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Issue 20 - Pushing back the frontiers of spirit in France (La Maison du Whisky)

Whisky Magazine Issue 20
December 2001


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Pushing back the frontiers of spirit in France (La Maison du Whisky)

Martine Nouet takes a closer look at near-legendary La Maison du Whisky, the Paris store that's done so much to change the old-fashioned perception of whisky in France

Never challenge Thierry Bénitah with an impossible request like finding a bottle from a long-silent distillery. He will take up the challenge and get that rare bird for you, no matter time and money. For the proprietor of La Maison du Whisky in Paris, there is no such word as ‘can't'. Pointing out his pioneering enthusiasm for new releases and outstanding bottlings, a
journalist called Thierry Bénitah the ‘Indiana Jones of whisky'. A perfect title for Thierry, 34, and Georges, 72, owners of France's number one ‘temple of booze'.

Father and son share the same adventurous ideal: to keep pushing back the frontiers of spirit.

Born in Algeria, Georges Bénitah started trading as a spirit merchant in the early 50s, selling Scotch whisky and classic bourbon to American troops based in Morocco. Under the pressure of events, he had to leave North Africa a few years later and settled in Paris.

When Georges Bénitah opened his first shop in 1961, he knew he had to start at square one. At that time, his potential customers hardly knew four or five whisky brands, and they were all blended Scotch whisky. With the patient and
thorough mind of an explorer, he started on a great voyage of discovery, travelling to Scotland, visiting distilleries, meeting distillers and sales managers and coming back with the ultimate drink of the time: Glenfiddich. Single malt was unknown to French whisky drinkers back then.

La Maison du Whisky soon was sellimg 40 or so different whiskies. Dig...

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