I recently came back from France with a smattering of whiskey bottles to try. French whiskey is still a very new concept and I’m loving the variety of products that are coming out. In this case, what we have is probably the epitome of French grain to glass whiskey, made in a beautiful location and housed in a damn fine looking bottle.
The farm (‘domaine’ in French) traces its history back centuries. Nestled in the heart of the French Alps, about 900 meters above sea level, the main building was constructed over 400 years ago and features three spacious cellars.
The modern usage of the location started in 2009, when Frédéric Revol chose the spot as the location of his new French whiskey distillery. With a background in agriculture and a desire to bring the concept of terroir to whiskey, he set out to make something uniquely French using local organic grain and traditional methods.
The first bottling of unaged whiskey took place in 2011, and their aged whiskey started hitting the market in 2012.
In 2017, the distillery was seeing moderate success and was acquired by the French distilled spirits company Rémy Cointreau based in Cognac.
Following the grain to glass trend that’s popular right now, this whiskey starts as a crop of barley that’s grown in the area. From there it is malted, cooked, and fermented before being distilled on-site.
Once the spirit has been produced, it is placed into oak barrels sourced locally from French wood. Where exactly these barrels come from and how long the spirit is stored isn’t disclosed, but given the time from when distillation started to when the first bottles were produced, I’d put money on about two years.
Like other single malt whiskies, we’re going to skip the usual old fashioned cocktail and mule tests, treating it like a scotch whiskey and not like a bourbon — since those tests would be pretty useless on a scotch.
I think this is a really clean and nifty design.
Overall, the bottle is a standard shape… ish. It’s got a squared body with an abrupt shoulder that tapers into a medium length neck. The difference here is that all the edges and corners have been rounded and smoothed like a rock in a stream. This gives the bottle a very fluid and appealing shape that I enjoy.
The labels are also done correctly, in my opinion. They’re a textured white square with black lettering that looks like an engraved invitation. They’re just large enough to make the writing stand out, but small enough that the color of the whiskey can be seen behind the label.
I’d contrast this with a bottle like the one used by Bellevoye. In that case, the bottle is sharp and clean and looks like a perfume bottle, exuding the old world class from mid-century Paris. Here, the bottle is more of a modern minimalist interpretation, taking the Apple approach to design with simplicity and clean design taking the lead.
The spirit is very light and pale, about the same color as straw or a pale white wine. The aromas coming off the glass are very fruit forward; I detect pear and apple first and strongest. There are a lot of the same delicious notes that I would expect from something like a Glenmorangie scotch whiskey, but without the accompanying peat flavor.
There are a lot of flavors in here, and the combination is interesting and enjoyable. I get some baking spices, things like cinnamon and ginger, mixed in with some lemon zest, dried apples, and crusty bread flavors from the malted barley grains. I’d almost say that sipping this whiskey is like drinking a tall glass of apple pie (and I absolutely adore apple pie).
Keeping it grounded, though, are some earthy flavors as well — probably mostly from the oak casks in which it was aged.
There’s a bit of pepper on the finish to keep things interesting. It lingers for a couple minutes after the rest of the flavors fade, but it’s not unpleasant at all.
With a little ice, the flavors are actually more intense. I think it might be that the alcohol was hiding some of the flavors but with the ice and water added, that alcohol is toned down and lets the rest of the flavor come out and play.
In this case, I think the flavors might be a little bit more on the banana side of things. For those who know the intoxicating smell of Hoppes #9, that’s a flavor that I think I get here as well. It’s a slight re-arrangement of the flavors with more emphasis on certain aspects rather than a new flavor, but it’s still delicious.
The only real thing I’m missing is the peppery spicy finish that I had with the neat version.
This is everything I wanted a French whiskey to be. It has amazing flavors, comes from a great location, and is in a beautiful bottle. I just wish it were more available in the states, since I’ve been seriously searching and only found it in one store so far.
|Domaine des Hautes Glaces Les Moissons|
Classification: Single Malt Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 44.8% ABV
Price: $75 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
Grain-to-glass French whiskey done right.