Wednesday, April 29, 2015

04/07 - 04/11 - Tour de Belgium, Part 1 of 3


5 days, 10 breweries, at least 9 historic spots and memorials, 2 Casa del Habanos, a few cigars and meeting some friends. That's the brief resumee of my recent trip to Belgium. A nice trip, especially with the new car. Originally I planned to make one report about this trip but due to the fact that I saw a lot, have tons of pictures and a lot to write I split it in three parts. The first part is about the first day.

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The "suitcase" was packed quickly...

I started my trip on Monday evening and made an additional stop in a hotel in Thionville, close to the border of Belgium. This made it a bit more relaxed in the next morning to reach my first stop in Belgium within my scheduled time frame: the brewery of the Trappist Cistercian monastery Orval. Orval is among my favorite Belgian beers, therefore it's obvious for me to make a stop there. I only took a small sample from the tap as I had to continue my drive to another Trappist monastery, Chimay. But I bought some bottles of their beer and also some of their well-known Trappist cheese.

On the way to Orval

Abbaye Orval

Abbaye Orval

The way to Chimay also led me to some of the many war memorials that you can find in Belgium, the first of those I drove by was a small French cemetery from WWI.

French war cemetery

A little bit later I reached the Mardasson Memorial which honors the memory of the 76890 American soldiers who were wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. The complex is designed as a pentagram with a height of 12 metres (39 ft) and a side length of 31 metres (102 ft), centered by a circular atrium with a diameter of 20 metres (66 ft). While the inner walls are covered with ten paintings from the battle, the outer crown is engraved with the names of the 50 U.S. States, and the insignia of most participating battalions are shown on the walls. There's a Latin inscription on the memorial stone in the centre of the memorial:

Memorial Stone at the Mardasson Memorial

   LIBERATORIBVS
   AMERICANIS
   POPVLVS BELGICVS
   MEMOR
   IV.VII.MCMXLVI.

which translates to "The Belgian people remember their American liberators – 4th July 1946."

Mardasson Memorial

Mardasson Memorial

I also made a stop in Recogne-Bastogne where is a German soldier graveyard with 6807 Wehrmacht soldiers who died there in WWII. It's really a depressing feeling to walk around this graveyard and see on the stones the dates. Most of them died in December 1944 when the war was more or less over and it was also obvious that it was lost and the age of many of them is 16, 17, 18 years... they were still kids... too young for that silly war, too young to die.

German war cemetery Recogne-Bastogne

German war cemetery Recogne-Bastogne

German war cemetery Recogne-Bastogne

The next stop on the long bucket list is Abbey Notre-Dame-de-Saint-Rémy where the famous Rochefort beer is brewed. Rochefort is a private brewery (and closed for public) as usually all the other Trappist breweries but one of the workers (not a monk) was kind enough to let me in and also gave me the permission to take some photos, a very nice gesture. At moment when I took the pic in the brewhouse they just had the Rochefort 8 in the making... I picked up some nice bottles of that fantastic beer in a local shop just around the corner.

Trappist brewery Rochefort

Trappist brewery Rochefort

I also strolled a little bit through the streets of the old village of Chimay, along the castle and the narrow streets before I started for the last part of this day's trip.

Castle Chimay

Castle Chimay

In the streets of Chimay

After all that stops I arrived in the early afternoon at my final destination for that day: Chimay. Ok, it's only the name of the beer, the abbey itself – founded by this renowned community of Trappists – is actually called Scourmont Abbey. It's been founded by seventeen monks from Westvleteren on a plot of land donated by local Prince Joseph de Chimay.

I first visited the grounds of the abbey - no chance to have a glance at the brewery - and their local graveyard, after that I drove just around the corner to the Espace Chimay where I stayed the night.

The weather was picture perfect, after that last onset of winter that we'd on the weekend before, so I took the chance for a tasting panel of beer - Gold, Rouge, Blonde and Bleue - and cheese, consisting of Chimay Grand Classique, Chimay Grand Cru, A la Chimay Rouge, and Vieux Chimay. The beer was as good as I'd it in mind and I went ahead with some more Bleue during my stay, fresh from the tap. The cheese was ok but a touch too mild for my liking...

The cigars I smoked - a Hoyo de Monterrey Hoyo de Dieux from 1994 and a Sancho Panza Corona Gigantes from 1985 - went very well with the beer, a perfect combo at a nice location.

Scourmont Abbey

Espace Chimay

Beer tasting panel

Cheese tasting panel

Sancho Panza Gigantes from 1985 and Chimay Bleue

Originally it was planned to meet with Thierry, but unfortunately he'd to cancel his short trip to Chimay for job reasons. I'm sure we'll find another chance to meet again.

Here you can find the other reports of that trip:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

04/19 - Gigerwald


A nice spring day, a good chance for another hiking tour... no words needed, the pix speak for themselves.














Friday, April 17, 2015

Farewell big boy


This posting is about a sad day in our life. One of our cats, Don, had to be put down a bit more than a week ago after suffering from a kidney injury. Before I started my short trip to Belgium I spent a lot of time with him after the diagnosis, motivating him to eat and drink, taking care of him and I was sure that he'll be strong enough to fight it, supported by the medicine he got. But after I left, his total constitution dropped rapidly and Tanja had to make a very hard decision, he gave up, didn't eat and drink, the shine in his eyes was gone.

Don, you've been a very important part of our life for the last 16 years, moved with us to Switzerland and I'm sure you'd a good life. You left this world now and you left a big gap, we miss you a lot, the atmosphere at home is not as it was before.

You will be always in our minds and hearts, you are gone but not forgotten! I miss you so much, big boy!

03/01/1999 - 04/08/2015

Here are some pictures of good times, that's how I will keep you in my memory.










A candle for my big boy in the Chapel of Westvleteren, I still thought you'll win the fight!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Romeo y Julieta Celestiales Finos 1999


The wrapper of this discontinued cigar is colorado-colored, a bit coarse and matt, the cigar itself is very hard rolled. Not really a beauty.... You can still see the pressing that the cigars got in the box....

The first odors that came to my nose reminded me of walnuts and polished wood... there is still some more but I don't find a relation to put it down to words....

The first third starts with a tight draw which changed to a better after 1/2 inch. First flavors touching my palate are almond, brittle and also some hints of wood and leather.... The leathery component started very decent and got more and more intensive over the whole smoke with every puff.

The second third is characterized by some nutty flavors... they are more like walnut and hazelnut... leather coming up more and more.. also some fresh roasted coffee... interesting combination and interaction between the flavors...

The last third is definitely getting stronger: animal-like... leather, wood and pure tobacco. Intensive flavors and a very creamy smoke make it hard to put this cigar to the ashtray.

On the whole you can say that the cigar had an interesting progress over the time of the smoke (which was app. 80 minutes): starting slow with a tight draw, getting better and developing a thick and creamy smoke to end up in a terrific finale.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

03/27 - A whisky time travel


Call it coincidence or very good planning but the XII. Whiskytasting in the Griffins Business Lounge took place on International Whisky Day 2015... and we'd a very interesting line-up under the topic "Young & Old". In most cases those where young whiskys (beside the Ardbeg) but have been bottled more than 20 years ago, therefore they're already old:
  • Aberlour 12 yo. from the 70s
  • Glendronach 8 yo., 45.4 %, Ruffino Import from the 70s
  • Springbank 12 yo., red-brown ceramic jug from the 80s
  • Ardbeg 1974 - 1996, 22 yo., 40 %, G&M for Italy

This was the originally planned range but during our whisky dinner the week before Reto threw in the latest bottling of the Whiskyclub Regensburg aka slowdrink.de:
  • Russenschnaps, Vatting of 11 to 21 yo. sherry cask matured Islay Whisky (Lagavulin)

With all those whiskys being distilled in the 60 and/or 70s this tasting brings us back a few decades to the good ol' times. Let's see if they've really been better... at least for the whisky.

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Cigar-wise my recommendation for this tasting's an El Rey del Mundo or La Gloria Cubana. Urs took the choice and decided for the LGC MdO Nr. 2, an amazing cigar which perfectly matched with the whiskys.

The Aberlour was a good starter, everybody was surprised about the intensive flavor and the body of this whisky, delivered at "only" 43 % of alcohol... something that you'll find not very often nowadays with a 12yo. The style of the bottle is typical for the time when it's been filled in the 80s.

This first dram we also raised in the honor of Bill Miller from the SSMC, who's passed away about two weeks ago and our friend Hans who died totally unexpected last week. Wherever you are, this dram was for you, guys! Slàinte mhath!



The next in the row... an 8 yo. Glendronach... an outstanding fruit bomb! Surprisingly not too sweet, many expected it to be sweet after nosing it, but the mouthfeel was just fantastic and perfectly balanced. 8 yo.? Hard to believe that there was no overpowering alcohol or that typical young taste. A good balanced whisky... here you defnitely can say: the good ol' times...



Springbank, A name that stands for is own. Good quality whiskys in my personal opinion but in the range it was - at least for me - the weakest. Don't get me wrong, it's a really good whisky with a lot of pleasant sherry notes, dried and tropical fruits, bitter almonds and a decent touch of smoke... but the other were simply "better" in that specific range.



At the end, my personal highlight of the evening... a 22 yo. Ardbeg, distilled in 1974, bottled in 1996. A bottling for the Italian market by G&M with the special remark being "mellow matured", whatever this has to mean....

It's not overpowering peaty, it's like other Ardbegs I've tried from the 70s and it's a good touch of smoke paired with the maritime character and the typical citrus notes. Filigrane and elegant, simply amazing for me. Not all shared this opinion but it's good that personal preferences are different.

The cigar was excellent and while we'd this Ardbeg I reached the last third of the cigar. The combo was perfect and I really enjoyed it.



Officially my range was done but we still had the Russenschnaps, the sherried Lagavulin. Pour it in the glass and get the fist in the face! What a nose! Peat and sherry, as I said several times before: a match made in heaven!

Here are some of the notes which have been mentioned: peat, dried fruits, oak, tobacco, salt, charcoal, iodine, bacon, sweetness of sherry...

Imho a whisky with a very good value for the buck, well done slowdrink.de, you made again an amazing club bottling!

The conclusion of the evening for all of was unisono: for those specific whiskys it's absolutely correct to talk about the good ol' times. It should be very hard nowadays to find young whiskys which are well balanced like the Glendronach or even the Aberlour and Springbank. The Ardbeg is a class on it's own, for me the bottling from the last 10 years are many miles away from that quality we'd in our glasses on this evening...