Neat Stuff 2: French whiskey hits its stride, a Game of Thrones single malt and our holiday gift guide

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Oui dram: French whiskey hits its stride

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.”

A jar of wildfire: Game of Thrones gets its own single malts just in time for winter

You drink and you know things, but let us give you some advice: there’s no story so good that a whiskey won’t make it better. With the eighth season of Game of Thrones set to kick off next April, HBO has released eight single-malt Scotches celebrating the smash series, Hypebeast reports. That’s one for each of the seven Houses of Westeros, plus the Night’s Watch.

Everything’s better with some whiskey in the belly

Like a Lannister paying his debts, you can pony up for a nine-year-old Lagavulin bearing the crest of that notorious family—or, if you’re feeling less dastardly, a Dalwhinnie House Stark Winter’s Frost. The Night’s Watch number, by Oban, comes in a black bottle. These GoT-themed single malts needn’t cost you a king’s ransom either; prices start at $29.99* here.

*All prices in U.S. dollars

Holiday gift guide: Bottles large and small, for richer and poorer

It’s better to give than to receive—even if it’s whiskey. Whatever your financial circumstances this holiday season, Forbes.com contributor and Rhythm and Booze Project co-founder Felipe Schrieberg has some Scotch gift ideas.

At the lower end, the Edinburgh-based writer names his 10 best presents for $50 or less, from a fruity Balvenie 12-year-old DoubleWood to Diageo’s three-bottle Classic Malts Coastal Collection. Among Schrieberg’s 10 luxury buys: a Penderyn Rich Oak Single Cask ($330) from Wales (hey, isn’t that cheating?) and a smoke-filled 28-year-old Laphroaig ($610).

Counting the days

If you like your daily dram, the nights before Christmas offer a perfect excuse. Just ask Matt Evans at Scotchwhisky.com, who’s rounded up seven whiskey Advent calendars.

At about $17, the Famous Grouse’s calendar is the cheapest of the lot, but it’s mostly Scotch-flavoured chocolate. Feeling richer? We like the look of England’s Drinks by the Dram, which boxes multinational assortments of small bottles starting at some $200 all the way up to $12,500 and change for its Very Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar.

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