Braeckman Distillers in Oudenaarde (Belgium) have been producing genever since 1918. Three generations later, their flagship genever Blue Pigeon is still being made, as well as other products like gin, liqueurs and whisky. Braeckman opened a modern distillery in 1996.
We’re interested in their whisky production of course. They offer a Braeckman 10 Year Old single malt whisky as well as three single grain whiskies, made from a mix of (local) rye and malt: 10 Years, 10 Years Oloroso finish and 12 Years.
If you’d like to get to know their production, the Belgian drinks festival MEUG is organizing an online session with Braeckman whisky combined with some very old grain whiskies bottled by Douglas Laing.
Braeckman 10 yo ‘Single Barrel’ (46%, OB +/- 2019, single malt, first-fill bourbon barrel, 252 btl.)
Nose: yellow apples and plums, with plenty of dusty grains and plain malt, combined with fresh oak shavings. Some vanilla and yeasty notes, as well as a hint of marshmallow in the background. Very close to the raw materials.
Mouth: you wouldn’t tell this is a single malt. It’s quite rough and grainy, with yeasty notes and a raw alcoholic edge. In the aftertaste there’s white pepper, apple (pith) and mint, with more than a hint of rye spice.
Finish: medium, minty and peppery.
No off-notes but but not very interesting either. This is still closer to a Belgian genever in my opinion than to a real single malt (Scotch style I mean). Around € 75 for a 50cl bottle, which makes it an expensive curiosity.
Braeckman 10 yo ‘Single Barrel’ (46%, OB +/- 2019, single grain, first-fill bourbon barrel, 246 btl.)
Nose: compared to the single malt, this has a nice citrusy quality. Lemons, rose pepper, hints of unripe pears and some lightly floral touches. A soft vanilla theme underneath, with very light coconut. Somehow the oak feels less dominant here.
Mouth: weaker than the single malt. A bright citrus note again (lemon drops), with pepper and coconut, almond and plenty of grainy / grassy notes. Less obvious vanilla than in the malt version. Liquorice. The genever is never far away. Towards the end it becomes creamier.
Finish: not too long, with lemon and grains.
I like this better, somehow it feels more elegant and less wood-infused than the malt counterpart. Same (high) price. Score: 73/100
Braeckman 10 yo ‘Oloroso Sherry’ (60.5%, OB +/- 2019, single grain, 10 month Oloroso finish, cask #218, 916 btl.)
Nose: this proves the importance of a good cask. So much richer. Prunes, kirsch and nice toffee notes, hints of demerara sugar and baked bananas. A little mint and cinnamon. Wood polish. Almonds. Hints of armagnac. Totally next level.
Mouth: sweet and spicy. A lot of cinnamon and nutmeg, mixed with butterscotch. Gingerbread and hob nobs. Toasted wood and drops of coffee. A clean sherry cask which resulted in deep flavours. There’s a funny green note and a slight tannic note, but in terms of complexity and flavour this outclasses the other whiskies.
Finish: long, on molasses, toasted wood and oak spice. Too bad there’s also a metallic, alcoholic aftertaste.
Fun spirit, the nose is pretty great. On the palate it’s not an entirely classic outcome but we don’t mind. This is the direction I’d follow: sherry matured single grains are rare, and the outcome is really promising. Too bad it’s already € 100+ (50cl). Score: 83/100
Braeckman 12 yo ‘Single Barrel’ (66,1%, OB +/- 2019, single grain, cask strength)
Nose: a step up from the 10 Year Old single grain. It shows nice honey notes and peaches alongside (balanced) coconut and vanilla. Just a little toffee in the background. Also sweet almonds and hints of oak polish. It’s nicely rounded and balanced.
Mouth: very hot, with huge minty notes and a slight bitterness from the wood. Quite harsh. A few drops of water help but can’t take the rough edge away entirely. Lots of grainy notes, wood chips, white pepper, vanilla and almond sweetness.
Finish: medium, rounder now, with sweet cereals and peppery oak.
A big difference between the nose and the palate here. Playing around with water helps, but I don’t see much advantage in the higher strength and slightly higher age. Around € 85 for 50cl. Score: 76/100