Taste Test: This New French Whisky Is Like a Younger, Zestier Scotch

When you think about French spirits, the first things that come to mind are probably CognacArmagnac, liqueurs like Pernod, and, of course, wine (even though it’s not technically a spirit). But in recent years, there have been some whiskeys from l’Hexagone that have also been getting attention, thanks in large part to brands like Alfred Giraud which, after nearly a decade, has finally released its first single malt.

Alfred Giraud’s roots lie in Cognac, which makes sense given that the great-grandfather of the Giraud family spent 30 years as a cellar master for Remy Martin. The company is focused on distilling malt whisky at its Distillerie de Saint-Palais in fire-heated copper pot stills and aging it in both virgin French oak and casks formerly used to mature Cognac and wine. Over the years, Alfred Giraud has released several blends that have been available here in the U.S. with majestic names like Heritage and Harmonie, a marriage of whiskies produced by Alfred Giraud and sourced from other distilleries. But now the brand has launched its first single malt, meaning a whisky made from 100 percent malted barley at one distillery. And if you’re a fan of scotch whisky, this bottle is worth seeking out.

The maturation process of this whisky is a bit complex. It’s a blend of two distillates that were made at Distillerie de Saint-Palais—a base spirit aged in Cognac and new French and American oak casks, and whisky aged in Cognac and different ex-wine barrels. These are blended together and finished in used Cognac casks, and the final tally is a total of 14 different types of barrels used. That might sound like overkill, but the palate tells a different story. Horizon drinks like a younger, zestier, crisper relative of scotch. It’s malty and spicy, and intriguingly morphs from fruit-forward to vanilla to vibrant, tangy spice as you sip. There are notes of chocolate, caramel, vanilla soft serve, spiced pear, and a flash of minty hops on the finish.

Horizon might not change your drinking habits and have you swapping out your single malts in favor of French whisky, but it is definitely something any curious and adventurous fan of brown spirits should try. Horizon, like all Alfred Giraud whiskies, is produced in small batches and might be difficult to find online at the moment. But it will be available via the brand’s website soon, and you can find the rest of the lineup available to purchase now from ReserveBar.

Read more: Alfred GIRAUD- Robb Report – TASTE TEST