Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as reviews sample by Alfred Giraud. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
One might not think about France as a whisky region, especially with Cognac and Champagne in the country, but the Giraud family wants to level up the French whisky trend. With a long family history working with Cognac, it was the fifth generation that stepped into the world of Scotch, and now started the French malt whisky distillery.
Philippe Giraud started the distillery to keep the family heritage going for future generations and to pass on their collective expertise in spirits and forestry.
As to what exactly French whisky is, the distillery notes that different grain types can be used, but it is malt whisky that dominates. “French texts…stipulate that a malt whisky (or single malt) is elaborated from malted barley and within a single distillery.” French malt whisky from more than one distillery is called double, triple or pure malt. Also, to be called a French whisky all parts of the process must take place in France. These steps include brewing, fermenting, distilling and aging.
The majority of the casks used to age Alfred Giraud French Malt Whisky are ex-cognac barrels, some are new, and some come from the family’s forestry operation in Limousin. All the sourced barrels are carefully selected and that’s part of the reason for the limited release of the whisky. The Giraud family does not want the maturation in anything but the perfectly selected casks.
With a combined knowledge of distilling for 200 years it’s no wonder these whiskies are so special and may ignite the French whisky trend. The Giraud family is so meticulous with every detail of the process from start to finish, including the beautiful bottles that carry the whisky into your hands.
It seems that not only are the contents rare but the bottle looks like a collectible.
Alfred Giraud currently has two releases on the market, including here in the United States – Heritage, a straight up French malt whisky, and Harmonie, a slight peated French malt offering. It looks as if the whiskies, at this time, are blended and drawn from whiskies from other French distilleries. This will likely change as their own distillate comes of age.
Tasting Notes: Alfred Giraud Harmonie
Vital Stats: Triple malt; Triple wood; Slightly peated; 92.2 proof; Natural color, non-chill filtered; 7 casks released annually. Around $190.
Color: Golden sunshine
Nose: There are smells of grass or hay like a warm summer day near a field or farm.
Palate: Harmonie is mild and subtle in its flavors. The start is sweet like brown sugar. There are hints of smoke with a smoky finish reminiscent of a mild scotch. It’s also lightly floral.
Tasting Notes: Alfred Giraud Heritage
Vital Stats: Triple malt; Triple wood; 91.8 proof; Natural color, non-chill filtered; 23 casks released annually. Around $155.
Color: Old gold, light and natural like sunshine in a bottle
Nose: The smell is sweet like maple syrup. It’s a pleasant alcohol or solvent smell that’s very faint.
Palate: A strong alcohol taste but sweet not smoky. There’s a pleasant tingle on your tongue with a peppery finish. It doesn’t taste like a complex whiskey but very simple and approachable.
Final Thoughts: Both of these whiskies were very drinkable and smooth without adding water. You can tell that they are a quality made spirit. With this sample it did not include that gorgeous bottle that in and of itself looks like something you want to keep on your bar cart even when it’s empty.
For nose and palate I much preferred the Harmonie over the Heritage as it was a little sweeter. If you prefer something more like a subtle scotch than a bourbon I would recommend the Harmonie over Heritage. Harmonie is more expensive and may be harder to find as the production is a lot less than Heritage. Both are limited release each year and not widely available in the United States.
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Melissa D. Jones is a traveler, blogger, photographer, storyteller, foodie, whiskey lover and creative entrepreneur. Living for adventure and new experiences she's photographed her way around all 50 states and 47 countries (still counting!) and wrote her travel knowledge into a book. When she's not traveling you can find her...