I just left Burgundy, and before going back to the Scottish islands in my faithful BRAD PEAT, I had promised you, I wanted to go for a little tour in the lands that saw me grow up.
The Pays D'Oc in the south of France.
After a nostalgic passage in Montauban, I decide to take the "tourist" roads as they say and go in the direction of the North East following the course of the Aveyron. I pass by Bioule ("world capital of the quine"), Saint Antonin Noble Val (where I saw my first bowls in a canoe) and Saint-Martin-Laguépie (where I played explorer as a child looking for my first fossils). So many memories. From there I leave the Aveyron river bed and head south to Albi. I pass Cordes and especially approach Villeneuve sur Vère, destination of my trip. Why? Well quite simply because in Occitan Villeneuve is called VILANOVA! That does not say anything to you?
Today we are in the Tarn at the CASTAN distillery to discover VILANOVA whisky.
We are in summer, and in summer, in the country of OC, it is hot. When I get out of my suit, just parked next to the remains of an old itinerant still, I quickly realize that I am in the Tarn. The wind that blows is hot, very hot to make a lawn yellow in 1 day: the autan wind (the wind that drives you crazy -NDLR-).
In short, here we are in front of the CASTAN distillery where we are going to taste the VILANOVA TERROCITA whisky, the peaty version of the brand (you know the little problem I have to be called PEATDREAM and to love peat...).
The distillery is very small, but I know it does great things. Here we work with craftsmanship. The owner of the place, Sébastien CASTAN and his wife Céline are wine growers (from Gaillac -NDLR-). When you are a winegrower you have to know the land and what it can produce (especially when you are organic). It is with this knowledge that the couple began in 2010 to start growing barley and making whisky. It must be said that there is family anteriority since "grandpa" and dad were itinerant distillers since 1929.
It is still in the old jaw harp (a little refreshed and modernized) that the whisky is distilled here in a very artisanal way. No pear or onion shaped stills are used here. Here, the fruit still is used (with 3 of the 4 copper vats and a cooling tower) which allows to produce a rather sweet and fruity distillate.
In addition, the wish was made to produce 100% tarnais. The barley comes from a field just next door, the water from a natural spring just below and the whole thing is done with a still (ok made in the drome but as it was almost 100 years ago, it's tarnais now) that slaps and whistles. You add to that the owners who speak with an accent for the singing "moinsse" (french south accent) and everything is gathered to make a local.
In 2010, only one distillate was proposed, a pure malt, BERBIE, but since then the range has been extended with 4 different expressions depending on the finish: the GOST (aged in American oak and white wine casks), the ROJA (aged in red wine casks in French oak), the SEGALA (a 100% local rye), and thus the TERROCITA (peaty version) that we will taste. In addition, and this is a particularity of the distillery, it offers whiskies coming out of the still without any ageing (the NEW MAKE). A range from A to Z distributed only in single cask!
This range was also praised during the general agricultural competition in silver in 2018 and 2020 and in gold for our tasting of the day in 2019.
As for our tasting of the day, the TERROCITA, it is produced from peat-dried malted barley (ok in Belgium but we can still allow a small deviation sometimes) and is aged for 4 years in French oak barrels that have contained white wine (from Gaillac!??).
And what does it give then?
Already it gives a beautiful copper and almost amber color.
And is it as beautiful as the plumage?
Well I will say that it is well up to the task: When the nose dives into the glass, it will discover beautiful warm spicy notes (almost peppery if you venture too long in the glass). Peat will appear on the right side of my nose. This whisky promises to be fleshy. Sweet wine aromas (certainly linked to the ageing cask) appear when you let your nose hang over the glass. At the second passage we will stay in the softness and warmth of bourbon notes (without the citrus fruits) and just waxed leather. At the third passage, the smells will reveal themselves more fruity and sweet with a hint of ripe grapes picked just before being dried out by the autan wind.
Put a drop of liquid in the palm of your hand and you will discover the peat in its most beautiful presence.
In the mouth the notes will stay on the warmth. They will be marked by peat comings and goings. Indeed, the entry in mouth turns out to be sweet (but with a furtive touch of bitterness), then it will be clearly peaty. Then the peat fades away to reveal woody and spicy notes. Then the peat comes back to the front, before again taking its place to more bitter citrus notes. It makes a third passage to leave it then the beautiful part to notes of honey. A most pleasant round trip of peat.
Paradoxically, once swallowed, it is a certain freshness that will remain for a while with notes of anise and even pepper.
Finish this tasting with the feeling of an empty glass. The notes present will of course be those of peat, but also those of a barn where hay was stored for the winter.
Ah the midday, already that it was already a beautiful place if in addition it becomes a land of whisky like Brittany and Alsace (without any restriction on my part because whisky is made all over France now) where are we going ("putaing con" -NDLR-) ?
Plus if it smells like peat??!!