Malt readers may know me as a Japanophile through articles such as this one and of course this one. But I’ve run out of sake and I’ve been away from Japan for a year. So, the Francophile in me is starting to take over. I’ve always rated a culture by how good their cuisine and booze are. The Japanese and French are probably in my top two. Japan is known for the exquisite quality of its food, delicate sake and world-renowned, but not-so-traditional, whisky. When it comes to the French, I’ve developed a fetish for their classic dishes such as pate en croute and ris de veau. That fascination eventually transferred into French spirits such as French Caribbean rum and French brandy.
I’ve been on a French spirit review streak. So, I thought it would be a good idea to bundle together a few French spirits that I have little to say about and use uncommon techniques. Let’s start with Brenne but note that my bottle is of the old label. There may be other better-known French single malts such as Armorik and Michel Couvreur in the market. But I’m pretty sure Brenne distinguishes itself by being the only single malt to be aged exclusively in French limousin oak then finished in ex-Cognac casks. Every bottle sold is a single barrel as well. Ex-bourbon casks are primarily made from charred American white oak. Because Brenne doesn’t touch ex-bourbon casks, there shouldn’t be American white oak typical flavors such as vanilla, coconut and cinnamon present. French oak is also usually only toasted regardless of it being intended for wine or spirits.
I’ve had the fortune of personally meeting the owner, Allison Parc, when I attended her seminar about building a brand in Tales of the Cocktail 2018. To summarize what she said regarding how Brenne started, she was a ballerina trying to survive in New York City. Her interest in booze started and grew by attending free wine tastings. Eventually, she went to the Cognac region and met a family who also distilled whisky but wasn’t selling it. I think she said the family preferred to drink the whisky they made. After some convincing, she was able to start selling Brenne in NYC via delivering them herself on her bicycle. She eventually grew her distribution as I’ve heard sightings of her bottles in Taiwan. Shared Pour have the Brenne Estate Cask for $65 and the 10 year old for $102.
This Cognac Park Borderies Mizunara is something I only learned of thanks to this Shift Drink Podcast episode. This is the first time I’m having anything from them as well as from the Borderies region. For context, the only smaller house Cognacs I’ve had are from the Grand Champagne region. Cognacs from the big houses such as Hennesy and Martell are a blend of Cognac from all over the regions. So, I’ll take a deeper dive on Park when one of their traditional Cognacs. I’ll also take a closer look at Borderies Cognac when I get to try more. It seems like Park is taking advantage of some changes in Cognac’s AOC. As wood finishing has recently been allowed. So, they bought unused Mizunara casks for their Mizunara Collection series. The Park website says this is a 4 year old Cognac finished in the Mizunara casks. This is bottled at 43.5% and costs €65. There are two other offerings from the range. One of which is a 10 year and the other is a Single Cask 2006.
When I first got this bottle, I didn’t know what to expect. My being familiar with Borderies Cognac plus Mizunara oak influence makes it nearly impossible to imagine what to expect. Winemag says when left to mature correctly, a mizunara-aged whisky offers complex notes of sandalwood, coconut, spice and Japanese incense. I’ve heard some Japanese say the smell makes you think of Japanese temples. I guess it makes sense as temple structures may have been made with Mizunara. “Mature correctly”. Since finishings usually only last from 6 months to 24 months, I don’t think I like the odds.
I don’t even know if Eddu Buckwheat Silver is allowed to be called a whisky as buckwheat is a pseudo-grain. But the Americans don’t seem to mind this technicality as Amaranth is being used in Bourbon. Eddu is from the Distillerie des Menhirs owned by the Lelay family in Brittany. The family has had a history of distilling since the 1920s by distilling cider. They eventually launched the Eddu Silver in 2002. I seem to own an older bottle, bottled at 40%, as the website shows a redesigned bottle, bottled at 43%. I can’t find this in Master of Malt and Whiskey Exchange. The next most famous online store I know that has this is La Maison Du Whisky. It’s selling for €49.
Brenne French Single Malt Whisky – review
Color: 1st steep oolong tea
On the nose: Very pleasant with lots of dried fruits. Intense scents of peach jam and dried apricot. Behind it is an apple pie smell but heavy on the cinnamon and vanilla. There are bits of marzipan mixed with the smell of bread found in pate en croutes. It falls flat after though.
In the mouth: This is very similar to the nose. Upfront and intense peach jam with dried apricots and candied fruits. I still get the apple pie notes but the cinnamon and vanilla are weaker. The pate en croute bread and marzipan taste are stronger though. This is making me think of biting into a crunchy pastry filled with candied fruits and almond paste. A mix of a Christmas cake mixed with galette maybe. There’s a sneaky follow up of light prunes and candied melons then it falls off.
This doesn’t have enough of a wow factor to make me reach for it on a regular basis. But I like how this is very pleasant and has unique flavors. I have no issues with the mouthfeel as it’s not as watery as most 40% abv whisky regardless of being a blend or single malt. The flavors are very expressive despite the low abv. If you’re looking for something different, I recommend you buy this. The uniqueness will justify the price point.
Jim Rutledge once said that French oak would have been the ideal type of oak to age Bourbon in. It’s made me more curious about French oak ever since. This somewhat answers my curiosity of what a whisky would be like if it spent the majority of its aging time in French oak. I have to keep in mind that this was distilled in stills made for distilling Cognac. So, a single malt Scotch aged in exclusively French oak would be somewhat different.
Cognac Park Borderies Mizunara – review
Color: 1st steep green tea.
On the nose: There’s immediately an intense scent of classic Cognac hogo. It smells like a mix of pu-erh tea, truffles, shiitake mushrooms and orange peel. After these dissipate, I get medium intensity notes of peppers, cloves, oyster shells and basil. Then there are some light and quick scents of marzipan, dried apricots, mochis and mint.
In the mouth: More pepperiness upfront and lasts the whole way. But the hogo is less intense and not as lasting. There are still some medium tastes of orange peel, marzipan, dried apricots and mochi but they don’t last long as well. In between those, I taste hints of more dried apricots, dried figs, prunes and lemon peel. I find this to be more enjoyable after I swallow as I taste more light but identifiable notes such as stewed apples, more dried apricots, yellow bell peppers, honey, dried figs and marzipan.
There’s not much to say. This is inoffensive yet a struggle to enjoy. The flavors seem muted or too stretched out. The flavors I get aren’t coherent. It’s like being able to identify one flavor in one second then blank pepperiness the next. Then another flavor. The pepperiness is a bit strong despite the abv but I think that bite is just from the worm tub distillation in Cognac. It’s hard to tell which is the Borderies influence and which is the Mizunara influence. Maybe the long peppery note is the incense mixed with sandalwood? Hard to tell.
I will need to go back to this when I buy a bottle of traditional Park Cognac.
Eddu Silver – review
Color: white tea.
On the nose: Intense scents of gallete and peppers. This is making me think of a pie with butter brushed on top of it. Then I get light scents of lychee skin, apples, nutmeg, honey, honeydew melon and white strawberries.
In the mouth: Fruitier upfront while the gallete and peppers are less intense. Medium but quickly interchanging tastes of honey, apples, dried apricots, melons and plums. Then lighter tastes like pineapples, nutmeg, cloves and cherries.
All I’ll say this is more unusual than Brenne. This is a whisky I’d recommend only to the more open-minded drinkers. Newbies may think this is the most horrible whisky out there due to the unusual flavors. But the unusual flavors are just a result of the base ingredient. Veteran drinkers may find this interesting or just so-so.
There are some commission links above if you wish to support Malt.