Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Belgian Whiskey

As in the United States, there's craft whiskey distilling going on all over Europe these days, so I thought I'd try a few malts from Belgium.

Belgian Owl, 3 years old, bottled July 4, 2011, 46% abv ($80)

Belgian Owl is a 3 year old, bourbon cask aged single malt made by the Owl Distillery in GrĂ¢ce-Hollogne, Belgium. This has a strong juniper/gin nose.  The palate is much lighter with malt and hay.  The juniper from the nose comes in toward the end. The finish is peppery, spicy.  This is quite light without much in the way of malt character.  It's not terrible, and I sort of like the gin notes, but I certainly wouldn't buy a bottle of it.

Duvel Distilled 2013, 40% abv

Since I've been into distilled beer lately, and Belgium is famous for its beer, I thought I'd try a Belgian distilled beer.  Duvel beer is made by the Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Breendonk, Belgium.  To make Duvel Distilled, Duvel used the Filliers Distiller, known for its well regarded gin.  The Duvel Distilled (not called whiskey on the label) was aged for six years in bourbon and sherry oak and produced 5,000 bottles as well as some minis; it was only sold in Belgium. It's not clear if they used one of their regular beer recipes or made a special recipe for the distilled version.  From what I understand, the Duvel Distilled has somewhat of a cult following in Belgium and each release sells out very quickly.

The nose on this has a fruity beer note then a crisp white wine with some malt notes.  On the palate, it's very light without much character at all.  It's got a vague alcohol taste, but that's about it.  There aren't any hops or really any flavor.  It's hard to believe this was aged in six years unless it was in seventh fill barrels or something like that.  I guess this just goes to show that cult-like followings are not always based on quality.

Well, let's just say I'm not exactly enamored of my first tastes of Belgian whiskey.  Hopefully, they will keep working on it.

Big thanks to DB for these hard to find samples.


Justin said...

Sku, your notes on "Owl" were similar to my notes on Hellyers road whiskies out of Tasmania/Australia. Not bad, not great, extremely expensive. Hay notes, weak barrel influence.....some of these new comers to the whisky front definitely need more practice.

Mark said...

The regular Duvel is very lightly hopped, but fruity, sometimes almost tart (like the white whine character you mention), with a light spiciness that might be too delicate to survive the distillation/aging process. They do make a highly hopped version, but I'm guessing that was not used for this. One of the key components of Duvel is how effervescent and carbonated it is, which obviously wouldn't come through in a distilled version.

I really need to find me some distilled beer someday! Would love to try the beer and the distilled version together, just as an experiment.

sku said...

Mark, drinking the beer alongside would be great. I wasn't able to do it with this one, but I've done it with some of the Charbays and it's fascinating to see how the beer's flavors translate to the whiskey.

Bas said...

Sku , you should try the Goldlys whiskies from Filliers. I think the whisky from the Belgian Owl is a bit thin. And i tasted the Duvel also. Both not my cupatea. But i tasted the Goldlysses and those were great.

sku said...

I'll look out for it. Thanks.