On board my faithful BRAD PEAT, back from my last trip to Cognac (here), I had to make a stop in the Loiret region, near Orléans.
Indeed, I had to go to a small village of 4000 inhabitants in the suburbs of the capital of the Centre Val de Loire: Ormes.
And why? Perhaps because this village was once one of the nerve centres of the Loiret winegrowers? perhaps? But above all because in its centre is a family cellar which trades in wines and spirits, and above all, since recently, offers its own range of whisky: La MAISON BRUANT (N° 118 on the map of yours truly).
This is an opportunity to taste together 3 of the CHARMEVAL's whisky references: BOURBON CASK FINISH, BANYULS CASK FINISH and BOURGOGNE BLANC CASK FINISH.
In Rue Nationale, in the old hamlet of Charmoy in the heart of the village of Ormes, I find a shop that hides its game well. The shop that could be mistaken for a simple cellar proudly displays a date on its front: 1877 (no less!). I don't know if there are many shops that can boast of being an old lady of almost 150 years!
The "small" shop window actually masks a distribution company well established in the region and a company created at the end of the 19th century by a certain Désiré Bruant. On the spot I am told that the company has obviously grown since its creation and that this cellar is only the tip of the BRUANT iceberg.
To discover CHARMEVAL, I was advised to go a little further into the village to the premises of BRUANT DISTRIBUTION (the hidden part of this same iceberg), a second company which deals with the distribution and import of wines and spirits. It is here that CHARMEVAL was conceived and created.
Both BRUANT companies have a history that is closely or distantly related to that of whisky, so it seemed legitimate to produce one.
Indeed, in 1877, Désiré Bruant turned to the wine trade because he had just lost all his vines to the nasty phylloxera. And as any whisky lover knows, it is thanks to the destruction of a large part of the French vineyards and the temporary disappearance of Cognacs and Armagnacs that whisky experienced a boom and a revival at the dawn of the 20th century. We can therefore imagine that the fact that these descendants are turning to whisky is only a fair return of things. Moreover, when we see that a large part of the finishs of the house's whiskies are linked to wine grapes (Banyuls, Bourgogne Blanc, Sauternes, Saint Julien), we come full circle.
For nearly 150 years, the company has remained BRUANT, passing from Désiré to Maurice, Marcel and Michel and has become anchored in the heart of the Beauce region.
Recently, Benoit (5th in line) and his wife have been at the helm and continue to develop the business, measuring the growing share of spirits in the process.
It is in fact in the face of this growing demand that they have decided to create their own range of whisky: CHARMEVAL (a compression of the old locality where the company is based, CHARMoy and the VAL de Loire region).
Benoit Bruant also knows that French whisky has a real nature and a real specificity. This is why he turned to French farmers, maltsters and distillers to produce these distillates (and not to Scottish distillates as is sometimes the case).
CHARMEVAL is therefore a true 100% French whisky which Benoit has taken on the task of ageing to a personalised standard. We won't quibble about the bourbon cask finish which could give it an American air. Indeed, I don't think there would be much scotch if Scotch whiskies had to be aged in Scottish casks!
We will discover today the three main references but already the Benoit Bruant gratifies us with two new limited references with finishes in Sauternes casks and in Saint Julien casks that I will certainly make you discover soon.
First of all, we will find common points to these whiskies. They are all made from the same distillates from the east of France and have spent a first period of ageing in French oak casks for 3 to 4 years.
Their olfactory and gustatory differences lie in the finish.
In fact, all three will have the same marked gold colour.
For this first one, it will be a bourbon barrel finish to bring a little roundness! Let's see?
This whisky has a very sweet character. When the nose dips into the glass, it discovers a rather sweet smell of caramelised barley. One can detect from the beginning the sweetness of honey but still a certain freshness.
On the second pass, it releases some discreet spices which are accompanied by fruity and sweet notes.
In the third passage, malty and sweet notes take over.
On the palate it is sweet as an appetizer. As on the nose, some spices appear afterwards. Then it is more floral notes and then spices again that make a marked return, warming the palate. It then turns into honey but has a woody touch that reveals the impact of the new barrels used for ageing. The end of the tasting is on vanilla in connection with its bourbon finish. Overall it is quite smooth but still shows its young age.
When it goes down the throat, it will leave notes of velvet and liquorice stick in the mouth and has a burst of freshness for a decent length of time.
The empty glass gives off barley aromas at first, then more lemon notes.
For this finish, we will find our first aging in oak barrels for more than 3 years, but it has been chosen to finish its aging in white Burgundy barrels.
Immediately we discover a less sweet and more vinous woody nose with aromas of ripe grapes. From the first passage the spices are more present, without being aggressive.
On the second pass, they fade away to give way to a more earthy, stony smell, much more mineral and airy.
On the third pass, it becomes rounder and finds a sweeter smell on the caramel and a return of the softer spices. We find similar aromas to its Bourbon version.
On the palate, it is immediately a little bit harsher than the previous one and much less sweet. Its vinous character is reflected in notes of green wood and just a few sweet spices on the sides of the tongue. This tension diminishes with age and leads the distillate to sweeter and honeyed notes. However, the woody, vinous notes have only moved into the mouth to take the place of the spices.
When it goes down the throat, it has a burst of freshness and carries its woody notes down the throat.
The finish is medium long with the same fresh acidic notes.
The empty glass will keep the fruity smell of white grapes mixed with a hint of vanilla.
For this last tasting, Benoit Bruant turned this time to a barrel from the south of France coming directly from the Eastern Pyrenees and having contained sweet wine from Banyuls.
Another mark of difference here is its higher alcohol content than its two colleagues (46% alcohol compared to 42% for the former).
As soon as the nose passes through, we will find a soft and mellow atmosphere. One discerns a mixture of mellow wine and milk chocolate aromas. We are going to be here in the sweetness.
On the second pass, we find "rancioté" aromas but also orange. We can also detect some spicy spikes.
On the third pass, it will again show sweet vinous notes. It can be noticed here that the Banyuls wine (sweet and mellow) marks the barrels more than the white wine of Bourgogne (more mineral).
In the mouth, it is softer. It will immediately bring sweet aromas of ripe mirabelle plums into the mouth with spices that quickly sting the tongue. But this doesn't last long because, even if some spices remain on the tongue, it softens and becomes mellow and honeyed.
When it goes down the throat, it wakes up for a while and leaves a surprise of plum brandy and woody notes in the throat. The finish is also longer and more memorable than either of these two.
The empty glass is clearly on woody rancio notes.
Let's note here that if 4% alcohol on paper is not much here, one will notice the difference. I would advise you to finish with this one (my favourite by the way -NDLR-)!
If you are passing by Orléans, don't hesitate to visit Ormes, but you can find his references directly on the CAVE-BRUANT.FR cellar website or in many wine shops.