Wednesday, 23 October 2013

French Whisky TT

Last week we received our first lesson towards our education in French Whisky from Whisky Blogger Franck Debernardi who writes the La Cave de Cobalt blog. Yes it's all in French but haven't you heard of Google translate - does it all automatically for you if you want!

Five very different drams were sent to us and a number whisky friends across the globe to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Franck's blog. All five were tasted blind, so guesses were wildly entertaining with points only scored for country of origin!

With just my 2013 edition of Malt Whisky Yearbook in front of me listing just four French Distilleries I I thought I was in with a chance of guessing at least one distillery correctly. Unfortunately a few more distilleries existed that weren't listed, the current edition of the Yearbook was winging it's way to me at the time, and that now lists seventeen!

So have you tried any French whiskies?  On my last trip to France I asked in every bar or restaurant if they had any French Whisky, but was unsuccessful. Next time I'll try harder, but have you tried any of these?

Whisky Discovery #593

G.Rozelieures Rare Collection NAS (40% abv)
French Single Malt Whisky
circa €44.50 Euros 70cl
Whisky Discovery French Whisky
Our first foray into French whisky came from the Distillerie Grallet Dupic Rozelieures Lorraine. The distillery was founded in 1860 but has only been distilling whisky since 2007, and unfortunately was not one of the distilleries listed in the 2013 yearbook.

From the 2014 edition of Malt Whisky Yearbook I have learnt that Hubert Grallet had been distilling cherry plums for many years when his daughter married a barley farmer, Christophe Dupic. The story goes that following a 'dare' put forward during a well-oiled dinner, they decided to try and make whisky, launching the Glen Rozelieures brand in 2007, and changing it to G.Rozelieures after being given a 'stiff talking to' by the Scotch Whisky Association.

There are currently two core expressions in their range, one aged in sherry casks, the other being lightly peated and aged in Sauternes casks, however our first dram of the evening was something a little special from their limited edition, Rare Collection, matured in a mixture of Sherry, Cognac and Sauternes casks, and bottled at 40% abv and came un-chillfiltered 

Franck tells me that this is still available at La Maison de la Mirabelle and this link will take you there It was last listed at €44,50

So What Did We Think?
Dave: The nose gave malty plums and sweet red grapes and honey with the slightest whisper of charcoal smoke behind. I also picked up a slight silage note, grassy, but on the turn.

This was very soft and gentle on the palate, with quite a thin mouth feel, I guess that was the low abv. It cane across as quite malty with wood flavours and a soft sweetness of thin honey seems to get richer with time. There's a lovely sweet smokiness at the end, with charcoal or  aheavily charred cask note and has a short malty finish

Verdict: A very pleasant introduction to French whisky; soft, sweet and with a touch of smoke too

Kat's notes will follow in due course, she was suffering from a mild form of 'manflu' at the time and was unable to use her beautiful nose for this event.

I also 'lost' all of the other tweets, so cannot tell you what the others thought as I would ordinarily (a case of the bum on the machine as opposed to the machine on the bum)

Whisky Discovery #594

Armorik Double Maturation (46% abv)
French Single Malt Whisky
€45:00  70cl
Whisky Discovery French Whisky
Our second dram came from a distillery I had heard of, in fact even saw them at the recent Whisky Exchange Whisky Show the previous weekend, and although were on my list to visit, I ran out of time.

The Warenghem Distillery is located on the outskirts of Lannion in Brittany and although originally founded in 1900, has only been producing whisky since 1984.

The single malt core range consists of two expressions; Armorik Edition Original and Armorik Sherry finish, both being around four years old and bottled at 40% abv. However another special release was selected for Franck's third birthday tasting by way of this Armorik Double Maturation, which is a 7 Year Old and has spent time maturing in both new Breton oak and finished in sherry casks, and bottled, un-chillfitered at 46%

For more information about the Warenghem Distillery check out their website here: And this bottle is available for €45:00 from their on-line shop here:

So What Did We Think?
Dave: This was much more aggressive on the nose than the previous dram. Malty with wood spices, sharp ginger with raw cooking apples, vanilla toffee behind a sour wine/sherry vinegar note. After a little while in the glass I started to find some linseed putty notes.

On the palate, malted orchard fruits was my first impression, over-ripe apples and pears. The wood spices build with ginger and black pepper and finishes with a sherbet and black tea, drying the mouth as the wood tannins come forth.

Verdict: An impressive punchy fruity dram, at 46% abv this seems to be bottled at the right strength

Whisky Discovery #595

Armorik Millésime 2002 (56.3% abv)
French Single Malt Whisky
circa €80.00 Euros 70cl
Whisky Discovery French Whisky
A second expression from Armorik from the Warenghem Distillery was our third blind dram, and another special release. Armorik Millésime 2002 (2013 edition) is a single cask release bottled at a cask strength of 56,3% abv.

Matured in a Bourbon casks for 4 years then in an Oloroso cask for a further 7 years yielding 728 bottles. Franck tells me that last years edition is still available at Whisky.Fr and this link will take you there It was last listed at €70.55. This years edition will be available soon for around €80.00 so you'll need to keep an eye out on the Armorik website

So What Did We Think?
Dave: This came across as a little shy on the nose initially. Dusty with grain husks, spirity with lemon sherbet. Softer orange notes develop along with hedgerow fruits and there was a herbal element to this too reminding me of bramble foliage and bracken, perhaps even some sage. I was also finding a wax-cotton like note, like my old Belstaff motorcycling jacket. This was the most 'Scotch' like on the nose of the three so far.

On the palate it was spicy with heather flavours at first, but quickly settles to become more creamy with notes of apple peel, ginger and white pepper. This too has quite a dry finish.

Verdict: My favourite of the three so far. I would have liked a little more time with this one, and to try it with a drop of water to see what it would offer up, but I saved the other half of the sample for Kat to try.

Whisky Discovery #596

[Secale] Single Organic Malted Rye (56% abv)
French Rye Whisky
Price TBC
Whisky Discovery French Whisky
Our fourth French Whisky of the evening was the one that received the biggest reaction. This was very different! [Secale] is a single organic malted rye from the Domaine des Hautes Glaces.

The Domaine des Hautes Glaces is an organic mountain farm distillery located in the heart of the French Alps, on the flanks of the Obiou summit. Working with grain grown and processed on site, respectful of the land, mankind and history, the Domaine produces natural, hand-crafted single malt of several kinds.

Just one batch of 650kg of organic rye malt (harvested in 2011) was double distilled in January 2012 in their two small stills (Wash still 2400 litres, Spirit still 600 litres) then matured for 18 months in Condrieu (a white wine from northern Rhône) casks. It was bottled in September at cask strength, without chill filtration or additives and just numbered 511 bottles will be released shortly.

For more information about the Domaine des Hautes Glaces distillery check out their website here:

So What Did We Think?
Dave: My immediate thoughts were if the previous dram reminded me of a Scotch Whisky, this one was reminding me of the Welsh Penderyn spirit, young and feisty. The nose came across as sweet and sour, yet savoury at the same time. There were notes of stewed fruits, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and liquorice root.

On the palate this came across as a touch sour with tamarind juice, dusty grain husk notes from the rye, more liquorice root and damp rotting wood!

Verdict: This didn't go down well with most of the the other tasters, in fact I think the majority of it went down the drain according to the tweets being posted! However I was really interested in this - while the nose was not too different, the taste was really not what I was expecting, and although initially unpleasant, the finish seemed to turn it around, and was drawing me back for more.

Whisky Discovery #597

Uberach W.L.P 10th edition 2013 (46.7% abv)
French Singkle Malt Whisky
60.00 Euros 50cl
Whisky Discovery French Whisky
So for our finale dram another rather special whisky: Uberach W.L.P (Whisky Live Paris) 10th edition 2013 46,7% from Distillerie Bertrand. Distilled in 2003, matured in Banyuls (wine from the south-eastern corner of Roussillon, southern France, just a few miles from the border with Spain) casks. 

Every year since 2009 a single cask of single malt from Distillerie Bertrand is bottled for Whisky Live Paris, but 20 litres are kept in a large glass bottle called a "Dame Jeanne".  This Whisky Live Paris Special is the blending of what was left of casks 101, 102, 103 & 104 respectively bottled in 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012. 

Just 146 50cl bottles were available the show, selling for 60.00 and has almost sold out and very hard to find.

Distillerie Bertrand dates back to 1874 and is very well known for its production of fruit brandies or 'eaux-de-vie'. The Distillery is located around thirty kilometres north of Strasbourg, in the Alsace region and in the town of Uberach. It's only been producing whisky since 2003 but there is no mention of whisky production on their website and I've not been able to find any on-line retailers who can sell you a bottle of their whisky either, so I would guess this is not readily available.

For more information about the Distillerie Bertrand check out their website here:

So What Did We Think?
Dave: The nose on this one was very rich and fruity with a touch of struck match, the sherry influence immediate. Rich dark plums that are just on the turn, soft and over-ripe, just on the point of self fermentation, more fruit with sultanas, a little woody and even a hint of dark chocolate

The plums come across on the palate too, and feels rich and sweet, the struck match element is evident, but not pleasant  Spices build very gently to a mild chili heat with the woodiness of pencil shavings. The flavours were starting to remind me of the old 'Venos' cough mixture I used to have as a kid. this too one with a dry finish.

Verdict: Something truly special to finish the evening off, a never to be repeated whisky?

And finally...

A Huge THANK YOU to Franck Debernardi for organising this celebratory tasting and giving us all a grounding in French Whisky. It certainly has whetted my appetite for finding out more and would like to get across and visit a few French distilleries.


Check out Franck's blog La Cave de Cobalt and why don't you follow him on Twitter @LaCaveDeCobalt too. All of his tweets are generally in English, although if you can speak French, I'm sure he'll appreciate that even more, and who knows you might get an invite to his next tweet tasting.

Slàinte! Dave
Our first French Whisky tasting experience

1 comment:

Johanne McInnis said...

I had a chance to try a few French whiskies in 2012 and really enjoyed the "individuality" of the product. Part of my plans for travelling in 2014 is to spend a week in the "Breton" region of France. I very much look forward to visiting the distilleries noted in this TT and will be sharing my experience via my blog next year. :)