In every aspect Gold Gin would be the perfect gin for a Bond villain. I mean take a look at that bottle, it utterly demands to be looked at, you can’t miss it, but at the same time you can’t read what’s on it. It’s complex and mysterious. Just like its origin story, listen to this:
“At the beginning of the 20th century, as excavation works were taking place in the Alsace region, a site containing antique valuables was found. Amongst them, there was a gold pot still. After these objects were proved not to have any historic value, they were put on sale.
One of the buyers was an amateur distiller, a man who immediately fell in love with the gold pot still and acquired it. This man had spent years of his life looking for the perfect spirit, the perfect distillation, an elixir as valuable as the material the golden pot still he had just bought was made of.
He finally created a gin with tangerine reminiscences and a delicate memory of vanilla and almonds. He named this special spirit Gold 999.9 as he considered it to be his liquid gold, the purest one.”
We don’t know about you, but our imagination runs wild when we read origin stories like that. Apparently the archaeological dig had stumbled upon the hidden stash of a local pharmacist who – due to the Franco-Prussian War – had put his valuables there out of fear of being looted by the Germans. Something terrible must have happened because the pharmacist obviously never returned to dig it back up again. Nevertheless all of these events culminated into Gold Gin.
The Belgian Finals of the Gold Gin Competition took place in the famous BarZar in Antwerp. Owner and head bartender Maxime Biot joined us in the jury together with Yannick from Njam. There were three finalists: Saif El Ouachem from Cocktail Dreams, Donald Simons from Black Smoke and Bruno Simons from BarZar.
We will not bore you with details and go straight to the results: Bruno won with an excellent Negroni style cocktail based on Gold Gin and Suze Aperitif. The drink fitted the bill perfectly! Honourable mentions go to Donald who made a very nice Gin Sour in which he added marjoram (that’s a herb). The herb did wonders with the gin. And let’s not forget Saif who made us an unusual cocktail made out of rocket salad…
Tom Bulleit introduced his 10 years old to Belgium and we don’t mean his grandson, we’re talking about his ‘Bulleit Bourbon 10 Years Old’. The place to be was Jord Althuizen’s grill tower, ‘Black Smoke’. Actually it was the grill tower’s rooftop, bathing in sunlight, were we spent a very pleasant afternoon, soaked in beer, bourbon and barbecue.
The Black Smoke rooftop is amazing and I don’t know if it was for the occasion, but the entire interior is drenched in Bulleit colours: orange, amber and of course, lots of wood. We were welcomed immediately with a Suffering Bastard – the drink, we mean, not Jord or Kasper – and some finger food.
The original ‘Suffering Bastard’ was invented by Joe Scialom in the Shepheard’s Hotel in Caïro in 1942 and was meant as a hangover cure. It contains a curious combination of gin and brandy, lime juice cordial, Angostura bitters and ginger ale. Depending on the size of your hangover he later also invented the ‘Dying Bastard’ (adding bourbon) and the ‘Dead Bastard’ (adding bourbon and white rum).
What we were drinking was a variation on the Suffering: Bulleit Bourbon, Tanqueray Gin, Angostura bitters, lime juice and maple syrup, topped up with ginger ale. Quite nice, no suffering at all.
After much hello-how-are-you, kissing and shaking hands we were invited to take a seat at the table. Our first dish was a beautiful home-smoked salmon accompanied by a Duvel beer. The main course was a delicious, very spicy brisket paired with a new beer of which I forgot the name. If this lunch was to continue on the same course I would definitely be needing a Suffering Bastard afterwards!
Next we got to taste the Bulleit Bourbon 10 Years. Tom Bulleit was his charming self, not going into a lot of detail, but basically just saying “Drink the stuff… and? D’you like it?”. Apparently some folks had had the brilliant idea to take him with them to the Nomads Music Festival in Amsterdam the day before and let’s say it made a lasting impression on him.
So we tasted. Well, it’s definitely Bulleit Bourbon and we’re happy for that. We like Bulleit Bourbon. But to be honest I actually didn’t taste much difference with the regular Bulleit. A bit rounder maybe and an extra touch of honey/vanilla. Maybe an extra 4 years of ageing to get it up to 10 isn’t enough? Or maybe it was the beer, the Bastard and the brisket speaking? Don’t get me wrong, it’s still yummy, but in the store, considering my wallet, I’d go for the regular Bulleit.
That being said we were being served an excellent Bulleit Old Fashioned paired with Jord’s signature desert dish “the Heartstopper”. You’ve got to eat this to believe this. It’s an eclair with a Bulleit Bourbon cream filling and salted caramel and chocolate on top.
What a beautiful afternoon it was. Also I had the pleasure to sit next to Nick Bril, Master Chef at the famous star restaurant: The Jane, who had just made a trip around the world for a television show, discovering new foods and dishes. Apparently when you order snake in some countries they put some blood, the heart and its brain as a side dish next to it. Not surprisingly it didn’t go down so well. Well, those are the risks of the trade of course, but imagine the sacrifice these people make to produce good food on your table and I mean Nick Bril of course, not the insane snake killers.
Black smoke, pieces of trees and lots of dead animals smouldering!
It sounds like the beginning of a war movie, but it's actually a brand new BBQ restaurant in Belgium. Situated in the old 'De Koninck' brewery, founders Kasper Stuart and Jord Althuizen couldn't have picked a better spot.
Black Smoke is the name and it's all about beef, beer and brimstone!
Read our review below.
Don’t call it a ‘family grill’ or they’ll smoke you! Hell, they smoke anything there! Whether it’s got hooves, wings or tentacles it ends up in the smoker, left there to smoulder for hours and hours until it melts on your tongue and whilst you are enjoying this most ultimate carnivorous ecstasy, they’ll put craft beer after craft beer under your nose. I’m in heaven, sheer beef bliss!
The Pyromantic Duo
As we said, they didn’t want a family grill, they wanted the true American BBQ experience with a Belgian twist. So they grabbed the proverbial beef by the horns and embarked upon a road trip to the States of no less than 4500 miles, visiting more than 42 of America’s best BBQ joints. Who are ‘they’, you say? Kasper Stuart is a well known rock ‘n’ roll horeca (short for hotel-restaurant and café) guru based in Antwerp who created an insane number of successful bars and restaurants in the city. Amongst them, The Dirty Rabbit, where Dries Botty is behind the stick. Next to Kasper stands the Sultan of Low and Slow, the Csar of Charcoal, the Emperor of Grill, the Grand Vizier of Smoke, the World Champion of BBQ’ing: Jord Althuizen. We thank this man’s pyromantic passion to his girlfriend, who happens to be American and took him to a small mountain village where he experienced his first American BBQ.
A grill too far
After 42 BBQ joints, you’ve probably seen one grill too many, I asked Kasper.
’42? After 10 I was craving for a salad!’ ‘I don’t know where he puts it, but Jord can eat like ten times his own body weight or something while I was running marathons trying to burn some calories!’
What impressed you back there?
‘Lots of things. The food and everything, but maybe more the people there and how passionate they are about bbq’ing!’ ‘You know there are places where people stand cueing the line from 06:00 AM to make sure they have a seat at 11:00!’
‘It was an epic ride. People were very friendly and openhearted, everywhere we went we could take a look at the kitchen, the grills and the smokers. Never a problem. And they’re very enthusiastic, we literally got stuffed with smoked meat.’
So after the trip Kasper and Jord took everything they learned back to Belgium and started to put together his dream team . The team is experienced and know one another very well. In the kitchen – aka the pit – stand the pitmasters: Vadim Vesters and Matthias Jacobs. They have two different styles of cooking: low & slow in the smokers and hot & fast on a custom Argentinian Parrilla grill. And the pit spews forth the loveliest dishes!
We started the day with grilled octopus served with fire roasted bell pepper hummus, Argentinian chimichurri en roasted quinoa. So you see it’s not always meat too and it tasted delicious.
Followed immediately by a bruschetta with Saint-Maurin goat cheese smoked on cherrywood with a micro salad and orange-apple-parsley dressing. A vegetarian dish and very tasty indeed. So it’s definitely not meat only, it’s meat focussed and even the vegetarian dishes are thought through. You know, it’s not just a portobello…
Next was the BBQ Bonanza. A large platter filled with, well…everything! Half a smoked chicken, full slab Memphis dry rub style ribs, a whole beer sausage, a royal serving of pulled pork and brisket. I had never heard of brisket before, in our language it’s called ‘puntborst’, and was very curious to taste it. Apparently it’s a kind of chest muscle of the cow and when standing almost the entire weight of the cow is weighing on this muscle. So it’s a very tough muscle, but with a particular taste. To dominate the brisket into tenderness the pit masters put in the smoker for no less than 18hrs! As I said before: sheer beef bliss!
The dessert was called The Heart Stopper. It’s an eclair filled with bourbon-creme suisse, glazed with dulce de leche and bacon-pecan nuts crumble.
We recommend Black Smoke as a must visit for anybody and rate it a whopping 4 skulls! Info on: www.blacksmoke.be
And with this final comment we leave you to your grill: