Chateau du Breuil is a rather well known distiller of Calvados. They’re known for their iconic bottles, but also for adding some pear to the apple brandy. A few years ago they made their foray into distilling whisky.
I completely missed that news until their whisky showed up at the local bottle shop a few short weeks ago. I got enthusiastic about tasting these whiskies since it’s a company that knows their way around a still, and has known it for some 70 years. Good news, right? Just wait a bit for the tasting notes.
I like trying stuff from new distilleries in general. In a time when more and more distilleries and their products become homogenised, these new distilleries have every opportunity to carve out a niche for themselves.
Centralized malting, centralized grain buying, centralized warehousing. Even centralized still replacement parts. More and more variables become constants in Scotland. A shame, since that also goes for the character of a lot of spirit. Angus wrote a great piece on ‘terroir’ some years ago, which I occassionally re-read.
Some distilleries choose to go with the flow and are a new brand, but produce whisky in the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with it, except it can make your whisky forgettable. I remember trying, and enjoying, Wolfburn’s first release some years ago. However, I’ve not bought a bottle of the stuff since.
Other distilleries try to do everything in a rather grassroots way, but stick to their guns even if the product is absolutely horrid. Looking at you, Abhainn Dearg.
In some cases that is just a preference, and my own palate that doesn’t agree with a whisky. That obviously goes for old and new distilleries alike. I don’t enjoy Annandale so far, but I know lots of people do.
Then there’s the category that I’ve yet to find out about. I have high expectations of Dornoch Distillery, Ardnahoe, Lagg, and I still hope that the whisky industry in Campbeltown will expand some more the coming years.
I also hope that these new distilleries keep in mind that there’s already 120 distilleries out there. If they simply produce a more expensive and younger version of what’s already available, they might never transcend the status of a tourist attraction.
Back to this French company then. A company that’s been distilling since 1954, with quite some success. I enjoyed getting their bottles and taking them for a spin.
Le Breuil Origine Single Malt, 46%
Lots of vanilla, some iron and apples (funnily). A whiff of oak. Very simple and straight forward.
A bit of bite with a crisp, snowy flavor. Some herbs with some vanilla. White pepper, apples, pears, white grapes.
More iron and red apples on the finish. Some white pepper. Some apple pie with cinnamon.
Not bad, just very simple. I’ve not really been able to find something that defines them. Some vanilla and apple is virtually what you taste in every three year old bourbon cask whisky.
Le Breuil Finition Sherry Oloroso, 46%
Lots of sweet sherry and vanilla. A lot of cake, pie, baking spices.
A bit of bit from youth and alcohol. Lots of baking spices. Some dried dark fruits, dates and plums. Quite a bit too sweet.
The finish carries on in the same way.
This one is a bit too sweet for me. It’s like they really forced the sherry onto it, and since it’s a finish of a three year old whisky, it’s hard to have proper maturation.
Le Breuil Finition Tourbee, 46%
Even though it’s pretty mich a one note thing, the smoke really makes it better. Peaty, with smouldering hay, a bit funky.
Quite a lot of smoke, both peaty and woody, even though it’s only peat smoke. Smoked apple, barley, a bit of sand, dirt, oak.
The finish has some herbs, but is mostly young smoky whisky.
Again, generic, but better than the others. The smoke really helps it along and makes the lack of maturity a lot more bearable.
Now we get to the hard part of rating these whiskies. Technically there is nothing wrong with them. It’s a very clean distillate, and it’s not one of those French whiskies that still taste like they were made in brandy stills. It genuinely tastes like whisky. All good.
Except that they make their whisky the same way virtually everyone else does, and therefor it’s a bit forgettable.