Earlier this month I was in London and Paris for a quick getaway. One of the goals I had going over there was to sample anything and everything I can’t get my hands on in the US. As far as alcohol goes, I wanted to bring back scotch from the UK and wine from France. I succeeded in the scotch from the UK, however France was a little different.
Now when most people think of France, they usually think of wine from the Loire Valley or champagne from…Champagne. I learned in my travels that there is another region in France that specializes in crafting alcohol. Brittany, located in the northwest part of France, specializes in whisky production. France is very new to whisky distilling and production, with their first single malt commercially sold in 1998. With this new-found knowledge, I needed to get my hands on a bottle.
There was a specialty store called Le Maison du Whiskey only a short walk away. On my last day in Paris, I stopped in.
I found someone who worked there, explained what I was looking for, and asked if he had any recommendations. He pointed out a few in the Armorik line, and said he liked them all. Normally, I would look for something peaty and smoky. However, I already bought a peaty single malt scotch in London (the other bottle in the banner). Instead, I opted for the Armorik Classic.
The Armorik Classic is the base whisky that the Warenghem distillery produces. They have a wide range of other offerings, but since this was my first foray into French whisky, I felt it was better to start off with the main offering.
The whisky is aged in bourbon barrels for 7 years, then finished in sherry casks. You can definitely pick up the sherry when you smell it for the first time. After nosing it two or three more times, the sherry gives way to a softer toasted grain scent from the bourbon barrel, with some hints of hazelnut mixed in as well. The color of the whisky itself is a little lighter than I thought it would be for being aged in mainly bourbon barrels.
I chose to taste it neat, then with a few drops of water. The first neat sip is sweet, like dried fruit, that slowly mellows out. It finishes with a drawn out spice to it. Adding a couple drops of water makes the fruit taste come forward more, and takes the edge off of the spice a little bit, but it still lasts just as long with every sip.
This whisky doesn’t have the same body as a scotch, bourbon or rye. But that isn’t a bad thing in this case. This whisky was made on the coast, and I get the feeling that it is best enjoyed there as well. The lightness and the flavors would make this an ideal libation for the middle of the summer, where a fuller bodied whisky might be a little too much. This whisky was born to be sipped on a deck overlooking the water on a late July evening.
Well done France. The hard part is making sure the bottle lasts until the summer.