By Richard Thomas
The whiskey boom has been underway for several years now (two decades by some accountings), and with it has come both the opening of many new distilleries, as well as interest in whiskey-makers in some out of the way places. I think a common mistake among whiskey fans is to assume that just because a whiskey comes from a non-traditional place, it must come from a newcomer looking to cash in on the worldwide whiskey boom.
While sometimes true, usually those distilleries in unexpected places have been there for decades, and have merely gone overlooked by the wider world. The Spanish distillery DYC is a case in point, as is the French distillery Wareghem, which has been around for over a century. If the idea of French whiskey seems strange, just keep in mind that distillers like Wareghem are found in Brittany, long recognized as the last Celtic holdout of France. Separated from England and Ireland by but a small expanse of sea, the Bretons have a lot in common with their Celtic cousins further north, including a taste for good whiskey.
Armorik is the foundation of Warenghem’s whiskey line. This Breton single malt is married from whiskey aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and is bottled at 46% abv without chill-filtration.
In the glass, Warenghem’s Armorik has the honey gold coloring common to those whiskeys among its Scotch cousins with good body and character. The nose is silky and rich, and predominately malty sweet, with a touch of cinnamon and a note of “meadow scent,” what I like to call the place where woodiness meets thick, wet grass. It really is a delightful nose, full of character and the sort of thing you’ll want to sniff over and over again.
The flavor of Armorik shifts things around a bit. A fruity, plum-like sweetness overtakes the malty and woody aspects, which are still there but in the background. The dash of cinnamon is there too, but so is a new, peppery bite. The latter gives good balance to what would otherwise be an overtly sweet palate. The finish is long, warm, and a little astringent from the wood, leaving a spicy afterglow in its wake.
Despite the mix of flavors and scents, Armorik is too bold, and too spicy in particular, to be subtle. Instead, it is a whiskey with good balance and robust character, and is therefore the sort of thing one can enjoy sipping on most any occasion. If you aren’t devoted to peat smoke and want to try a single malt from a non-traditional region, Armorik should be on your short list.
Armorik is reasonably priced at $50 a bottle. The problem will be finding it, since it’s not exactly in widespread distribution. Still, it is available both in Europe and the US, and a little work with online retailers should yield good results.
Warenghem Armorik earned an Exceptional Gold from the Beverage Tasting Institute.