E-pistle 2007/052 – Olivier’s Travels; Les Trois Rois, Basel

By Olivier Humbrecht, France

Les Trois Rois Hotel-Restaurant, Basel – Macallan 30yo
December 2006, Switzerland (barely)

For me, Basel is an interesting place! We just need a 40 minute drive to really feel ‘abroad’. The whole family is always happy to go there: nice architecture in the old city, great shopping, lots of street activity (music,…) and a great whisky shop called Ullrich. It is located in the middle of the old town, it has a great selection of malts (about 600), all the big names, but also some more difficult to get bottlers like Adelphi… and also a fabulous range of wines, which is the heart of Ullrich’s activity. Ullrich is the one that created that interesting Whiskyship festival in Zurich which takes place in small ships on lake Zurich every November. He also organises a very interesting 3 days tasting of about 80 single malts end of November, not to be missed! There is also a nice selection of whiskies in one of the larger store, opposite the Markplatz, called Globus. Go to the basement, and you will find 150+ selections, all very interesting. There is also a bar there where they have 30+ bottles open, some very interesting ones including old Springbank versions. Swiss always liked Springbank, something with the name…

The Trois Rois Hotel is an imposing landmark building in the middle of Basel, bordering the Rhine river.
Margaret (my wife) and myself often walked by this establishment and were a little bit scared of its imposing allure, old fashioned service and scary Swiss guards like dressed staff. One day, a heavy rainfall pushed everyone into all the tea rooms and cafes around town. In desperation we ended up in the Trois Rois Hotel. The bar was warm and welcoming, with deep comfortable leather armchairs, big dark wood panelling and a big roaring fire. The waiter asked us if we wanted lunch (it was 1PM). We hadn’t planned it, but the lace look so welcoming once you were in it that we agreed. There are two restaurants: a formal one with a big menu, more for the evening and jackets are required, and a less formal one, ideal for lunch. Both of them have nice views over the river and benefit from the same kitchen. Lunch was classic: salmon/tuna tartare and Wiener Schnitzels (Breaded Veal) but really delicious. At the end of the meal the waiter asked me if I wanted a digestive, I said yes, he took us back to the huge bar and showed me the list. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it.

My budget didn’t allow me for a dram of Black Bowmore, so I settled for a more conventional Macallan 30yo (40%, OB, Sherry cask, Blue Label) served in a beautiful crystal glass with Scottish water on the side. I started to like this place quite a lot, and there was enough nice shop windows around the hotel to keep Margaret happy so I had plenty of time to enjoy this wonderful dram. The colour is deep amber and the nose is an explosion of sweet fruit cake, raisins, toffee, vanilla, buttered rich biscuits, in short, a great sherry nose! The first sip was soft, round, quite powerful and again showed all those delicious sherry flavours one should expect in a good Mac!

I started to feel like Winston Churchill, sitting in this ‘out of the time’ place. The second taste revealed more leathery, citrus, baked oranges, cinnamon, spices aromas. The overall power and length surprised me. Perhaps after a meal one’s palate is more acute and receptive… or nore probably, 40% must have been very closed to cask strength, as there was lots of sherry here.
This whisky went on and on, no wood tannins, all soft… a well deserved 93 points for me.

I think that I would have fallen asleep watching winter outside if the waiter hadn’t awoken me with the bill…