Whisky Magazine Issue 33
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France remains an exciting and intriguing territory for whisky. Tom Bruce-Gardyne reports
All fashions are fickle by their very nature. Some endure longer than others, but eventually ‘the next big thing' will come along to sweep away what once reigned supreme.
This is the way of the world, whether it be hairstyles, hemlines or the type of alcohol in vogue.
In France, the country's indigenous brandy – Cognac from the vineyards of the Charente, north of Bordeaux, was swept aside in a post-war flood of whisky. Sales of Scotch have leapt by almost 150 per cent in the last years and in 2000 were worth over £200 million.
To the French, ‘Le Whisky' always had a certain muscular charm – it was sophisticated and chic. Above all it had ‘luxury import' status unlike Cognac, whose image has long become tired and dusty in its homeland.
Like blended whisky in Britain whose sales have fallen by over a third since the early 80s, Cognac came to be seen as an old man's drink. Meanwhile imported Scotch had definite sex-appeal having been glamorised by Hollywood stars on and off the big screen.
Patrick Thomas, a 54 year-old Frenchman and former managing director of William Grant & Sons remembers it well.
“Scotch whisky was trendy when I was young. Any actor in any movie would drink Scotch. Today with all the competition, it's much more challenging.” He likens the explosion of choice among spirits to the way the automobile industry has developed since the mid 20th century.
“When my father bought my mother a Renault, there was just one model, the 4CV. Today you ...