The train to Kortemark was an hour and a half slightly North, very East, ride from the central train station here in Brussels. Stops were mostly in small towns besides Gent, and we saw fields and fields of grazing cows and growing vegetables. A downpour also ensued, something that hasn’t been so commonplace this Spring in Belgium. Again I found myself, as I did just the previous weekend, wondering where the hell I was going. I questioned myself, checked the train schedule over and over the days before, and maps many times to be sure I wouldn’t get off the train in the middle of nowhere, where I wouldn’t find what I came looking for, whisky, and have to maybe wait til the next day to find another train ride back home. I was once again hunting for whisky out in the middle of nowhere, Belgium.
What did I find? I found Marc Vandenberghe, The Glenrothes Official Belgian Ambassador! Marc and his warm, hospitable wife Christine’s café and Wijnhuis St.Antonius, “The Famous Whiskyshop in Werken,” offers a selection of whisky mostly devoted to distillery bottlings, (as opposed to independent bottlers), which doesn’t seem the norm here in Belgium. As just mentioned, I also found a plethora of original bottlings from that almost mysterious distillery in Speyside, The Glenrothes. Those bottles are specially and oddly shaped, not conforming to the norm, or changing with the season of marketing agencies deeming it’s time for a new look. And what’s inside those bottles, well, is not just whisky aged in ex-bourbon barrels as I was unfortunately misled last year. The Glenrothes offers so much more.
The Glenrothes ages in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, both American and European oak, and mainly bottling vintages when deemed mature and ready for us to enjoy. Age statements, the distillery feels, don’t tell you about what’s in their unique bottles, thus the whisky is bottled when ready. Vintages can be purposefully released out of sequence, and give the taster the opportunity to taste a variety of intended, understood and appreciated characteristics and charms from this distillery. Honey, vanilla, coconut, citrus fruits, ripe fruits, dried fruits, milk chcolate, are but a few. Again, depending on which casks held the ageing spirit, will you find those noted aromas and flavors.
I’m enjoying these trips out of Brussels! I’m finding what I’m looking for, and meeting some really nice people too. The amazement as to what I’m finding is starting to not surprise me any longer. It’s just that I expect to get certain things from a city: a vast whisky selection, headed by afficionados with a real passion for what they do, but I’m finding it’s not always the case. These special people are found all over, especially out in the middle of nowhere, Belgium.