Whisky Review: Armorik Sherry Finish

Armorik whiskies are made from one hundred percent French malted barley. I like that because the French are quite health conscious when it comes to the use of pesticides, and their grains are usually GMO-free.

As for the soil conditions where French barley is grown, it is mostly granite-based, with a fairly similar climate to England across the channel. Yes, it’s warmer than Scotland, up north, but the sea air provides a nice moderating presence as in Scotland. Call this “ionizing” if you wish.

The Warenghem distillery, located in Lannion, Brittany, has been producing liqueurs and spirits for over a century. Leon Warenghem created his first product, the Elixir d’Armorique, a distillate of 35 plants which won awards at international exhibitions in 1902. Since then, the distillery has churned out a nice variety of apple brandy, honey liqueurs, fruit and plant-based liqueurs, as well as beers, and, last but not least, whiskies.

Warenghem double-distills for a couple of days in tradition copper stills to make the wash for Armorik whisky. Normally, a combination of refill bourbon casks from American white oak, and refill sherry butts from spain, are used.

In the case of Sherry Finish Armorik (currently under review), the aging starts in ex-bourbon casks. A few months prior to bottling, these are poured into ex-sherry casks for finishing. No, that’s not a long amount of time in the sherry wood, by any stretch. However, it does affect the whisky’s composition to some extent.

Frankly, it’s not all that uncommon a practice in Scotland, either, at least with many of the mass-produced offerings. All right, enough talk. Let’s crack open the bottle for a hit of French sauce.

Armorik Sherry Finish

Tasting Notes

Vital Stats: Warenghem Distillery’s Armorik Single Malt Sherry Finish; 750ml; made in Brittany France; 46% ABV / 92 proof; 100% malted barley; NAS; non-chill filtered / natural color; Average price $63.

Appearance: Pale gold in color. Fast-running legs without any appreciable beading reveal the stripes of a spirit that is fairly young in age.

Nose: Baby vomit, wet hay, Valentine’s day candy, caramel, watermelon-flavored Jolly Ranchers, rose water, Abuelita hot chocolate powder, over-ripe apples, and a fairly pungent style of malt.

Palate: The palate is better than the nose. That rancid barley note is magically transformed into a nicely palatable Malt-O-Meal sort of thing that reminds me of my childhood. With time in the mouth, the whisky morphs into a peppery number, along with black licorice, and some allspice.

A little fruit is here on the palate, as well, but it’s subdued, mingling with sweet nothings akin to caramel. There’s quince, orange marmalade, and lemon zest. Despite the title, this whisky isn’t very “winey,” and it certainly isn’t very oaky. Let me take another sip. Oh, interesting. Now, I’m getting dark roast coffee beans, sourdough toast with butter, and a hint of a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut.

The youth of this Armorik whisky prolongs its finish, but not in a particularly sophisticated way. Length is medium, with a touch of slightly curdled malt that goes bitter–not due to an oak influence from the casks, but rather from a mysterious little pat of ash and coffee grounds. Seems a bit contrived.

The Takeaway

Yes, believe it or not, the French love whisky, and there are also a respectable number of distilleries in France. According to a rather vague and corporately-contrived(?) study in 2016, the French are said to be the largest consumers of whisky in the world, especially Scotch.

I can only assume this figure was calculated based upon a per capita percentage of population, because Americans consume tremendous quantities of Scotch due to the fact that America is the third largest nation on earth with a much higher average income than any other countries in the world's Top Ten most populous.

It's also possible that Serge Valentin has thrown off the curve, in France, based upon his own voluminous personal consumption of rare and wondrous single malt Scotches, especially from mothballed distilleries. I find it a bit curious that Serge only gave the Armorik Breton Single Malt Sherry Finish whisky 78 points on his famous Whisky Fun website. Then again, I can't say as though I'm surprised. All "vomit jokes" aside, this Breton single malt would be more agreeable on ice. "Barkeep, glace s'il vous plait."

Anyhow, let's not completely write off the scent of baby vomit as horrible. What's that you say, Serge? Tu as plutot raison. Moi aussi. Not all puke is created equal. Hear, hear. I second that motion. Time for another round of drinks. Speaking of which, all of this infantile jibber-jabber is making me nostalgic for a hit of Laddie Ten...neat.

2.5
User Rating 5 (1 vote)
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About the author

Whisky Kirk

Whisky Kirk is a writer who specializes in fiction and nonfiction dealing with the supernatural, cultural programming, and the entertainment industry. He also plays drums in rock, jazz, Latin, and ancient native forms of music. Kirk lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches creative writing at the college level as his “day job.” For him, whisk[e]y is an obsession that spans decades.