French Fancies – Rozelieures Tourbe 46%

Living in Europe means we have great access to an incredible range of European whiskies. Our latest venture was to France – with a duo from a small farm distillery in Lorraine – G Rozelieures.

After their rather delightful Subtil, we were curious what their peated expression would bring. And were not disappointed…

Rozelieures Tourbe 46%

  • Colour – Still light, but deeper gold than Subtil
  • Nose – Mmmm pine, sweet grass, caramelized smoked ham, getting smokier as it opened up, herbal, even fruity with a dash of cinamon
  • Palate – Initially the peat was quite subtle, shifting into pine, some warming spices of cinnamon and star anise, elegant and sophisticated,
  • Finish – Just carries through

Overall it was well balanced, with a nice continuity between what we enjoyed in the aromas, also in the palate and finish.

Happiness! We definitely will need to explore more from this distillery.

What do the folks at Rozelieures have to say?

This exceptional peated whisky is powerful and has a balanced structure. The Bourbon casks along with the French new oak casks from Lorraine bring fresh and delicate vegetal notes: a delightful taste.

  • Nose : flowered malted, spicy
  • Mouth : fruity, spicy, peated
  • Finish : smoked, spicy, pear

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French Fancies – Rozelieures Subtil 40%

Our first introduction to G.Rozelieures whiskies was a bit ‘disguised’ via the brilliant Maison Benjamin Kuentz (D’un) Verre printanier (2020) 46% and Fin de partie (2020) 46% – both of which we absolutely loved!

So we simply had to explore more! One of our lovely ladies took it upon herself to track down two to start – one without peat (Sbutil) and another with (Tourbe).

What do we know about these folks? It is family run, distilling for multi generations in the village Rozelieures in Lorraine, France. The barley is grown locally with whisky distilled on their farm. 

A quartet of minis made their way from Paris to Nurnberg and our Whisky Ladies Euro Chapter explored together one fine Friday evening. What did we try?

Rozelieures Subtil 40%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Apple custard, sweet and slightly sour, some salty caramel, gooseberry, a bit tart, something we first described as ‘strong’ honeysuckle then settled on quince, cereals, vanilla… more and more a delightful pear came to the fore, some nutmeg, basil and mint, floral, fruity and increasingly sweet
  • Palate – A nice ‘easy drinker’ fruity – particularly quince… it also had a wine-like character
  • Finish – Apple sauce and light spice

Overall it was summary – fruity, a bit floral, some herbs and sweet cereals… delicious and dare I say refreshing on the palate? Yet it isn’t a push over, there is something quite compelling and interesting about this one – enough to bring you back again and again. 

Typically a whisky at 40% is a mass produced travel retail affair. Not this. It is boutique in the best sense – unique, intriguing and inviting. A perfect aperitif and well worth exploring.

So what do the folks at Rozelieures have to say?

This Whisky presents itself as the first unpeated single malt produced in Rozelieures. This vintage has been aged in old Bourbon, Cognac and new oak casks. This novelty keeps more than ever this fatty in the mouth, become characteristic feature of the farm-distillery. This Whisky is distinguished by its subtle and floral aromas.

What else did we try in our French focused evening?

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French Fancies – Glann Ar Mor 46%

If you had told me in 2015 when I first discovered a dram from this Bretagne distillery at Singapore’s Auld Alliance during a special blind world whisky flight, that a few years later I would be living in Europe and tasting an unpeated Glenn Ar Mor expression virtually with friends in Paris, I would have thought your completely crazy!

I was firmly based in Asia, more likely to move from Mumbai to Singapore than Nurnberg! However that evening was clearly responsible for a growing curiosity and appetite for European whiskies – and more specifically those from France.

That cask strength Kornog was remarkable – and kicked off a hunt to track down more so that whisky explorers in India could also experience its distinctive character.

Were we successful in finding a Kornog bottle? Yes! An intrepid lady managed to wrangle via the UK a different expression – the Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46% – which certainly captured our attention!

On a roll, we plotted to acquire another. Full of high expectations, we eagerly cracked open the Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC (2014) 46% – and were desperately disappointed.

So we were a wee bit wary about this Glann Ar Mor unpeated expression…with expectations tempered by a less than stellar last brush however remaining curious and overall optimistic. What did we think?

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Glann Ar Mor 46%

  • Nose – To be honest, it started off a bit peculiar – greeting us with white asparagus, slightly musty with a curious elusive spice, quite vegetal we also found mushrooms and saline, some apple cider or overripe mangos. It started to shift, more caramel, some rhubarb, perhaps even some herbal hints.
  • Palate – Young, wine-like, effervescent… the mushrooms we caught in the aromas were also there in the taste. There was even a kind of stone or granite flavour. Yet just like the nose, as our palates adjusted, we began to enjoy it more, discovering a tasty toffee
  • Finish – More of the same qualities from the palate, slipping into pine

It started off… well… a bit strangely… However as it opened up in the glass, we warmed up to it more and more.

In short – it was distinctly different. There was no doubt this was far from Scotland, with a unique personality. And yet, if we had to make a comparison it would be to Talisker – something about the seaside quality was at least “kissing cousins” in character.

We nearly set it aside to move on to the next French whisky, but stopped for a moment to read the bottle notes. It recommended adding water… really? So we did…

The transformation started slowly… morphing more and more as the minutes ticked by:

  • Nose – Sweeter, friendlier, fruitier… with the aromas becoming increasingly fragrant with a light perfume, vanilla
  • Palate – Much smoother, infinitely more accessible, the fruitiness on the nose follows through on the palate, accompanied by a slightly salty element
  • Finish – A nice bitter sweet almond joined the flavours with a light spice

Our conclusion? Definitely different however absolutely worth adding water! It made a huge impact… even more pronounced when we returned to compare the glass without water and the glass with water. We couldn’t help but wonder… is this really the same whisky…?

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I believe we had their standard Glann Ar Mor expression, matured in ex-Bourbon barrels, with only limited additional information on the distillery website sharing:

New bottling of the unpeatted single malt from GLANN AR MOR DISTILLERY matured in Bourbon cask. Nose floral and malted. Mouth : fresh, fruity with vanilla, and maritime. Finish : greedy and sophisticated.

This bottle was purchased in Paris with a sample generously sent to me in Germany by my tasting companions.

What else did we try in our French focused evening?

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French Fancies – Le Pertuis 5 year 42.6%

One of our tasting companions in Paris was gifted a membership with “Flaviar“. So when she decided to have a French themed tasting, she decided to leverage this new membership to discover something “different” and “new”. Which can lead to wonderful discoveries or complete duds!

Enter Le Pertuis – sounds quite French, oui? Mais no. Turns out this particular whisky was actually distilled in Scotland, then brought to France to finish in ex-Bourbon, Cognac, and Pineau des Charentes casks.

Le Pertuis 5 year 42.6%

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Sweet hay and honey, some ripe prunes, comes across as an uncomplicated easy drinking dram, lightly fruity, toffee sweet
  • Palate – Simple, bit of spice, very straight forward
  • Finish – Peppery

Overall it was innocuous, if a tad insipid – nothing unpleasant but equally nothing really stood out. We set it aside, hoping more would be revealed in the revisit.

Well….?

  • Nose – A bit more sweet n sour, slightly salty, hard toffee… with more time, the toffee became even more pronounced, joined by chocolate milk
  • Palate – Still simple yet peppery, faint cinnamon
  • Finish – Similar, just this time with a hint of anise

As an “appetizer” to get things going, fair enough. But would I run out to buy? Certainly not.

What more do we know about Le Pertuis and this whisky? Here’s what the Flaviar folks have to say

A “pure malt” Whisky from northwestern France that’s worth a dram.

Île de Ré is a a 90 square-mile barrier island just off the coast of northwestern France. Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a small commune — one of ten on the island — that fronts the Pertuis Strait. In short… this might be the last place you would expect to find a Whisky maker. But sure enough, this small, idyllic, French hamlet is where they make small batches of Le Pertuis Whisky using locally-grown grains and old-world craftsmanship.

Technically, Le Pertuis Whisky is a Pure Malt. This means that their base Spirits is 100% malted barley, but it might be distilled in more than one location. Seems that demand for their signature Spirit outstrips the capacity of the stills on site, so a bit is farmed out to other houses to keep up the supply. They age their Spirit for five years in new oak before finishing it in three different seasoned barrels — ex-Bourbon, Cognac, and Pineau des Charentes casks. The results of each are blended to taste. And it’s darn tasty too.

Tasting notes:

  • Appearance / Color – Mahogany 
  • Nose / Aroma / Smell – A cornucopia of fruit — tangy grapefruit, baked apples, and cocoa. 
  • Flavor / Taste / Palate – Complex with fruitcake, figs, cinnamon, chocolate, and dried apricot. 
  • Finish – Medium length and warm with sea-salt toffee.

However it is possible the details on the website for Le Pertuis differs than the bottle we tasted – which clearly and transparently indicated the whisky originated in Scotland. Hmm…

What else did we explore in our French focused evening?

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French Fancies – Le Pertuis, Glann Ar Mor, Rozelieures

Spring is in the air (despite the occasional ‘relapse’ of snow) and time to turn our attentions to some French fancies… of the whisky variety!

A quartet of minis made their way from Paris to Nurnberg and our Whisky Ladies Euro Chapter explored together one fine Friday evening. What did we try?

We had clear favourites – both of the Rozelieures for different reasons! So much so that we are now even more impatient for COVID conditions to change so that we can plan a trip to the distillery in Lorraine, France.

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The Belgian Owl

Sometimes one thing leads to another… What was originally intended to be a Bombay ‘bar night’ with various whiskies lying around turned (thanks to the wonders of modern technology and curious connects) into a special feature on The Belgian Owl together with the founder and master distiller – Etienne Bouillon – and brand ambassador – Frédéric Senet.

Alas I was already back in Germany so could only experience Identité ‘vicariously’ via the descriptions of the others – which were incredibly positive! Even from one who was a bit skeptical from his earlier brush almost a decade ago – however distilleries and palates evolve and the sincerity of the enthusiasm was clear.

How did this evening come about? Well, one of our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents currently splits his time between Belgium (where his wife lives and works) and Mumbai (where he lives and works).

On a recent trip to Mumbai, he was contacted via a consulate connect asking “Don’t you do whisky tastings? The folks from The Belgian Owl are interested in getting some feedback from an Indian perspective…” Which is a bit amusing considering the gent in question is actually British! However, like myself, has lived for decades in India, adopting Mumbai as home so not so strange after all.

He was so impressed with the bottle shared in Mumbai that our intrepid introducer made the trek to the distillery on his next trip to Belgium, determined to bring the full range to Mumbai.

As for myself? Courtesy of the fine folks we virtually met, I now have this very tempting quintet to explore…. not today but sometime soon when a similar set makes its way back to Mumbai so we can join together virtually in a Belgian quest!

  • The Belgian Owl Origine Pot Still unaged spirit 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Identité 36 months, first fill bourbon 46%
  • The Belgian Owl Passion 36 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538337 46% Bottle 29
  • The Belgian Owl Intense 40 months, first fill bourbon, single cask 1538452 72.7% Bottle 177
  • The Belgian Owl Evolution 48 months, first fill bourbon 46%

Nice to have something to look forward to in the coming months.

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Peaty persuasion – High Coast Hav “Spiced Oak” 48%

What’s in a name? Well… apparently a lot! Back in 2010, a distillery was founded in the Höga Kasten or High Coast of Sweden…dubbing itself  “Box Distilleri”.

Fast forward to 2018, a few years after Barcardi gained a stake in Compass Box, a potential ‘brand conflict’ was raised and Box CEO Thomas Larsson acquiesced, changing their name officially to “High Coast“.

Our previous brushes with this Scandi distillery were quite positive – from samples of The 2015 Festival and a special Shareholders 3 year dram in 2016 to a full bottle brought from Sweden to Mumbai –  Dálvve – in 2017.

Here is what I found…

High Coast Hav Spiced Oak 48%

  • Nose – Light smoke, youghurt, malty, sweet spices of clove… started to open up more sweet grass peat, candies, then malty mocha, chocolate, almond biscotti, vanilla icing sugar, a light citrus twist
  • Palate – OK that has some kick, a bit harsh at first, spicy peat, some dry oak, then becomes friendlier, fruitier, sweeter… almost flowery
  • Finish – Black peppercorn, cinnamon brown sugar chaser, vanilla

More punch on the palate than the aromas initially indicated, but becomes more fun and tasty. I was struck with how the freshness also had a nice complement of character depth – considering “Spiced Oak” rather apt, particularly appreciating the light peat.

Somehow I found myself sipping and enjoying and… well.. not really thinking about creating detailed tasting notes as I was simply liking it!

What more do we know?

Lots! Thanks to the transparency in sharing the recipe and process…

I’ve reproduced content from their website below, starting with the overall description and tasting notes… however for the geeks, I encourage you to read on!

Here is what the folks at High Coast have to say about Hav:

Hav is a lightly peated single malt whisky from High Coast Distillery (formerly Box Distillery) in Sweden. It has been matured in both ex-Bourbon barrels and small 40 litre casks made from Swedish and Hungarian oak. ‘Hav’ means ‘sea’ in Swedish and is part of The Origins series celebrating location, history and geography of the Swedish distillery.

Official tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Fruity, Spicy, Cloves, Light Peat Reek, Nutmeg
  • Palate: Well balanced, Fruity, Spicy, Peat aroma
  • Finish: Oak, Cloves, Vanilla

Recipe:

Hav consists of 76,82% unpeated whisky and 23,18% of peated whisky. 66,85% has matured in small casks of Hungarian and Swedish oak up to 5 months then transferred to Bourbon barrels for an average of 6,09 years. 30.84% has matured solely in Bourbon barrels and 2,67% has been finished in 40 liter Hungarian oak casks.

Casks used:

  • 200 liter Bourbon barrels (Quercus Alba), delivered empty direct from Kentucky
  • 40 litre Swedish oak casks (Quercus Robur), made by Thorslundkagge
  • 40 liter Hungarian oak (Quercus Petraea), made in Hungary
  • Until October 2014, our casks have matured in a damp warehouse, where they lost slightly more alcohol than expected. Since October 2014 until bottling, the casks have been maturing in a dry environment in warehouse number 3.
  • 14/03/2019 48 Bourbon barrels containing 6610,5 kilos of whisky, with an average strength of 61,69% abv, were emptied into our blending tank. There we added, 2154,7 kilos of water to reach the desired strength of 48% abv.

Ingredients:

  • Yeast: Fermentis Safwhisky M-1
  • Unpeated malt: Pilsner malt from Vikingmalt in Halmstad.
  • Peated malt: Pilsner malt from Castle Maltings in Belgien as well as peated malt from Scottish maltsters.
  • Peated to a phenolic level of 31 and 46ppm with peat from Scotland
  • Barely types: Henley, Sébastian, Rosalina, Scarlett, Quench, Tipple, Barke
  • Process water: From Bålsjön, filtered through sand and carbon filters
  • Cooling water: From Ångermanälven
  • Batch size: 1200 kg malt / 6300 liter wort
  • Average fermentation time: 80 hours in stainless steels washbacks.
  • Distilled between: 09/01/2012 – 12/12/2013

First Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 13 minutes head (foreshots)
Peated spirit: 30 minutes head (foreshots)

Second Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 67 % ABV (20°C)
Peated spirit: 60 % ABV (20°C)

Key facts:

  • Strength ABV (alcohol by volume): 48 % ABV
  • Age: 5,24 – 7,12 years (Average: 6,26 years)
  • Phenol content PPM: 0, 31, 46 ppm (Average: 11 ppm)
  • Cask: 40 liter Hungarian oak, 40 liter Swedish, 200 liter Bourbon barrels
  • Number of Bottles: 11 614 st
  • Bottle Size: 700 ml

Gotta admire the passion, precision and creativity that goes into such an approach…

And the other drams sampled in this Peaty Persuasion trio?

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Peaty persuasion – Sprit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

Last in a Peaty Persuasion trio was “The Nose” from Spirit of Hven…. This wasn’t our first introduction to this Swedish distillery, however it had been some time – nearly five years since we sample Tycho’s Star! With further explorations clearly overdue!

Clearly with a name like “the nose”, it is a nod to the critical role of nosing to determine which cask is ready and how it is to be used…

So what did I think?

Spirit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

  • Nose – Sour mash, solvent? over ripe fruit, cinnamon spice, yes there is some smokiness, cinnamon oatmeal with brown sugar, something quite “chaotic” in the aromas – some malt, some spice, some smoke, some sour, some sweet….
  • Palate – Cinnamon, oaky spice, raisins, a hint of listerine? more bitter oak, with a kind of resin…
  • Finish – Bit of bitter coffee

Well…. there is an oaky spice, however it is a bit peculiar. To be honest, I’m not so sure about this one and struggled with it… Setting it aside, I decided to come back… and just before doing so added a few drops of water, hoping it would help balance this somewhat imbalanced dram.

This time I could tease out more of the overripe fruit, stewed apples, herbs, faintly floral perfume.. but it was still remarkably ‘shy’. And the palate? Hmm.. much improved. Now the oak spice has settled in nicely.

So while the initial experience didn’t tempt me to try water, I’m glad I did.

What more do we know?

The distillery shares that it is an October 2020 release, matured in a variety of casks – more precisely 21 casks! The ‘base’ is 14 French Quercus Petraea casks that previously held wines such as Petrus, Margaux and Latour. These were supported by 7 American Quercus Muehlenbergii casks with a mix of virgin oak and ex Spirit of Hven Vodka casks – yes vodka! These were further ‘married’ in Spanish Quercus Robur ex Oloroso sherry butts. As for age, Spirit of Hven share that the youngest cask is 8 years old and the oldest 12 years – from their distillery’s first year of production.

Here’s official tasting notes:

Without water,

  • The whisky is pungent with balanced elegance, it has a clear note of oak and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are scents of vanilla and caramel combined with coffee and sweet wine. Top note is French oak with a light spiciness.
  • The taste is powerful and lands mid tongue. It shows a menthol sweetness balanced by a slightly acidic bitterness. Elegant and full flavoured.
  • Medium long aftertaste.

With water,

  • The whisky opens up and reveals scents of light, floral herbs, lavender and ripe plums. The scent is caressed, probably as traces from the angels, by a nose of vanilla and apple. This is how the garden of Eden must have scented like.
  • With a little water, the taste becomes velvet smooth and enticing. Balance shifts towards the lid of the mouth with a counterbalance point mid tongue.
  • The aftertaste prolongs with water and the sweet notes extends. Lovely.

I’m sorry… garden of Eden? Not exactly… at least in my experience.

What else was included in an evening of Peaty Persuasion :

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vomFASS – Mackmyra Duo + Teeling

Back in the days that I regularly travelled to Singapore, I heard about an interesting store – vomFASS – where you could find specialty spirits, oils, vinegars and more!

A friend in Indonesia even purchased one of their whisky blends which we enjoyed one fine evening in Jakarta! However I somehow never made it to their Singapore shop… I was certainly curious, but there was always some other work or play priority…

Fast forward several years and now I – remarkably and conveniently – live nearby a vomFASS shop in Nurnberg, Germany!  For those who haven’t yet encountered these folks, over the last 25+ years, they’ve grown far beyond Germany with franchises scattered around 20 odd countries. The concept remains – purchase both bottle and liquid, return to refill your bottle from the cask you liked – if still available – or try something new.

Naturally I couldn’t resist and found myself picking up a trio!

So what made it into a wee 100 ml “barrel to bottle” vomFASS experience?

  • Mackmyra “Valbo” 42.5%
  • Teeling Reserve Small Batch Sherry 16 year 43%
  • Mackmyra “Kungstorv” Peated 47%

Curious? Read on… Continue reading

Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Aveux Gourmands

Our absolute favourite from Maison Benjamin Kuentz is their Aveux Gourmands – launched late 2020.

Aveux Gourmands 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Mmmm….. bubblegum, toffee, salty caramel, a nice nuttiness with roasted hazelnut, fudge… then all combining together in an indulgent salty caramel hazelnut chocolate fudge… as it opened up further came a caramelized banana, pineapple upside down cake, buttery brioche, strawberries and cherries
  • Palate – Buttery salty toffee, spice, fudge, more of that buttery brioche,
  • Finish – Nutty fudge, salted butter toast

Pure decadence! We loved this one! Aromas were yum! A melt in your mouth fudge on the palate, rewarding finish… In short it was luxury… like an indulgent incredibly high calorie desert that you just – must – have!

And what happened when we added water? Just dampened everything – it simply wasn’t the same. And who wants decadence diminished?

And with the glass we left ‘as is’? We let it rest for some time and returned to be rewarded by salty buttery toffee fudge desert in a glass! Who could resist?

Zero doubt this was our favourite of the evening!

What else do we know?

It is aged between in ex Sauternes Grand Cru barrels from Chateau Rayne Vigneau, Bretagne.

The team kindly provided us with further details… Please excuse the rough translation from French:

Gourmet, exotic, salty

Like a confession that you will remember at the tip of your tongue. This whisky is the admission of a small sin of taste. Gourmet on the nose with this mishmash of hazelnuts, honey and cooked fruits. The balance is even more succulent… the fullness of this single malt gently delivers its exotic bouquet. This is perfectly balanced by the salinity of a Breton brandy… making a delicacy that we never tire of. Simple pleasure, sweet complexity. Quiet.

Notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Gourmand, notes de noisettes, de miel et de fruits cuits
  • Bouche – Ample, ronde, saline, notes de noix de coco, d’ananas et de caramel au beurre salé
  • Finale – Amande et noisettes, notes de miel se dissipant sur l’équilibre salin final
  • Pairing suggestions – Gâteau praliné, beurre de cacahuète, carpaccio d’ananas et coco séchée, que de la gourmandise pour un moment d’exception.
It is available in Europe directly from Maison Benjamin Kuentz for EUR 52 for a 500ml bottle. I will confess, I snapped up two bottles – one for our lovely ladies back in India and another for a friend in Canada. Who knows when I will be able to bring either bottle to either country, but at least these bottles will be ready when travel becomes feasible.

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