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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Ladies Choice – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

Our Ladies Choice evening moved from Sweden to France, home of the Glann Ar Mor distillery with its peated single malt Kornog.

pooja-virPooja Vir joins as our next Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest whisky reviewer…

Pooja has spent the last twenty years working in the  hospitality industry in Bombay and London in project management, operations and marketing communications. She always did love to eat on the job but recently swapped the 9 to 5 and terrific staff discounts for afternoon naps and private clients she loves.  

Here is what she has to say…

The last time we drank a Kornog I wanted to take my bra off.

And this, forever, will remain my first thought each time I drink the (very) peated malt from Breton.

When our favourite Whisky Lady invited me to write a guest post on a whisky I sourced for one of our club’s evenings I warned her it wasn’t going to be about the whisky. She didn’t seem to mind, and so here I am.

My love affair with whisky began when I was 6 months old. Several decades later, over my first ever whisky sour (which I sent back) in a trendy hotel in London’s Shoreditch I began to write a blog called Table for One. It’s a personal diary of sorts, and a record of what I felt when I was out eating and drinking on my own.

More decades later, after a fairly democratic voting process, the Whisky Ladies of Bombay chose 5 bottles for the evening we were hosting the Bombay Malt & Cigar evening. The Kornog Breton Single Malt became my responsibility. A quick call to my bootlegger in London and we were in business.

But I digress… you must want to get back to Breton, and bras.

The bra-extracting whisky that my fellow Whisky Ladies were referring to was the Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46% they tasted a few months ago. However, the Kornog Taourac’h Pemved 14 BC 46% we drank tonight was less titillating.

kornog

Much to the disappointment of the “gentlemen” we were hosting, no bras came off. And much to the disappointment of the ladies who had experienced a Kornog before, this one was as mild as the gents we were hosting.

Fortunately for me though, I didn’t carry the burden of experience. I had started to fall for this Kornog soon after I saw it for the first time. I loved the font on its label. I loved that it came from France (but wasn’t an Armagnac or a calvados or a pastis). I loved that it was the whisky version of Italy’s slow cooking movement – made with wooden washbacks, slow distillation and maturation by the sea.

So I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I decided to like it and all it had to do in return was deliver a perfect first kiss.

The clever folk will tell you its nose is “smoky and fruity with citrusy peat and notes of marzipan.” That it tastes “medicinal with hints of seaweed, tar and pear.” That the “smoke goes awry and marzipan hits again.” Or as the Whisky Ladies put it: the bras stayed on.

It seemed harsh at first sniff, but so much gentler on the tongue. I flirted enough for the two of us, but it didn’t seem to notice. I put a lot of heart into every conversation, and even though all I got back was monosyllables, it didn’t seem to notice.

Ladies and gentlemen, it would seem that I have been afflicted by a one-sided romance. I say this isn’t about the whisky… but of course it is. For it is unlikely that any other whisky, on any other night, with another group of people would have inspired what it did. It is unlikely that anyone else I loved so much, would reject me as surely as this Kornog did.

The Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC is a single-cask bottling, aged in a bourbon cask and bottled in 2014.

Table for One

Table for One

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

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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!

PS – After that teaser, we tried the Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46% – and it certainly did NOT disappoint!

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