donderdag 15 september 2022

Spirits from the garden of Eden

A couple of weeks ago, while attending our local spirits festival, I got in touch with Jeroen Aerts, owner and master distiller at “Het Aerts Paradijs” (which translates more or less as “Garden of Eden”). After the festival, I made an appointment to visit the distillery, a less-than-7-minutes-drive from my office. 

In 2014 Jos Aerts (Jeroen’s father) started a small craft beer brewery in a refurbished stable, located in the back of his (huge!) garden. Jeroen was helping out with the brewing, but as he was more interested in the distilling process, he finished a distilling course at Syntra PXL

In 2019 the brewery had grown to the limits that Jeroen’s father, who still had another day job, could handle. That’s when he handed the brewery over to Jeroen, who decided to manage the brewery full-time. One of the first things he did, was adding a spirit still next to the beer brewing equipment. Today they produce and sell apple juice, several craft beers and a small range of spirits.

His very first distilled product was “Appelstook”, which is a young Calvados-style brandy, produced with a variety of apples from their orchards. This brandy is still very young. You get all the sours and fresh fruitiness of the apples, but in my opinion, the sweeter notes still need more time to develop. 

They also added two gins to their portfolio. They started with “Gloria”, a winter-style gin with apple, cinnamon, orange and star anise. New in the range is “Eden”, a summer-style gin with elderflower, lemon zest and lemon verbena.

The most interesting product in his warehouse… a barrel of whisky, distilled in April of this year. On the mash bill, a mix of light-peated and unpeated barley. This product is still ageing, we’re not allowed to call it "whisky" just yet. But I managed to get a sip from the ex-bourbon barrel and … wow, what a taste explosion. I’m very curious to taste this again when it’s fully matured. I sipped the new make spirit at cask strength (63%), but even the higher level of alcohol couldn’t mask the intense bouquet of flavours. Jeroen is certainly on the right track with this spirit. 

Jeroen’s ambition is to uplift his “Appelstook” into a commercially interesting product, and he is also keen to experiment with more varieties of whisky. In the next weeks, more barrels will be added to the warehouse. 

In the warehouse, I also detected a barrel with distilled beer from another local brewery (Koolputter). Because of COVID19-lockdowns, this was a barrel with outdated beer. Instead of just throwing it away, Jeroen decided to distil it and let the spirit age in a barrel. Is it any good? Still to be discovered in the future… 

Also very interesting: In collaboration with Beau Marais Winery, they will soon start producing a local Marc/Grappa. 

Lots of ambition in this former pig stable. I’m really curious to see where this leads in 5 or 10 years. This summer they organized a pop-up bar in the orchard, something they will probably repeat next year. Their products are always available at the brewery and in several local shops.

Disclaimer: All pictures and texts are copyrighted by Geert Conard and Esito Management & Communications unless stated otherwise in the article. While some items might have been gifted by the producer or distributor, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations.

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