By Diana Kaoru Cheang
When I received the package from the Maison de la Mirabelle, a distillery of the Grallet-Dupic family, the box seemed heavier than normal. The unwrapping itself was filled with excitement, as the generously proportioned bottles were packaged in production state, beautifully presented in paper jacket, flaunting an eye-appealing apothecary bottle the length of my hand. Inside, a note written in a French accent invited me to taste the three expressions of single malt whiskies that were contained in the package. I was excited to unwrap the mystery of these drams, all of them Lorraine whiskies hailing from the small commune, Rozelieures, France.
Since I’m the kind of girl to eat my steak first before my vegetables, my first foray was the red box, or “Rare Collection,” touting itself as a limited edition. Unwrapping the navy blue seal, I could see that the liquid was a delicate amber red, reminiscent of its jacket. It wouldn’t clash at a black-tie, as the noble presentation did not fail to impress me.
Moving on to the nose, I detect a peaty sweetness that reminds me of a smoked honey-ham. A light kipper scent wafts over a strong and unmistakable brandy (trust me, I really know what brandy smells like—it smells like childhood), indicative of the sherry, cognac, and sauternes casks. So far, this whisky has a unique expression unlike most whiskies I’ve nosed. It is intriguing but I begun to question how well these flavors were going to be put together in the palate.
I ventured on to a fair sip. At 40% ABV, I was surprised at the extremely dry mouth feel. Though the amber whisky starts off sweet, the mouth feel quickly turned astringent, highlighting the unremarkable but strong-arm spice all around the tongue. This was rushed by a finish that featured a lengthy bitterness, tapped in a kippery vibe, and ending with sour on the cheeks.
Note that I have a very good grasp of sherry-finished single malts. They are my favorite whiskies ranging from the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, to the Balvenie 15 single barrel, all the way to a peaty Laphroaig Cairdeas. There’s something about wine and distilled wine that goes right with a hearty, fabulous whisky. But for some reason the Rare Collection tasted like someone handed me a dessert and a strange cognac, masquerading as a single-malt, and expected me to finish my dinner with such twin companions. The sweet, fishy peat, simply did not put together the expression. I like my cognac in a sweet vieux carres, but let’s not swish the cocktail in my whisky please.
You can get this via France, proper, if you are inclined towards the language. La Cave d’Antoine sells it at $47, which includes sales tax, but I am not sure if my left arm would be sufficient price for shipping.