French Whisky? Michel Couvreur Special Vatting Malt Whisky 45%

Is this whisky Scottish? French? Belgian? Spanish???

Michel Couvreur is Belgium. He and his team do not make whisky. Instead they buy “clearach” (a high proof distillate) from Scottish distilleries, import it to Bouze-les-Beaune, Burgandy, France where they are matured in small sherry casks (Pedro Ximenez and Palomino) from the Andalusia region of Spain, that have been “impregnated” with 25 years aging via traditional soleras.

The result? A most peculiar dram indeed…

First off, before we get to the tasting notes, you see that red wax cover? It took us considerable effort to chip away to remove… to discover a cork that required a corkscrew to pop out… like a bottle of wine.

Michel Couvreur Special Vatting Malt Whisky 45% (Bottle No 0941)

  • Nose – It was like peat and red wine collided, the tight red berries, spicy, then the aromas practically vanished to return quite sweet almost sugary
  • Palate – Plum, very sweet, a spice hit then mellows, black cherries, luscious taking on a very sweet quality
  • Finish – Dry, bitter, spice

We gave it some time to see if the character shifted… to find it settled into a super sweet yet light on the nose and a slightly odd quality on the palate. It was frankly a confusing whisky, one to have a conversation and pause with… shifting from being like red wine to white wine. Many couldn’t make up their mind whether they actually liked it… however the general consensus was we didn’t dislike it.

Described as being made by blending 3 peaty single malts from Scotland, “raised up” with sherry oak cask and then bottled in French Burgandian caves. For us, the peat was only there at the very start and then practically disappeared.

This whisky was picked up by one of our Whisky Ladies during her many globe trotting jaunts and opened in December 2017.

What all did we sample in our Après-ski:

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French whisky – Armorik Classic 46%

There was one more whisky I sampled at La Maison du Whisky in Singapore last June that missed getting into the original line-up. And I just recently stumbled across my notes…

Like the now mythical Kornog, this other French whisky Armorik was one I hoped to easily acquire and re-sample at leisure. It was one on a list of possible bottles to pick up in our trip through London – eminently more affordable than Singapore.

Alas that was not the case so here goes my quick impressions from a wee dram…

Armorik Classic NAS 46% – A single malt whisky from Breton just bursting with sweet currents, cereal and toasted nutty bread. On the palate gorgeous light fruits, cereals and spices. Finish is a light sprightly spice dance. In short – simple, spicy and delicious.

Amorik Classic (Whisky Lady)

Armorik Classic (Whisky Lady)

Armorik is produced at the Warenghem distillery in Lannion in north Brittany and is a marriage of sherry and bourbon cask whiskies of various ages.

Official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Rich and elegant with touches of nuts (hazelnut) and toasted bread.
  • Palate: A fruity attack that gradually reveals its complexity, with notes of dried fruits and cereals, highlighted by spices.
  • Finish: Long-lasting spicy and sea breeze notes.

Here’s what others have to say:

Related posts:

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Hunt for Glann Ar Mor’s Kornog

Since June 2015, I’ve spread feelers to track down something more from the Glann Ar Mor distillery

Heck I have a friend who works for a global company with their headquarters in Paris. Surely she could find there when on a business trip?

Or another that has a chateau in France, how difficult would it be to locate on a jaunt between there and India?

Numerous other friends who travel back and forth between Europe and Asia…

How difficult could it be to track down just one more bottle?

Well… it is…

Partly this challenge stems from questions around its continued existence. Earlier in 2015, the distillery announced it would close in August 2015. What?! No!! Say it isn’t so! With the rules on what does / does not qualify as a whisky from Bretagne, the distillery gained an extended lease on life.. however finding their whiskies? Remains elusive!

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

I originally tried their peated expression – Kornog – in June 2015 as part of a remarkable evening sampling 8 distinctive whiskies at The Auld Alliance.

Here is what we found:

Kornog 2013 58.7% bottled for The Auld Alliance 

  • Nose – Smooth flowers, garden greens, nail polish or varnish, very sweet – almost too sweet, smells light, bright and fresh… just couldn’t get beyond the sweet
  • Taste – PEAT as in serious peat, horses kick kinda peat, with bitter tamarind, super sour yet also rich and creamy – may sound like a contradiction yet it works
  • Finish – Smoooooth, warm, beautiful and simply delightful
  • Impression – Has a distinctly different character. Superb. We speculated that it may be cask strength

Here is what they have to say about their Peated Single Malt from Breton:

“Born from fire, raised by the wind.”

Traditional pot-still distillation without chill-filtration or caramel colouring. Peated at about 35/40 PPM, it is matured in first fill “barrique” of ex Sauternes wine and first fill bourbon barrels.

Of all the world whiskies sampled, the Kornog stood out as memorable. I resolved to explore more from this distillery.

Why mention any of this at all?

Because one of our whisky ladies has acquired a bottle! Not sure yet when we will have an opportunity to try… or even how hers will compare with its cask strength cousin… however looking forward to sampling in due course!

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La Maison du Whisky, Singapore

Most trips to Singapore with a bit of time include a stop at La Maison du Whisky for an enjoyable hour spent chatting, sampling and slowly deciding which whisky will make the final ‘cut’ for the journey home to Mumbai.

This June 2015 trip was no exception.

La Maison du Whisky, Singapore (Whisky Lady)

La Maison du Whisky, Singapore (Whisky Lady)

Over the years, the gents there have gained a sense of what we enjoy, what will peak our interest and also what we’ve managed to acquire by other means.

  • Last trip, I showed a spreadsheet tracking our tasting sessions
  • This trip, I could happily show this blog record of our sampling adventures

I’ve shared before how much I appreciate a chance to discover, discuss, sniff and sip before making a final purchasing choice. I prefer to take my time, so deliberately pop by late afternoon when there is more ‘trade traffic’ than ‘customer traffic.’ After all, it isn’t such a bad place to hang around and invariably those that do wander in will lead to an interesting conversational turn or two about a shared passion – whisky and fine spirits.

Our goal this time was:

  • Something that cannot be so easily obtained in London far cheaper… given that I would shortly be traveling there
  • No repeats of previous whiskies
  • At least one in the more mature and complex range
  • As always, an unpredictable ‘twist’ is appreciated

I shared how we enjoyed the Ledaig from an earlier trip and confessed we hadn’t yet opened the one selected late 2014 as it was trumped by my Japanese quartet from Tokyo.

Diego started with a rum, just because he recalled that the Tapatio Excelencia Gran Reserva Extra Anejo tequila was such a hit!

Clarin Vaval 52.5% – Small batch Haiti clear rum from Cavallon village, double distilled from ‘Madame Meuze’ cane sugar in 2013. It was a delightful discovery with overripe fruit, hot, tropical and distinctly different. It was like sunshine in a bottle.

Clarin Vaval (Whisky Lady)

Clarin Vaval (Whisky Lady)

We then moved on to two Compass Box whiskies:

Glasgow Blend (Whisky Lady)

Glasgow Blend (Whisky Lady)

We discussed several other whiskies – including suggestions for my London ‘wish list’. I was sorely tempted by this Hazelburn 8 year 1st bottling…

Hazelburn 8 year (Whisky Lady)

Hazelburn 8 yr (Whisky Lady)

In addition to the whiskies sampled, I’ll admit to sniffing more before finalising my selection for this trip…

What did I pick?

It was the Bunnahabhain 26 years.. part of a special Signatory Session held in February 2016:

Previous reviews sourced via La Maison du Whisky Singapore:

La Maison du Whisky is located at 80 Mohamed Sultan Road, #01-10 The Pier, Singapore
 Tel: 6733 0059