Sunday, March 23, 2008


Years back, pretty much the only whiskies I knew were some of the blends that were popular in my parent's house, J&B, William Lawsons and Old Smuggler. I also knew Glenfiddich, but it was not often that my parents got a bottle. Whisky was really of no interest to me. But something about that Glenfiddich being of higher quality for some reason had stuck in my mind, although I didn't really realize or care why.
Much later around my 18th year in life I and some friends pooled some money together to buy and enjoy a bottle of Glenfiddich. A night to remember. Although it was more the company than the whisky. A few years later still I had purchased a bottle of my own. I wasn't into whisky still, it was just something I liked drinking on occasion.
Fast forward again a few years, my girlfriend and me went to Ireland on a holiday, in the good company of a friend. We'd been visiting Irish pubs in Belgium and had discovered that those Irish made some good whiskey too. Our special attention went to Midleton Very Rare, it was really expensive in the pubs, my friend and I had both set our minds to buying a bottle in Ireland so we could enjoy it back home at a relatively cheaper price.
Ireland was a hit, and next year we went back. We carefully planned our route to pass Midleton distillery, which we intended to visit. I must admit that I went a little crazy in the distillery shop and bought no less than three bottles. A Jameson 15 year old, a Jameson 12 year old of the distillery reserve, and a Midleton Very Rare. Truly the whisky virus must have gotten me there and then, because I had just bought what would become the start of my collection. Back home I started to look out for whisky tastings. That was quite difficult back then, as there weren't that many as nowadays. But I managed to score one or two anyway. I had caught on to the blend/malt difference, and regularly bought malts in the supermarket.
In the mean time whisky popularity was rising and tastings became easier to find. My collection had already considerably grown, and I was now buying from specialized stores. I had already developed a fairly good idea of the taste range of whiskies in general. I loved them all. In the last few years a nearby drinks store has started organizing regular whisky tastings, and I try to attend all of them. As a result I have now tasted literally hundreds of different whiskies and own about a hundred myself.
I have now come to the point where I think of myself as a whisky connoisseur, one step beyond whisky enthusiast, but not a true whisky buff either.
Irish whisky will always have a place in my bar, and it pains me to see many people dismiss them so easily. I really love the true Lowland style whiskies, in fact one of the most amazing whiskies I've ever drunk was a 1981 St.Magdalene bottling by Gordon & MacPhail's. Islay also has a few of my favourites, but for me, nominating a favourite whisky is sheer impossible, because any choice I make, would only do injustice to all the others I really like.

So that's more or less how I became a whisky aficionado, what's your excuse ;)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Belgian Whisky II

Belgian whisky is booming! I recently tasted two more new Belgian whiskies. "Gouden Carolus" and "The Belgian Owl".

Gouden Carolus is made by a Belgian brewery. These guys distilled their malt beer and had the spirit mature for four years. Currently only available at the brewery itself, it is more of a rarity, and not a serious commercial product (yet). I tasted it, it was really interesting to find the character of their beer prominently in the product. My best guess is it is due to the type of yeast they use.

The Belgian Owl is made to resemble Scottish whisky. I've only tasted young cask samples, but they have a promising product. I'll make sure to get my hands on some of the resulting whisky and assess their progress.

So Belgium now has three whiskies. I guess the whisky hype isn't about to recede just yet.