlands.

A family-owned (and run) distillery, Zuidam takes its name from founder Fred van Zuidam who first started the distillery in 1975. Originally envisioned as a small distillery producing very limited products, the original distillery was 300 square metres with a single small copper pot still and production line, before expanding in 1989 to double the size. While Fred van Zuidam may have envisioned something small these days, sons Patrick and Gilbert take care of everything with Patrick running the distillery and Gilbert handling the customer side of the business with a 3,600 square metres distillery with four copper stills, four production lines and over 1,000 barrels.

So, what goes into the Oloroso Cask? 

A single malt offering, the Oloroso Sherry is a more affordable version of the 12-year-old. The barley is milled by a Dutch windmill which is fun, not that you’ll taste it. Plus, it is matured exclusively in Oloroso Sherry casks, not the large size you’d be used to but rather in 250L casks that have been recomposed from larger casks. I’ve not been able to find a reliable age though everything is pointing towards a young whisky, between three and four years of age. Bottled at a nice 46% Abv(?), it’s a shame there’s little information regarding the whisky on their website – though, of course, we judge the whiskies by their taste rather than their story. 

Let’s dive in.


The nose is rich and full of character, hot leather and a scrape of shoe polish coming through with intense red fruits and a dollop of raspberry coulis. After that, it turns to heavy raisins and dark chocolate, with blue and blackberries, some roasted coffee and crushed parma violet sweets.  After that, roasted plums and some heavy strawberry jam spread across some wonderful sourdough toast. It is joined by a nice glass of cherry brandy and a bowl of macadamia nuts, before moving into a great spice bag of cinnamon, Chinese five-spice and nutmeg all mixed through with some brown sugar before a slice of rhubarb pie and a hint of clove rock.

The palate holds a good sweetness, with fruit rollups and candied raspberries all roasted with a topping of brown sugar to get them all smooth and glassy. Its followed by a hint of musk and that strawberry jam coming back. The darker fruits of the nose have dropped off and the red fruits come out as red apple slices and nectarines come through. There’s a nice bite of raisin toast coming in, as well as some pipe tobacco soaked in sweet sherry and cabernet before that sweetness hints again full fold with brown sugar, chocolate mousse and crème Brulee, everything hit with a chef’s torch to bring out that extra bit of taste.

The finish is nice and long, falling off gradually as we get bites of treacle and Christmas cake with lumps of fruits, low wood smoke and a dusting of cinnamon sugar.

I wasn’t expecting that much from a young dram, and while I’m normally not one for sherry casks this was very well balanced with plenty of complexity. 

The only problem seems to be availablility with full-sized bottles few and far between – though I managed to get the small sample bottles. It is small distilleries such as this that I like to focus on during my Wednesdays and, while the current crisis affecting everyone is tough on distilleries, it’s hitting the small guys even more. If you want to help, head to the websites of these small distilleries and see where you can purchase from.

Dozens of countries around the world are producing whisky and if you’re in a country that I’ve covered during my World Whisky Wednesday and purchasing a bottle, do consider purchasing from these little guys. They need all the help they can nowadays and make cracking drams for us all to enjoy. 

Slainte all, stay home, stay safe and enjoy a glass of whisky.

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