While we might not usually think of France as a major whiskey-producing country, there are actually a number of French distilleries that are trying to change that perception. The folks at La Fabrique des Bières d’Anjou are one small local distillery in the Loire Valley that is trying to bring some of that local flavor their wines are known for and translate it into a great spirit as well.
Founded in 1999 by Vincent and Yann Angevin, the La Fabrique des Bières d’Anjou brewery is located on the banks of the Loire river in the commune of La Ménitré. The facility focuses on organic beers and has its own malting house, opened in 2014 to supply their products.
Their flagship product is named La Piautre, which is a French word that means the rudder on a barge — a common sight on the Loire river. The name also seemingly applies to their line of whiskey, which does cause a minor bit of confusion.
It sounds like for this edition of the whiskey they don’t do the distilling, but they do most everything else.
This whiskey starts out the same way as their existing lines of beer: with organic, locally sourced barley that is malted in their own malting facility. That malted barley is then cooked and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic beer which they hand off to a local artisinal distiller named Gilles Boudier from Vihiers.
Interesting to note is that this format is pretty common in France, where farmers will grow their crops and handle the maturation process, but they outsource the actual distillation to someone else.
Gilles uses original heritage copper pot stills from the Nantes region of France that are heated using a traditional wood fired heat source (as opposed to a modern natural gas or steam jacket heating system) to distill the beer into a newly made spirit that is shipped back to La Fabrique des Bières d’Anjou for maturation and bottling.
For their single malt edition, the spirit is aged in Côteaux de l’Aubance barrels for a period of 42 months before bottling.
I really like the simplicity of this bottle. The body is a nicely rounded cylinder that curves quickly at the shoulder to a nearly flat top with a very short neck. It’s a simple form that seems to highlight the artisanal nature of the spirit and its production, really letting the color of the spirit shine through the clear glass and be the star of the show. The bottle is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
The label is a semi-minimalist, brown-hued sticker with white lettering. I like that the only decoration on the label is an illustrative silhouette of the mountains around the Loire Valley in France, the location where the whiskey was produced. It’s a nice nod that’s understated, reinforces the location of production, and works well with the general style of the bottle.
First up, the color on this whiskey looks amazing: a nice rich, dark amber that is spot-on for what I’m looking for in an aged spirit.
Pouring a bit in your glass, the first thing you’ll notice is this smoky almost peaty aroma. The distillery malts and mills their own locally sourced barley and doesn’t seem to disclose whether they dry it with open fires or natural gas — so whether that’s leftover smoke from the malting process or from the wood fire used to heat the stills is up in the air. Behind that are some great barley aromas, smelling like honey spread on a nice piece of sourdough bread. There are some floral aspects to it, too — like fresh flower blossoms, and almost a lemon citrus in there as well.
Taking a sip of this whiskey is like taking a sip of a fresh bouquet of flowers. That floral hint we saw in the aroma is in full effect, combining with a touch of lemon citrus to make this very light and delicate flavor profile that almost feels like you’re at an Easter Brunch. There’s some other fruit that wafts through as well, including a bit of melon and then just a hint of honey and vanilla before the smoke comes barging in and takes over. That smoky component is really the only thing I get near the finish, which is a bit disappointing.
With the addition of a little bit of ice, you’d expect the floral components to drop out of the running — and they do take a hit. But something really interesting here is that they don’t disappear completely.
Once you drop the ice into the whiskey, the barley components are certainly more front and center than previously. You’ve got a flavor profile that more closely matches with “honey drizzled on a slice of sourdough bread” as the primary thing that comes through, but added in the background are still those flower blossoms adding some lightness and freshness that makes this a unique and interesting spirit, as well as some of the smoke adding some complexity.
This is a great tasting whiskey, that’s for sure. For a distillery I’ve never heard of, in a country that doesn’t traditionally do whiskey, this is a home run. The wonderful barley flavors and aromas are present throughout, and the floral components that you get here really make it something unique and interesting. I can definitely sense the terroir of the spirit — the smells and tastes of the valley in which it was made.
In my opinion, I think dialing back the smoke a touch would really help. That’s all you’re getting at the end of the taste, and so that’s the only impression you are taking away. There’s so much more to this whiskey than just the smoke, though, so that’s an unfortunate thing to see. If that were corrected, this would absolutely be a five star whiskey, but for the time being I’ll rank it at (a still very respectable) four.
|La Piautre Single Malt Whiskey|
Classification: Single Malt Whiskey
Aging: 3.5 Years
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $84.55 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
A floral and delicious French single malt whiskey with a really smoky finish.