We live in a fantastic time for whiskies. Not only are we experiencing a revival of the Irish whiskey industry, plenty of a-typical countries are starting to produce their own unique expressions. The cherry on the cake, however, is the growing interest in experimental maturations, with surprising whiskies as a result. Are you ready to explore the edges of experimental whisky? Time for Arran à la Belge!
Belgian Beer & Scottish Whisky
We, the Belgian people, have it all figured out. Beer, chocolates, waffles, being in the center of Europe, a rich history a lot of us get confused about,… Fantastic! However, few realize that this small country of ours is populated with people who dare to dream big, who take risks, who want to try something out simply because they are curious about the result.
The following is the result of 4 daring, innovative, downright bonker-esque people who had an idea: what if we combine something we love that isn’t typically Belgian (Scottish whisky) with something that we love that *is* typically Belgian (Cantillon cherry beer). Beer enthusiasts obviously know that Kriek Cantillon is sour lambic beer, brewed only in the vicinity of Brussels.
One experiment later, Arran à la Belge was born! In technical terms, these mystical wizards known as ‘Thistle’, ‘Gaga’, ‘Meug’, and Ken – who didn’t get a nickname – got their hands on a cask of Arran Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The Arran was matured for 12 years on re-fill bourbon casks, then finished in a Cantillon Kriek cask. Yes. There is only one!
The Experiment that is Meant to be Shared
The message on their packaging is clear: get together with friends, open up some cold Cantillon beers, then pass the Arran à la Belge around. Don’t mind if I do! I tasted this whisky one evening when I was sitting around our medieval encampment during the biggest larp event in the world, which took place last summer in Germany. Plenty of friends around!
The Cantillon influence is profoundly present when nosing this expression. At first, I thought I smelled wild cherries. After a while, the scent slightly shifted to the scent of canned cherries, the kind that you use when you make a traditional meatloaf dish in Flanders (‘Frikandon met kriekskes’). Foodpairing anyone?
Tasting the spirit, I get lovely layered sweets & sours of the Cantillon casks, followed by the liquid warming up and trickling down my throat. No wonder this expression has a kick to it, too, as this whisky is ABV 53%, cask strength.
Fancy a pairing?
First the cherry beer, then the whisky notes. This expression is the perfect when paired with a sour cherry beer on a hot afternoon. And when it gets a bit more chilly, out comes the Arran à la Belge. I wonder if it would go great with a ‘coupe cherries’, vanilla icecream with cherry syrup. Endless possibilities, limited access to bottles…
This is an experimental expression, which, simply by its nature, will divide whisky enthusiasts. I liked tasting an expression that is found on the edge of ‘done/not-done’. In combination with a cold Cantillon Kriek beer, this is a perfect example of a whisky you should simply try before you say anything about it. And do so with friends. It will boost the camaraderie, and that bottle will be passed around, no matter what!
At the moment, there is only one bottle left in their online shop, but the four wizards of whisky experiments have informed me that they are working on another experiment. Keep it secret! Keep it safe!
Photographs are © Gaga and © Emma Jarvis.
Bonus: doesn’t this make your mouth water?