The fifth-generation team at Alfred Giraud Malt Whiskies, possessed of more than 100 years of fine cooperage tradition, is expanding beyond Cognac. Call it Scotch from France.
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Their current production focuses on malt blends, including peated and unpeated malts in varied proportions. I recently had the pleasure of sampling their two Signature expressions, Heritage and Harmonie. Both malts boast a clean, fresh, almost juicy texture, with a soft, drying mouthfeel and subtle flavors. The unifying theme of their malts is their triple-wood maturation, including new American and French oak and final aging in old cognac kegs.
Heritage is unpeated, with a pale golden hue in the glass. Aromas of cognac are nose-forward, followed by hints of Christmas spices, burnt sugar, vanilla, and alcohol. Marshmallow sweetness fills the mouth, followed by hints of fresh citrus and a pleasant dried citrus zest aftertaste. The finish exhibits more spice accentuated by powdered sugar and marzipan notes and finishes with a drying, slightly black-peppery note. ($155)
Harmonie is slightly darker, but I still would call it “golden.” The aroma opens with notes of fresh-mown hay and soft but somewhat musty (not smoky) peat. There’s a distant hint of chlorine present, not in any way off-putting. There are additional whiffs of brown sugar, distant spice, and a far-away “memory” of wet mown grass. The mouthfeel is round and full-bodied, leading to a big brown sugar kiss. Distant peat notes lead to a slight smokiness not present in the opening aroma, followed by hints of lemon, Fig Newton, and dark nougat. The finish is sweet but short, with a drying heat at the end. ($190)
Alfred Giraud’s multi-generational Cognac heritage provides praiseworthy bona fides as a distiller, and it’s no wonder they can bring such grace and elegance to whisky. Their freshman entries are a clear signal of good things to come, and I have no doubt they’ll improve with time and experience. While I won’t be selling off my tam o’ shanter or shillelagh just yet, I’ll certainly make room on my “interesting dram” shelf for a bottle or two of this French malt.