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Introducing yourself | Master Distiller Marcel van Roessel
March 23, 2022
'I know from A to Z how to make whiskey'
With a ferocious beard, friendly eyes and a broad smile, Marcel van Roessel (50) pours coffee while a colleague brings a sausage roll. The Oisterwijker who has a collection of special whiskies at home is also at home at the Heische Hoeve in Loosbroek. Whisky is the common thread in his life. The Master Distiller watches over the wood-fired distillation boiler, from which a jet of distillate flows in a controlled manner. The rise of 'his' Bus Whisky, a distillate with a name and a story.
From Whisky Bus to Whisky Bus
"About thirty years ago I tried my first whisky, a Lagavulin, since then it has been whisky before and whisky after," he laughs. "The first glass I still didn't like, but after half an hour that changed and I tasted the beautiful aromas. From that time on, I started to immerse myself in it. I went to tastings and events. I was working in construction but due to back problems I had to sit at home. After that I worked for eight years as a supervisor at a recycling company helping people who were distant from the labor market. With the new Participation Act, I became redundant due to a merger/reclassification of the company. That's when I decided to change course. I took a liquor course, the course 'The Chemistry of Whiskey', and of course a social hygiene course." At the same time, he founded a site: whiskybus.co.uk.
In a second-hand transport van he made a whisky bar with which he passed events, company parties and networking drinks. The Whisky Bus indeed. "Around that time the Heische Hoeve had plans to build a new whisky distillery on Bus, a hamlet in Nistelrode. Bus Whisky. A neighbor was not happy about that and called me, thinking I would not agree with the name. Things turned out differently. I decided to call owner Dennis Hurkmans and that was immediately an animated conversation in which it was suggested to travel with my Whisky Bus to Loosbroek to launch the first batch when it came out. Some time later a friend alerted me to a vacancy 'Whisky distiller' at Bus Whisky. Marcel,' he said, 'you are whisky! Then everything fell into place. I responded immediately and invited myself for a cup of coffee. I was immediately enthusiastic about the product and the method, but also saw that there was still considerable potential for improvement. Actually, thanks to that neighbor's complaint, I have my dream job and a beautiful whiskey.
The experience must be complete
I know from A to Z how to make whisky, how to get a fruit aroma for example. There was already a whisky, my predecessor made it. I looked at it for a while and said: good start, but we are going to raise the level of ambition. The process has been refined, think of the making of the wort (the sugar water), that is the beginning of distilling in the right way mashing. The distilling process itself has also been improved. And," he laughs, "I would venture to say that the distillate has also improved as a result." Although the latter remains a guess. The whiskey the Master Distiller has created is still in the making. "It's in the barrel. And a lot is still happening in it. It's like a work of art. It gets better very slowly and there comes a time when it's finished. And that is again a matter of tasting. My nose is trained to pick out the aromas. Everything has to be right. The smell, the taste and the aftertaste. The experience has to be complete, everything has to be right and in perfect balance. And it works, we won a nice silver medal at the London Spirit Competition in early 2020 and again in 2021 with our sherry finish and that is no coincidence.
My ambition? To improve the whisky, that is my passion and that is possible at De Heische Hoeve and Bus Whisky where there is literally and figuratively all the space you need to work. We are of course proud of the silver medals, but I am going for gold," he says with a broad smile on his face. For that, there is work to be done. "I am not only Master Distiller but also do everything around it. They also leave the picking of the best barrels to me. That way I can really keep working on a beautiful whisky. I've made my hobby my job. And at home? There I started doing something else, there I now brew my own beer..."
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