Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae… Belgians like to repeat the fact that Julius Caesar once named us the bravest of all Gauls. We tend to forget that he really meant we were the furthest away from civilisation.
Even Highland Park now honours us with this Gallia Belgica, a 2007 single cask exclusive to Belgium. Like the ‘Belgian Vikings’ bottling a couple of years ago, they selected a refill sherry cask.
Highland Park 12 yo 2007 ‘Gallia Belgica’ (63,5%, OB for Belgium 2020, refill sherry puncheon #5430, 621 btl.)
Nose: quite spirity (high ABV, fairly subtle sherry character) which means it’s not very forthcoming. Damp earthy notes, lots of bready notes (rye) and subtle coal. Hessian cloth. Hints of ginger(bread) and linseed oil in the background, as well as some mossy touches and caramelized nuts. Water makes it slightly rounder and more aromatic.
Mouth: hot and peppery, with lots of pumpernickel and bitter chocolate with a pinch of salt. There’s a sooty layer underneath. Still quite earthy. Water makes it more accessible, but not necessarily easier. It brings out black coffee, roasted nuts, burnt sugar and sandalwood. A slightly stubborn dram, reluctant to open up.
Finish: medium length, earthy and bready, with oak spice.
Quite brave indeed. Better add water right away, and even then this needs some time to unfold. A lower ABV would have made this more enjoyable, would have yielded more bottles and made it cheaper, so why insist on 63%+? Fiddling with water helps, but I would have simply selected a richer, more civilised version. Around € 125, still available in a few places. There’s also a series of online masterclasses that you can join if you own a bottle.