Cley may not sound very familiar to you, especially if you don’t live in the Netherlands. But the Rotterdam-based micro-distillery is clearly making progress and steadily gaining popularity. So it’s time to introduce you to what I think is one of the better distilleries in our country.

Founded by Paul den Dulk and Maria Neves, Cley saw the light of day in 2015 after they came into contact with the Old Dutch distilling tradition via a recipe from 1795. Very unusual, especially when you consider that this is a jenever recipe. Yet they persevered, and the recipe became the basis of all their products.

Meaning, for instance, that all whisky and gin are triple distilled. Initially, it was done in an old original Schiedam still (probably from 1950), but after a few years, they added a second pot still of 250 litres. So nowadays, the first two distillations are done in the new still, and then the old still is used for the 3rd distillation round.

Cley produces two types of whisky: single malt and malt & rye (a combination of malted barley and unmalted rye), both released at cask strength and as a standard edition. Also, both are made from local organic barley and undergo the same maturation process. First, they are matured in ex-bourbon barrels for three years before being finished in New American oak casks for at least six months.

However, that is not the case with this Cley Secret Islay, a special edition that wasn’t finished in virgin oak casks, but in an ex-Islay cask for 1.5 years. Which distillery this cask comes from is a secret, although I have heard rumours that this may have been a cask that previously held Kilchoman.

This Cley is bottled at 55% ABV.

Cley Secret Islay tasting notes:

Nose: oh this is nice! A lovely layer of peat mixed with creamy vanilla. Then it becomes slightly ashy. A hint of caramel fudge and acacia honey. Lemon sponge cake. Oranges. Followed by a fresh note of eucalyptus.

Taste: peat and a hint of ash here too. Vanilla custard. Lemons. Then agave. A herbal note, leaning towards rosemary. Later also some black pepper.

Finish: mid-long to long with lemons, honey and peat.

Very nicely done. And I think so far the best Cley for me. The peat cask seems to work very well with the Cley spirit. The nose is the best, but overall rather lovely.

Bottle provided by Cley