Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Aux Particules Vines

One highlight from our Whisky Ladies Euro Chapter was the discovery of Maison Benjamin Kuentz whiskies. So when I traveling to Paris in June 2021, we absolutely HAD to meet the remarkably talented man behind the creations. And what an experience in the heart of Paris, going deep into  a cool ‘cave’ like facility where the magic happens!

Our primary focus was on Aux Particules Vines – a whisky series intent on discovering a singular alchemy – the harmony between grain, malt and French wine.

For us, the 1st Edition reminded us of a subtle wet spring morning whereas the 4th edition was a late summer afternoon and the 5th clearly shifted into autumn, demanding more time and patience to open up fully.

With all three we discovered an interplay between aromas, palate and consistently long finishes.

Aux Particules Vines Edition #1 46%

This edition took a wee bit of effort to track down – a hidden remaining stock with La Maison du Whisky which was cleverly spotted by one of our Parisian Whisky Ladies. She brought the bottle along for our tasting with Benjamin, which was such a treat!

What do we know about it? I’ll admit my quickly scrawled notes were impossible to read beyond it finished in a French Wine – Burgandy – and also mention of a white wine?? However Magali from Maison Benjamin Kuentz kindly clarified the whisky was distilled in Loraine at Distillery Grallet Dupic and then has an 8 month finish in White Burgundy barrels (Chardonnay grape) from Jean Chartron wine maker in Puligny-Montrachet. They suggest pairing with pâté or some matured beef meat.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Bright gold
  • Nose – Fresh pear, lots of orchard fruits, honey, combined with a surprising saline, shifting slightly from fruit to fresh green leaves, a kind and charming
  • Palate – Smooth with substance, the kind of whisky that has a lovely “fatness” too it without being heavy, still more on the subtle side and not as sweet as we anticipated from the aromas
  • Finish – Long, strong and slightly bitter

Overall there was a subtle “spring-like” quality that we quite enjoyed.

Aux Particules Vines Edition # 4 46%

What do we know about this particular edition?

Its fourth edition, which matured on the left bank of Bordeaux in the ex-cask of a great wine, gave it immense finesse, exhaling fruity and floral notes. This freshness of red fruits and flowers is enhanced by aromas of fresh and dried fruits as well as by fine spices on the finish. A powerful palate that goes ideally with a fresh fruit tart, or a white chocolate pistachio dessert. In the rest of the collection, this fourth edition is a tribute to the work of the vineyard.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Dark gold
  • Nose – Very fruity and vibrant, lots of peaches and apricots, a joyful late summer whisky
  • Palate – Such a different character! It started sweet then shifted into quite pronounced ginger, cinnamon… if you held it in your palate for some time the peppercorns popped out joined by wine tannins… interesting indeed
  • Finish – Very long
While the aromas reminded us of a late summer afternoon, the palate was even more vibrant and unique in character.
If you are lucky, you can still track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 65.
Aux Particules Vines Edition # 5 46%

What do we know about this edition?

This fifth opus is a first for Maison Benjamin Kuentz: it is the result of a blend of a single malt matured in ex-barrels of a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé, Château Lafon-Rochet, and a touch of a buckwheat whiskey from a Finistère distillery. Enveloping and warm, with fruity and winey notes enhanced by a sweet spice and pastry notes. To taste like a grand cru!

Benjamin added it was a blend with 45% barley whisky from Rozelieres and 55% Buckwheat from Eddu which helps keep the finish. With the strong red wine, we also observed it needs time to open.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Light luminous ruby
  • Nose – Initially very fruity and sweet – lots of berries, heavy honey, vanilla, then shifted into coconut oil, revealing more and more character as it opened up
  • Palate – Very different! Initially a bit sharp, bursting with character – a bit malty, the buckwheat initially prominent then merged with the other elements – including the distinctive influence of the Bordeaux
  • Finish – Like the others – long, strong this time with tobacco leaf with a light bitterness
What is so impressive about what Benjamin does is how he orchestrates the different elements – this is a case where clearly the “sum” is greater than its “parts.” There was no doubt a wine cask was used for the finish.

Again, if you are in France and in luck, you may still be able to track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 75.

We were so impressed with this experience that efforts were made to track down Edition 2 and 3… no luck with the 2nd Edition however one of our Whisky Ladies was successful in purchasing the 3rd Edition. She also has Le Guip, so watch out for future tastings from Maison Benjamin Kuentz!

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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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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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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Fin de partie

The end of the party is often that time of the evening when most of the guests have gone, just a few remain… often the close friends who also pitch in for the clean-up before you settle down for a final dram, desultory conversation before finally bidding good night. Or at least this is what it (historically!) has been like for us!

So what does this “Fin de partie” from Maison Benjamin Kuentz bring to us?

Fin de partie 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Soft gold
  • Nose – Raw cashews reminding us of Goan feni, which began to shift to maple bacon, cured meats, tropical fruits – particularly baked pineapple, then shifted again into floral sweetness, then into cloves, light red chilli oil, cherry chocolate
  • Palate – Initially confusing, intense, spice, cocoa, fruity, a hint of honey glazed ham
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice

For me, the cured meats kept returning however for others, it subsided as our tasting progressed. We really enjoyed how it had such a quixotic character – a little of this, a little of that… elements which contrasted and then combined.

We decided to see how it was with a bit of water…

  • Nose – More prunes and plums, fruitier, now a sherry influence was clearly discernable
  • Palate – Initially spicier, warming and then settled in to become quite rounded
  • Finish – Still has that cinnamon but now slightly bitter, peppery and smoky

Above all, this is one you should let linger… whether with water or without, it really came into its own the more time it spent in the glass.

What else do we know?

It is aged between 6 to 7 years in ex Cognac, Bourbon, Oloroso and PX  barrels, from Lorraine.

And what do they have to say?

Sharing greedy notes with a touch of pepper to make the evenings endless.

Fin de Partie marks the end of the day and celebrates the beginning of happy gatherings. The ones one wouldn’t want to end. This generous single Malt, intense and elegant explodes gourmet flavours. Its nose intrigues with a wood bouquet, chocolate, dried fruits and a touch of pastry with custard notes. Prunes, spices and pepper finish make this Lorraine whisky a little less disciplined than it first appears.

Notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Complexe et intrigant, bonne rondeur Fleuri, fruité (fruits cuits), pâtissier Epicé et boisé
  • Bouche – Epais, gourmand, belle sucrosité Epicé, fruité, cacaoté
  • Finale – Fruits secs, écorce d’orange Epicée et poivrée, céréales torréfiées
  • Pairing suggestions – Les chocolats de chez Carré Victoire ou le Jambon Bellota 5j de la Maison Barthouil

Our sample was purchased from Paris and dispatched to each home. Currently a 500ml bottle sells directly from Maison Benjamin Kuentz for Eur 59.

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – (D’un) Verre Printanier

We began our explorations with (D’un) Verre Printanier... having every indication of being the lightest of our Maison Benjamin Kuentz trio with its glass of springtime.

(D’un) Verre printanier 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Light honey
  • Nose – Well hello pear! Followed by fresh cut grass, light hay, a nice fruity floral vibe… notes of bergamot, then cereals, shifting from pear to white nectarine, rounding things out with white and green peppercorn
  • Palate – Hmm… more of the cereals – think barley, a bit bitter even
  • Finish – There but…

If this whisky had a ‘colour’ it would be a fresh verdant green! Truly quite ‘spring-like’, comes across as young and fresh.

We were tempted to skip adding water as it is already 46%, but thought, why not try? And thank goodness we did. Wow!

  • Nose – Lots of pear returns, dripping with honey, and the floral? Think dew on honeysuckle. Vanilla custard, marshmallows
  • Palate – Delicious! Yes there is a bright pepper yet also toffee
  • Finish – Sweet pepper

Without water, it came across as a bit ‘young’ or ‘raw’… with a splash of water, the cereals  disappeared into the background, allowing the sweet fruity floral elements to really shine.

Overall we found this whisky fresh and fun. A brilliant way to whet the appetite for more!

What else do we know?

It is aged between 5 to 7 years in ex Cognac and ex Bourbon barrels from Lorraine.

And what do they have to say?

A sunny, fresh, supple and surprising whisky.

(D’un) Verre Printanier will surprise you with its lightness and freshness. Such as nature when it rises, this Single Malt from the Mirabelle plum country will awake you to new fragrances and colors. It distinguishes itself with a well-defined taste between rough flavour and fragrance but keeps its secrecy that will keep you on tenterhooks. The dominant feature is fruity with subtle notes of white fruits and fresh cereal with a spicy finish and a nice softness. An open air olfactory promenade off the beaten track.

Tasting notes (rough translation)

  • Nose – White flowers, orchard fruits (pear in particular). Notes of cereals and fresh herbs, slightly spicy 
  • Palate – Crunchy attack, very supple. Fruity (pear again, but also notes of yellow fruits, such as plums), vegetal
  • Finish – Malty, slightly spicy, airy, which whets the appetite. Maintained tension, which makes you want to come back
  • Pairing suggestions – Baltic salmon from Barthouil or oysters from n°3 de la Maison Legris

Original notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Fleurs blanches, fruits du verger (la poire en particulier) Notes de Céréales et d’herbes fraîches, légèrement épicé
  • Bouche – Attaque croquante, toute en souplesse. Fruité (poire encore, mais aussi des notes de fruits jaunes, comme la mirabelle), végétal
  • Finale – Maltée, légèrement épicée, aérienne, qui ouvre l’appétit Une tension maintenue, qui donne envie d’y revenir
  • Pairing suggestions – Saumon baltique de chez Barthouil ou les huîtres n°3 de la Maison Legris

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Introduction

Late 2020 we kicked off a series of virtual sessions fuelled initially by my acquisition of some bottles from North Star and Chorlton. As brilliant as these were, we were hungry for new experiences. Given one of lovely ladies relocated from Mumbai to Paris, it seemed only natural to want to explore more from France.

The host of our 5th session decided to get creative and reached out to Mangali at Maison Benjamin Kuentz to purchase a trio for tasting. Very kindly, these samples were instead sent to us only with the cost of shipping.

As for what we thought? We were so impressed in December that we requested an opportunity to re-taste with the folks from Maison Benjamin Kuentz, curious to have all our questions answered!

Here is our intro to the core trio from Maison Benjamin Kuentz

What we discovered is a philosophy, a clear vision behind the approach which goes beyond selecting an interest cask, instead to evoking a certain thought for aroma and flavour profile, then experimenting until a recipe achieves that result.

Anything we speculated was overshadowed by the experience. Particularly the Aveux Gourmands was pure indulgence in a glass….

Enabling more bottles of limited liquid, Maison uses 500ml bottles – with prices ranging from EUR 52 to 75. I purchased a bottle of Aveux Gourmands for Mumbai and it was the 1st whisky I sipped and enjoyed in the new year – from my quarantine hotel room overlooking the Arabian sea…

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