It's been a long time since I've offered you a seat in my club chair. Not because there aren't any distillates that are up to scratch, but because I prefer to discover new things.
But when I was offered today's distillate, I couldn't think of any other place to discover the "oldest" French whisky on the market (21 years old after all): EDDU GRAAL from the Distillerie des Menhirs.
So I'm sitting comfortably in my armchair, but before slipping a few drops of this distillate let's talk about the Menhirs distillery and its GRAAL.
I already had the opportunity to introduce you to the distillery (or not, because of Covid at the time) when I tasted an already exceptional 15 year old vintage (here), and the years go by very quickly. However, unlike life, ageing and the passing of years, when it comes to whisky, is rather beneficial.
A little reminder is in order.
Here we have always spoken about BLE NOIR (which is called EDDU in Breton!). And we have been using it to make whisky since 1996, when GUY LELAY (a maths teacher and distiller of pommeau and lambic) decided to start making buckwheat whisky. This makes the MENHIR DISTILLERY a unique case.
As it was already the case for the 2004 distillate, the distillery has kept some old casks in its stock! Good for them! It was one of these that made it possible to obtain the GRAAL of the day.
And it is cask number 35, to be precise, which was chosen by Guy LELAY's three sons (Erwan, Kévin and Loig, the 5th generation of the name) to pay tribute to their father and to offer us what is to date the oldest French whisky: 21 years.
The "worry" is that 21 years in an oak cask is a long time and it leaves time for the angels to help themselves. And God knows that Breton angels are fond of buckwheat distillate.
In fact, of the distillate that ran out of the still in 2001, only the equivalent of 304 bottles remained at a gross degree of 43.5% alc). Enough to create a myth...a Grail!
This whisky, with its magnificent deep copper-gold colour, is very subtle and 43% alc.
The first nose is already a journey in itself. It starts with warm cocoa notes but also fresher notes of ripe pear. Nevertheless, given the presence of buckwheat, the pear in question is much denser than that which one is used to encounter in a "conventional" whisky. Then come the fine spicy notes and at the end we even detect some aniseed notes!
And this is only the first pass!
On the second pass, it becomes much more fruity and candied. Warm aromas of pineapple and orange make their appearance accompanied by spicy notes on one nostril while on the other the aromas are fresher and more herbaceous!
On the third pass we return to chocolate and vanilla aromas and a hint of wood.
The least we can say is that the nose of this Grail takes us on a journey that goes beyond the borders of Brittany!
On the palate, it is thick and mellow with sweet marks at first. It then becomes woody with the traces left by the cask over time. Over the length it becomes increasingly mellow and warm. Then comes spices and honey which make it even more pastry-like. One moment there is an explosion of citrus fruits which slowly fades away to accompany us towards a more woody end.
When swallowed it will leave a velvety sweetness in the mouth as it makes a cooler descent on notes of liquorice and anise. The finish is long and leaves notes of liquorice in the mouth and above all a beautiful memory of travel.
As if to complete the circle of 21 years since its distillation, the empty glass will bring out the notes of buckwheat that gave it life but also notes of orange.
Nice trip to the back of my club chair.
But I can already hear the name of the JEAN LE CAM collection being mentioned and I know that there are still some old corked casks in the magnificent cellar of the DISTILLERIE DES MEHNIRS... It will be for you next time!