Editor’s note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the Alfred Giraud distillery. This in no case, by our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the purchase link at the bottom of this review, our site receives a small sponsorship payment which helps support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The opportunities to go on a trip have become a bit scarce in recent years. But with Voyage’s whiskey Alfred Giraud, you can still discover a bit of France. This new label produces only malt whiskey and has been declared a luxury brand.
The heritage of their whiskey lies in the most emblematic French spirit: cognac. The Giraud family has been in the cognac business for over a century and recently added whiskey to their repertoire. They focus on craftsmanship, from raw ingredients to the final mix. They almost exclusively use French products for distillation, personally overseeing much of their cultivation. Their distillate comes from barley that they personally malt in their facility. Single malt whiskeys from all over France are also sourced for blending; however, Giraud brings them ageless and picks up the process from there.
The Voyage expression is the first (and currently the only) version of what Giraud calls Exploratory Blends – whiskeys that use single casks for aging and finishing. Voyage specifically uses virgin French Robinia and Sauternes barrels for double maturation, then is married and aged again in Cognac barrels. Sauternes, the famous French sweet wine, appears from time to time in the aging of whiskey, but quite rarely (personally, I am rather fond of ArranSauternes cask finish). French Robinia, on the other hand, is a French wood that has never before been used to age whiskey.
The whiskey producer describes this whiskey as “bold, yet balanced”. They absolutely hit the nail on the head boldly. This whiskey is extremely bold, producing strong aromas and flavors right off the bat. Virgin wood is not often used with malt whiskey due to its tendency to overwhelm the distillate. Giraud uses it here in order to add a tannic element to the whisky. I absolutely understood that with the dryness on the finish. The balance in the descriptor comes from the sweetness brought by the wine and the barrels of Cognac.
Besides Voyage, Giraud has two other expressions in a range of “signature blends”, which use “exceptional casks that have aged an extra-old cognac”. Cask quality is part of the reason the distillery releases all of its expressions in small batches – cask availability. It will be interesting to see what they bring next and the ultimate impact on French whiskey as an industry.
Tasting notes: Journey of Alfred Giraud
Vital Stats: 96 proof/48% ABV, 100% malted barley. Aged in Sauternes barrels and French Robinia barrels, refined in Cognac barrels. Not chill filtered. Release limited to five barrels. 750ml, $180. Cognac, France.
Appearance: Brilliant gold, fairly clear. The legs come in clusters and are evenly distributed inside.
Nose: The bright red berry appears immediately, especially the gooseberry. Then comes the dried apple, which gives way to the powerful scent of quince. It ends with a pear compote.
Palace: It’s a pretty fine texture. The pear of the nose predominates in the mouth, followed by notes of banana. The flavor and profile of the brandy is present throughout the experience and forms the basis of the whole flavor. The finish is extremely dry with a hint of bitterness.