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French get a taste for whisky as production increases

French get a taste for whisky as production increases
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By Robert Hackwill
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With cognac, armagnac and other French tipples losing out to more fashionable spirits, some producers are saying 'if you can't beat them...' and turning to whiskey production, with some surprising results.

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As if the French didn't already have enough wonderful things to eat and drink they're now trying to make whiskey. Not content with cognac, calvados and armagnac, the French like their Scotch and Bourbon. With Brexit on the horizon some are anticipating supply problems, while others, like at one Breton distillery, have been making whiskey for years, since 1983 in this case, the first in France.

"People thought we were crazy, saying : "whiskey, it's not a French product" So at the very beginning we tried to adapt to the market. And 95% of the market was made of blends meant for supermarket distribution... so we made a blend for supermarket distribution," says the CEO of the Warenghem distillery, David Roussier.

And the French market is rather promising. In France, more than 200,000 bottles of whisky are consumed each year.

Regarding production the amount of distilleries has exploded, from only five in the early 2000s to almost 60 today.

But the key to whiskey's taste is how it ages, in barrels. And in this area, French producers use a very French tradition that they use in wine.

"Here we have a whiskey aged in old barrels of Franche Comté wine like straw wine, yellow wine. Here we have a whiskey made in the Cognac region, this one aged in Sauternes wine barrels. So it's true that today production in France is obviously based on the expertise of French winemakers," says the president of the French Whiskey Union, Philippe Jugé.

This results in whiskeys with special tastes, potentially as varied as the host of French regional wines themselves. This could bring legitimacy to whiskey "made in France".

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