Two new releases from The Duchess

Since Best of Wines in Bussum, The Netherlands, has been bottling whisky, they’ve not released a lot. As far as I know there have been only three bottlings prior to these. Three are in their Shieldmaidens range, and one was a private cask from Glenrothes.

They set the bar very high for themselves, as they should. The shop has made name for itself by being a very luxurious one, selling top end wines to all over the world. Since they’ve been getting a foothold in the world of whisky, it only makes sense to continue along those lines there too.

Luckily, Nils van Rijn, a fellow club member and all round good guy is in charge of the whisky division. He has a great nose and palate, so selecting casks shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

A little while ago I got an envelope with their two newest samples in it, one rum and one whisky. I’ve tasted them, and thought to review them here as well. After all, that’s why they sent me those samples in the first place…

Glenrothes 1996, 20 years old, Cask:10/1996, 52.8%, Shieldmaiden Lagertha

13804_bigThe third Shieldmaiden bottling is a bourbon cask matured Glenrothes, a curiosity in its own right. Compared to the previous release, the Ardbeg (Shieldmaiden Malin) it’s a very affordable whisky, clocking in at 100 euros. In the current climate this is a very fair price for a 20 year old single cask.

The nose starts with quite a lot of alcohol, but is also warm and shows hints of freshly sawn oak. Quite warm, with straw and slightly bitter hints of pear peels. Fresh bread. All in all a rather light nose. The palate is much more spicy with lots of oak. Rather sharp and dry with fresh oak, apples, pears and straw. Baked apple too. The finish is fruity again, with apple juice, apple and soft pear. Some red fruits too, and rather long.

A nice and unorthodox Glenrothes, that’s very much worth a taste. I can imagine this being a surprising whisky to a lot of Glenrothes fanatics, but in a very good way. Quite an interesting dram, that can handle a drop of water.


Bellevue 1998, 19 years old, Cask 22, 54.9%, The Duchess

13974_bigApart from the Rum bottle share I don’t really drink a lot of rum. If anything, that bottle share sort of killed my apetite to sink some money into trying more. I know there’s good stuff out there, and I do find it an appealing concept. However, there’s so much randomness out there, that I don’t think I know enough about it to make an educated guess to what I like and dislike.

Luckily, sometimes you get a sample and get to try something new nonetheless.

On the nose, this Bellevue rum from Guadeloupe shows a lot of sweet alcohol, very different to the whisky described above. It’s rather sugary with lots of dark oak. Oak in the tropical way. Sugarwater, with a hint of glue (in a good way), but showing lots of spices. Clove is the one I am getting mostly. The palate is sharp and dry, with fresh hard wood, very different to the whisky again. Sawdust, dryness, sweet with clove, pepper and a lot of complexity. A slight chemical hint that is restraint enough to make it more interesting. The finish is very warming with charcoal and bonfire notes, hardwood, sweet barbecue and spices.

Well, luckily I got to try this indeed. This is a better rum than any in that bottle share and really shows how interesting it can be, as a category. A highly recommended drink if you’re looking to diversify and still have a very complex, cask strength drink at hand. Unless you don’t like spices that is. There’s a lot of that going on.


Concluding, I can say that they’re on a roll here. If they keep up this level of cask selection they’re going to be an important bottler and one to keep an eye on. Both the whisky and the rum are very good and very interesting. What’s not a given these days is that both the rum and whisky are also very attractively priced at 100 euros each.

Oh, and not unimportant, both are available at the time of writing.

Thanks to Best of Wines for the samples!


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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