Herself was going to a play at the fabulous Galway International Arts Festival then on to meet mutual friends for a meal – so I tagged along.
Not being a thespian buff I thought I’d visit Mars – a sculpture on show at the former Persse Distillery – only to discover it had moved!
Ah well – time for a drink.
An Púcán provided the refreshments & as I scanned their extensive whiskey list for something I’d not tried before – Armorik Classic Single Malt fitted the bill.
It took sometime to locate the bottle as it was on show in one of the numerous display cabinets around the bar – but it did arrive.
The bottle read ‘non chill filtered, 46%‘ which is a good start. ‘caramel added’ is stated on the back – although according to Warenghem Distilley’s website they have since moved to ‘natural colour’ for their offerings.
The nose proved clean, fresh & inviting with hits of old leather.
Decent body, smooth mouthfeel displaying notes on the savoury, umami spectrum.
Finishes with a frisson of spice.
Armorik Classic comes over as a grounded whiskey showing it’s earthy agricultural roots – perhaps even a smidgen of terroir using French barley?
Well I say French Whisky – as it’s actually mainly Scotch which has been shipped out in bulk to Bordeaux where – under the guidance of master blender John McDougall – it is finished in locally sourced sauternes casks before being bottled & presented non chill filtered at 45.8%.
There is nothing unusual in this. It’s a well trodden path for Scotch to send out loads of bulk whisky to many countries around the world where it is blended – often with locally produced spirits – matured, finished & eventually bottled to the recipients requirements before being released – mainly in the home market.
Many a Scottish distilleries output is destined for such bottlings – and it’s a big market.
It also allows an up and coming whisky brand – like Moon Harbour – to test the waters, hone their skills and develop their brand in the absence of a distillery which they may – or may not build at a later stage.
Moon Harbour seem to have plans for their own distillery in Bordeaux – so this blend looks likely to be a stop gap until they have their own whisky to sell.
Could it emulate the successful football team and win in a World Cup Whisky tournament?
Well – in a back to back with the Bastille Single Malt – I’m afraid Moon Harbour lost out.
It’s certainly packaged in an attractive bottle however – complete with box – has a ruby red hue and displays deep legs.
There wasn’t all that much going on with the nose though. A soft sweet malty biscuit with a hint of grain.
A bit slow to start. The sauternes sweetness swiftly followed by a spirity robustness – quite a nice contrast really.
It left an enjoyable dry prickly heat at the end – but was somewhat lacking in depth of flavour & character. Perhaps the sauternes finish was just too subtle for my tastes.
If it had been presented without ‘Premium’ on the label and at a lower price I might have been OK with the result.
As it was it promised more than it actually delivered.
I do hope Moon Harbour get the distillery going however. I find it entertaining sampling all whiskies – especially new brands with a local twist – and welcome the diversity created by new distilleries.
It’s why I enjoy whisky, and despite not being a football fan, I did get a buzz of excitement watching the cup final on a sunny afternoon in a Parisian hotel garden with congenial company washed down with a whisky or two.
Aujourd’hui I’m covering un whisky francais et peppering le blog avec mon mal French.
Pourquoi? You might ask.
Well on 14th July 1798 a certain building was besieged by a crowd demanding liberté, égalitié et fraternité. All very noble aspirations that I like to bring to my whisky tastings.
Liberté in that any country is free to fabriqué whisky in any style and manner they wish.
Égalitié, I like to taste all whiskies from wherever and whomever they hail from in an unbiased & non prejudiced way as possible et
Fraternitié in that whisky brings people together & is enjoyed on a worldwide basis
Je vous donne;
Bastille 1789 Single Malt.
Fabriqué dans Angoulême by Jean-Marc Daucourt – le fils of une mère Irlandais et père Francais – I’d like to think some of that celtic heritage came through in the whisky.
Maison Daucourt use French barley mixed with local water for the distillation. This is then combined avec Limousin oak that has previously held a variety of the finest French wines for the maturation to give le whisky a unique terroir & taste magnifique all of it’s own.
A deep, dark almost earthy malt nose – as if from la sol francais – starts the experience off.
On first sipping a delicious mouth coating erupts in a frisson of flavours which roll around the palate. Fresh & floral yet earthy & rich. There is a certain depth & gravitas to this malt that just pulls you in.
The long finish leaves a lovely drying prickly heat with a soupçon of spice at the end.
Incroyable – as they say.
This whisky may mark a revolutionary event of the past where the old order was overturned. But for me it marks a revolutionary event of the present where the current accepted order of world whisky is being challenged by new entrants.
French whisky is growing très vite – there are up to 50 distillerie listed in a blog francais ici.
If Bastille 1789 Whisky is anything to go by – the old order needs to worry.
As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.
Today is F for French Whisky.
I first got a taste for French whisky back in 2015.
Who could have resisted a champagne finished single malt from the wonderful Guillon Distillery which has been actively making whisky using locally grown barley cut with locally sourced water since 1997?
A gloriously sweet floral hit of champagne mixed with more earthy malt greeted you on first nosing.
Sadly the floral notes seemed to evaporate on tasting. Whilst you were left with a perfectly agreeable soft single malt – you were still expecting more from that initial delightful nose.
Their Cuvée 46 offering was a more traditional expression and also enjoyable.
Aged in French wine casks – the nose didn’t dominate the tasting experience and an overall more balanced & fruity single malt got the thumbs up.
I’d be very happily ‘Lost In France’ checking out their whiskies!
Quite how Brexit is going to change this situation is unclear.
But when I pop over for a holiday later in the year I’ll certainly be looking forward to exploring the output from some of the reported 40 French whisky distilleries operating or opening in the country.
Tres bon, n’ect-ce pas?
Merci to Distillerie Guillon for the header image.
Coming on the back of St Patrick’s Day it’s often amusing to point out that the man himself wasn’t actually Irish!
Controversy still reigns as to his actual birthplace. Some say Scotland, some say France and some say Wales. What is clear is that he certainly visited these countries during his lifetime. What is also interesting for the sake of this blog is that all these countries are whisky producers!
Scotch Whisky is firmly Numero Uno in the whisky world. French Whisky is a relative newcomer but has many exciting brands and expressions. This humble blogger has tried a few which were grand. The Champagne finished single malt from Guillon Distillery being one of them. Welsh Whisky is also a relative newcomer to the scene – despite a rich distilling history in Wales, there is only one distillery in operation today. A fine distillery it is too!
The whisky itself lives up to the heroic struggles of it’s namesake. A single malt finished in madeira casks bottled non chill-filtered at 41%, it gives a very rich aroma backed up by a satisfying taste a with long finish. Definitely an A class whiskey, if not A+ in my book! As this whisky is a limited expression, it may sell out, but Penderyn release a single malt madeira finish in their standard range bottled at 46% which may also be very good. I can’t wait to taste the other bottles which include sherrywood finish, peated and single cask expressions. Penderyn have already won awards since launching in 2004 so this is a distillery to watch out for.