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Whisky Across the World: French Whisky

We kick off our annual content material sequence, Whisky Across the World with a peek at French Whisky with class knowledgeable Daniel Cooney of Heavenly Spirits.

French Whisky—It’s Getting Severe!

There’s a new spirit of revolution brewing in France, nevertheless it has extra to do with the making of nice whisky than an rebellion of a ravenous peasant class. France, the nation recognized for consuming extra whisky per-capita than another, entered the excessive stakes sport of manufacturing it themselves solely lately. That’s quite late, at the very least in comparison with their 700+ yr historical past of distilling different spirits. Thirty years in the past, you may depend all of the whisky producers in France on one finger. Immediately there are at the very least 120 French distillers at some stage of significant whisky manufacturing, every with their very own story, and goals of constructing the subsequent nice whisky to share with the world.

This rising tide of whisky manufacturing is clear everywhere in the nation. From the shores of Brittany within the North to the Burgundy hills within the East, and deep into the Charentes Cognac area within the southwest, the French Whisky revolution is steadily taking form.

In Might of this yr, my accomplice and spouse, Christine and I had the pleasure of visiting 5 of those newish distilleries together with our good good friend, and whisky author, Robin Robinson. Robin had simply completed visiting 5 extra whisky distillers within the North of France. What we discovered total from these mixed visits, is that the wide-spread motion to make French whisky is each extremely spectacular and traditionally important. If the French have as a lot success with grain spirits as they’ve had with grape ones, the world is in for fairly a deal with within the not-too-distant future.

Full disclosure, Christine and I are homeowners of Heavenly Spirits Imports, which already represents three manufacturers of French whisky, together with the unique “Oui dram” itself, Armorik Single Malt. Our quest to seek out out extra about this ongoing growth within the French spirits {industry}, was motivated by our real curiosity in each whisky and France. As skilled entrepreneurs of French whisky over the previous 10 years within the whisky-saturated United States, we’re accustomed to listening to the response,

“I didn’t even know the French made whisky…” every time presenting our merchandise at tasting occasions throughout the nation…

The already-established whisky-producing nations of the world are well-known, America, Scotland, Eire, Canada, and extra lately Japan, sure, however the subsequent nice whisky-producing nation vying to be added to that checklist is but to be decided. There appears to be some severe competitors on the market, and the main contenders would possibly shock you: India, Australia, and also you guessed it, France, appear to all be within the operating. Every of those three nations have distilleries which were quietly producing a number of the finest whiskies you would possibly by no means have heard of, together with a number of the locations we visited in France. Whereas we did tour one distillery in Bordeaux (Moon Harbor), most of our time was spent within the area of Les Charentes, the place we visited Fontagard, Spiritique, BASTILLE 1789, and Saint Palais.

Whereas India and Australia definitely have excellent creden5als of their very own to make nice whisky, I consider the French are stacked with a large number of excellent causes as nicely, most significantly, entry to all of the essen5al components and all the opposite components wanted to make excellent whisky. These embody home-grown barley, pure spring water, oak forests for supplying the produc5on of ageing barrels, a protracted and deep historical past of dis5lling savoir faire, and most significantly… an important ardour for having fun with a very good dram regularly (the apéri5f hour).

Throughout our quest to be taught extra about this sudden French curiosity in making whisky, the ques5on of “Why hadn’t anybody in France aJempted it sooner?” naturally wanted to be raised. When posing this ques5on to the producers we interviewed, we obtained some interes5ng and revelatory responses. I credit score Robin for geNng to the very coronary heart of it. As a author, trainer, and former actor, Robin Robinson is an intrepid interviewer with a depth of data within the spirits {industry}. His astute line of ques5oning was invaluable in flushing out the true roots of this French whisky-making quagmire. The outcomes of his inquiry when interviewing Edouard Daucourt (one other one among our suppliers), led to particulars of the origin story behind BASTILLE 1789 whisky, which we had by no means actually been uncovered to earlier than, and it made a load of sense.

In the end, the truth that a historically-Cognac producing household determined to make a dedication to supply whisky at that 5me appeared a courageous and daring selection. The explanations we discovered had so much to do with a altering poli5cal and cultural 5de and difficult financial 5mes. It was additionally fairly merely, a temp5ng manner for a brand new genera5on of the household (with an Irish-born mom) to make their mark, in what felt like a crea5ve and significant manner. I anticipate Mr. Robinson will eloquently expound on this a part of the story in future wri5ng.
Constructing a brand new spirit class takes time.

As with all issues associated to their patrimony, the French do nothing by halves. A couple of of those budding French whisky giants has referred to one thing known as “a thirty-year plan.” Ten years into the projection for a number of the early pioneers, it appears a practical expectation of time to hone and ideal such a high-minded and impressive endeavor. To their credit score, they’ve already organized and fashioned two official geographic indications (IGP), one for Breton and one other for Alsatian whiskies respectively. It will assist to outline and defend these distinctive types of French whisky as they proceed to develop. They’ve additionally fashioned a Fédération du Whisky de France. Based in 2016, it is a corporation fashioned to, in their very own phrases “make whisky from France, the whisky par excellence.”

However the French whisky revolution goes past what occurs within the mash tuns and ageing warehouses. It symbolizes a revitalization of native agro-industry and tradition. Armorik has labored with a neighborhood firm to remodel the deserted native abattoir into a conventional tonnellerie or cooperage, for instance. It’s the just one in Brittany and so they focus on making barrels from Breton oak. French barley, lengthy sourced by Scotch makers to make their whiskies, beneficial properties a brand new which means when utilized in homegrown whiskies like BASTILLE 1789. Cognac distillers, who by legislation are solely allowed to run their stills for Cognac manufacturing six months out of the yr, are adapting to a brand new manner of operating their companies and farms. All these modifications signify a round financial system of “Made in France,” from grain to glass, that mimics a sort of hyper-local shift we’ve got began to see world wide, even within the US.

The mixture of those elements is what simply would possibly signify the upcoming rise of French whisky’s status world wide. To which each whisky fanatic can elevate a glass and toast, “Vive la Revolution!”



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