Whisky Magazine Issue 119
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Distilleries with diversity
France has taken the pole position in whisky sales for a good number of years and is still leading the way with 220 million bottles sold in 2012. A figure that cannot but encourage distillery plans. France counts up to 25 whisky distilleries now with a diversity of styles, size and coherence. Apart from the very few “whisky only” distilleries, most whisky productions come from existing distilleries which specialize in fruit eau-de-vie, brandy or apple brandy. Consequently, these distilleries use their existing stills, in the case of fruit eau-de-vie, a Holstein type of still, which has an incidence of the aromatic profile of the new make. They also rarely have the mashing and fermenting equipments and buy the wash from a nearby brewery.
The other specificity of (most) French whiskies comes from the maturation. A good number use French oak and more precisely, ex wine casks, some for finish but most for a complete maturation. Others have new casks specially made from local oak trees or from Limousin and Tronçonnais oak as the ones used for cognac. The casks are bought from cooperages located in Cognac region. Incidentally there is a distillery which has chosen to mature its new make in… chestnut wood! Whether the culprit is the maturation or the distillation (or both), the whisky from the Distillerie du Pays d'Othe (Chevailler) is the worst I have ever tasted. I sampled it a few years ago but I still remember it. Thankfully, French whiskies offer a pretty wide selectio...