France has long led the world in per-capita scotch consumption, but the country’s own whisky industry has been gaining traction recently, with production now doubling every year. Many French whisky distilleries are small businesses, selling most of what they make locally, but a handful of bottles are reaching the U.S., with more arriving every year. Start your French education with the nine examples below.
C’est Magnifique! These Whiskies Offer a True Taste of France
Armorik Double Maturation single malt—93 points, $60
Malt and lilacs, pineapple, and orange peel intertwine in a nose that shows the best of sherry finishing. The drying and spicy palate has minerality galore: salty oyster shell and sandy beach, along with cigar, dark chocolate, cherry Popsicle, and guava. Prepare to be wowed.
Domaine des Hautes Glaces 100% Organic Rye (Cask #79)—92 points, $90
Layers of spice—pepper, crushed chilies, ginger—along with oolong tea, raw hazelnuts, orange oil, and brown sugar make for an enchanting and intriguing nose. The palate is equally complex, sweet, and spiced with a pronounced chalky minerality, ginger-peach crumble, orange slices, and chai, rounded out with milk chocolate and tobacco leaf.
G. Rozelieures Rare single malt—92 points, $45
One whiff and you’re suddenly transported to a botanical garden in full flower, perfumed with rose petals and orange blossom, and underpinned by a rich, savory earthy note. The seductive layers of spice—black pepper, cubeb, sandalwood—on the palate mingle with bittersweet dark chocolate, cherries, and a luscious cigar finish.
Kornog Roc’h Hir single malt—91 points, $150
On the nose, juicy citrus—orange, lemon, grapefruit—parries with peat, all kelpy salinity and burning embers. The two sides balance on the palate, as grapefruit oil, charred meat, watermelon, and green apple candy lead into a finish of grilled peaches, kiwi, and bittersweet oak. Like its Breton home, it is aggressive, bold, and flavorful, with a subtle loveliness.
Brenne 10 year old single malt (2017 Release)—90 points, $100
Assertive and distinctive: aromas of dried pineapple, guava candy, fresh strawberry, marjoram, thyme, and incense lead into a sweet-spiced flavor array with peach preserves, sandalwood, rosehips, cardamom-pistachio pudding, honeysuckle, hibiscus tea, and violet pastilles.
Bellevoye Bleu blended malt—88 points, $35
Sourced from distilleries in Alsace, Cognac, and northern France. Stone fruits and biscuity-sweet cookies mingle with fresh melon, rose-petal perfume, and a touch of salinity on the nose. The palate is light-bodied but full-flavored, with juicy berries, peaches, cinnamon, sandalwood, cedar, and Toblerone balanced by the polished oak finish.
Vicomte Cask Strength single malt—88 points, $60
Candied aromas of strawberry Laffy Taffy, orange sherbet, and Haribo peach rings mingle with fresh jasmine and freesia. Don’t let the delicate nose fool you, however: this is a massive whisky that packs a punch, with canned pineapple chunks, nectarine slices, gummy bears, black pepper, allspice, and strapping big oak.
Bastille single malt—87 points, $64
Inhale deeply and let pâtisserie aromas waft across your nose, along with honey-soaked baklava and a pleasant earthiness, like walking through a cool forest. Chai spices, sweet oak, cinnamon baklava, and dark chocolate-covered hazelnuts carry through to a warming, oaky finish with harmonious, mellow cigar smoke.
Meyer’s Blend Supérieur—84 points, $35
Light and sweet are the key attributes of this blend of wheat and malt whiskies aged in sauternes casks. Orange blossom, Nilla wafers, and golden raisins tumble in a delicate interplay of flavors that are weighted down just enough by a slightly viscous mouthfeel.