By Richard Thomas
Part of having a whiskey tradition is having a region or regions where the bulk of whiskey-making takes place. Britain might have English and Welsh whiskey, but Scotland is where it’s at. Whiskey making the United States has spread to almost all of the 50 states in recent times, but Kentucky and Tennessee are still at the heart of American whiskey making.
So it is with even within those whiskey-making countries that are, in and of themselves, not a traditional whiskey making region, such as France. While whiskey-making is spreading around France, with outfits like Brenne popping up in Cognac, the core of French whiskey-making is Brittany. One of the oldest fixtures of modern Breton whiskey-making is Warenghem, a family distillery that has been around for more than a century.
Warenhgem’s Armorik Double Maturation represents a new oak spin on their single malt. Primary maturation takes place in new Breton oak barrels, made by a local cooper. I’m not sure if Breton oak is used in any other alcohol, and it certainly puts a thorough local emphasis on the whiskey. It would be like Four Roses or Woodford Reserve saying “our bourbon is aged in Eastern Kentucky oak” instead of American oak. After some years in the new oak, it is transferred to old sherry casks for finishing, and bottled without chill filtration at 46% abv.
In the glass, the whiskey shows that new oak aging off with a light copper coloring. The nose has a creamy, elegant sweetness to it, mixing citrus, apple and pear, and caramel notes with just a tinge of pepper and musty wood.
The flavor was a bit of a let down after that sophisticated nose, but only just a bit. The taste is predominately that of leathery wood, with a dash of pepper and a certain malty character. It’s not as complex as the nose, but if you like your whiskey to run into old horse tackle closet territory, this is the thing for you. The finish brings on another surprise by rolling out on an ashy note, running lengthily into warmth and a smoky aftertaste.
I typically see the Armorik Double Maturation single malt priced at about €35 or $45 with online retailers, but expect a little variability in pricing and availability.