Credit: Distillerie Warenghem
Credit: Distillerie Warenghem

Oui dram: French whiskey hits its stride

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Food, wine, sun—France nails the things that make life worth living. With that in mind, the birthplace of Cognac, Cointreau and absinthe knows its way around a distillery. But who knew the French are the world’s biggest whiskey drinkers? One estimate—take it with a grain of sel—has them knocking back an annual 2.15 litres per capita, some 50 percent more than Americans. Oh la vache!

67 million French people can’t be wrong

Although France’s whiskey industry remains small, it’s growing with that prodigious consumption. The country is home to 79 whiskey brands and 33 distilleries, according to the Japan Times, with another 30 or so on the way. Besides bringing a deep knowledge of distilling to the game, France is a top producer of malting barley.

In just eight years, sales of French whiskey have surged fourfold, to 850,000 bottles. But don’t sweat it just yet, Scotland: only a handful of French distilleries can turn out product on a large scale. And as the No. 2 consumer of Scotch, France still favours the imported stuff.

Back to the land

France, being France, has its own way of aging whiskey. As the president of the French Whiskey Union tells Euronews, some distillers draw on the nation’s oenological expertise by maturing their product in wine barrels. And don’t get them started on terroir

OK, but how does it taste? For the past three years, the World Whiskies Awards have given the Best French Single Malt title to Armorik offerings from Brittany’s Distillerie Warenghem. The judges’ summary from 2017, for Armorik Dervenn: “Complex green notes and acetone, similar in style to a Japanese whisky. Nice complexity and warmth.”

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