Ah, Leiden. This was the first place I ever visited in Europe and remains one of my favourites. Leiden is a charming Dutch city of just over 100,000 people about half way between Amsterdam and The Hague. It is rich in culture, canals and the love of whisky. There’s the annual ‘Whisky in Leiden’ event, and there’s the North End Pub, a must visit for whisky drinkers.
The pub’s whisky menu, which is actually a binder, is in itself a wonderful thing to peruse. The last page of the menu is a picture of whisky writer Michael Jackson sitting at the booth beside the doorway with a dram in his hand. And if that in and of itself wasn’t enough to lend credibility to the establishment, the SWA awarded the pub recognition of being one of the top whisky pubs in the world; the plaque announcing this hangs proudly above the door.
During my most recent visit however, I discovered another one of Leiden’s treasures, De Druiventuin. A magnificent shop in the north section of the city that claims to hold stock of 1800 malts! They offer samples, private bottlings, and a truly stunning selection of rare and unique bottlings. Plus, they love to chat about whisky. Again, finding this store was one of those things that you kick yourself for not know about; all this time it was right there waiting patiently for you.
Their stock is, it pains me to say, too large to do a price comparison that in any reasonable way would approximate thorough.
Some of what I saw was more or less in line with other shops in Europe, some was more expensive (the bottle of Yoichi 10 I just bought in Poland for 80 Euro was 99 Euro here) but what they do have is rotating discounts. While I was there they had marked down Octomore 6.1 to 95 € (VAT included in the price). Please, find me somewhere, anywhere, that one can get such a great bottle for this price! Or even at De Druiventuin’s regular price of 115 €, for that matter. If you’re reading this in the Netherlands, order a bottle on line. They will deliver and even taking into account the delivery charge of 8 €, I can’t possibly imagine anyone selling this remarkable and highly collectable bottle for a better price.
De Druiventuin’s line of 6 cl sample offerings were from some nice bottles too, a great way to test out a more expensive whisky before deciding to take the plunge to buy a bottle for drinking, or collecting, or both. I opted for a sample of Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask. A rich and rewarding dram that made me appreciate what Kavalan is offering and why they receive the accolades they do. The rich cherry and caramel notes would have made this dram a brilliant pairing with the right cigar.
To be fair, there is another apparently excellent whisky shop in Leiden, WhiskyDock.com (in English) that unfortunately I did not have the time to visit this trip. I promise to visit it next time I’m in Leiden.
Now go get that Octomore.