Produced in Haute-Marne, this whiskey hopes to compete with its Scottish cousin

Produced in Haute-Marne, this whiskey hopes to compete with its Scottish cousin
Produced in Haute-Marne, this whiskey hopes to compete with its Scottish cousin

Slowly but surely, Haut-Marne whiskey is arriving on the spirits market. The barrel-aged alcohol just turned three years old a few months ago. A few bottles have just been marketed but by next year, whiskey “made in” Haute-Marne will gain momentum. Three structures are in the race, each at its own stage of production.

Whiskey is present almost everywhere in the world. More and more French terroirs are also developing their own. Haute-Marne is part of this logic and within a year, three whiskeys from three distilleries will arrive on the spirits market.

But for the moment, only the beverage from the Decorse distillery in Millières is being marketed. And nothing predicted that his alcohol would come out of these barrels so quickly. Jean-Guillaume Decorse, the distiller, explains. “My product is developed like a whisky, but with my tastes. In fact, I presented it at the General Competition of the Agricultural Show, last February, solely to have annotations. The jury is impartial and composed of experts then put their feelings down on paper.

“Whiskey is in demand, especially that of Haute-Marne, since it is difficult to get out. There is demand, there is even too much.”

Jean-Guillaume Decorse, professional distiller

The distiller had good feedback on his whisky: very smooth, beautiful roundness, subtle and complex aromas, woody notes, coffee… And above all, a silver medal. “I wasn’t expecting it at all… This medal fell from the sky!” One more for this multi-awarded distiller for his eaux-de-vie. But everything has accelerated since this 60e edition of the Show, demand explodes week after week.

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A totally unexpected silver medal for Decorse whiskey, in the general competition of the 2024 Agricultural Show.

© Marie-Galante Fontant, France Télévisions

He adds : “Whiskey is in demand, especially that of Haute-Marne, since it is difficult to get out. There is demand, there is even too much of it. For my part, I only have 1,500 bottles to sell So marketing only takes place here, in Millières, because otherwise we would be robbed.”.

Right next to the shop, the distillery, currently undergoing expansion work, still retains its stills which distilled the award-winning alcohol. The whiskey appellation requires patience and very specific criteria: the brew must be made with barley malt, the distillate must age for at least three years in barrels – oak if possible -, and the alcohol level must be at least 40 degrees.

In this desire to develop a Haut-Marne whisky, Jean-Guillaume Decorse is not alone. The first thoughts about such a project date back around ten years, with a fellow friend, better known as a brewer than a distiller. This is Anthony Nury, from the Brasserie de Vauclair.

Both wanted to combine their skills. The reason is quite simple: we are talking about the same raw material to make beer and whiskey: barley malt. The brewery had the production tools to produce the beer part – since whiskey is a beer without hops – and the distiller had the still.

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“For my part, I only have 1,500 bottles to sell. So marketing is only done here, in Millières, because otherwise we would be robbed,” explains Jean-Guillaume Decorse, distiller.

© Marie-Galante Fontant, France Télévisions

Because of the distance, “we “separated” three years ago”, specifies Jean-Guillaume Decorse. To Anthony Nury to add: “There are more than 50 kilometers between our respective structures. Especially since the transport of alcohol requires a very specific procedure. It was going to become too complicated”. In fact, everyone produces whiskey on their own, in their own way.

The department’s best-known owl, also a multi-award winner at the General Competition at the Salon de l’Agriculture, still brews its own whisky. The alcohol turned three years old on April 28, 2024. The brewer turned distiller plans to release its production next fall. But for now, he is increasing the number of tests and tastings. Objective: find the perfect combination.

Several samples of barrel-aged whiskey sit on the table. With a pipette, Anthony Nury and his team experiment with all possible dosages to the nearest milliliter. Precision work. Each assembly created is noted in a notebook. “So, here, we’re going to have a great blend. I’m going to be able to let you taste it. It’s going to be magnificent…”

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Precision work. With a pipette, Anthony Nury and his team experiment with all possible dosages to the nearest milliliter.

© Joffrey Tridon, France Télévisions

Amber in color, sweet with a lot of roundness on the nose. The tasters bring the beverage to their lips. They concentrate, think, and study the characteristics of this assembly. The whiskey goes down the esophagus without aggression, the taste remains in the mouth for many seconds. The result is unequivocal. “We are very close to the truth with this blend. This is typically the taste we are looking for. I rate this recipe”welcomes Anthony Nury.

In search of perfection for his whiskey, the new distiller even went so far as to build nine barrels from his own oak, located behind the brewery. Last week, he followed training at the international spirits center in Cognac. Now, it is also a question for Anthony Nury and his team to think about the marketing campaign which will accompany the release of his spirit. What name will he have?

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From the color to the aromas, from the roundness of the nose to the content on the palate, nothing is left to chance.

© Marie-Galante Fontant, France Télévisions

Just like the whiskey from the Decorse distillery, that from the Vauclair brewery is eagerly awaited by digestive lovers. Here too, like the design of the spirit, patience makes the difference. She should be rewarded within a year, since a third structure will also offer her whiskey. The Lingonne brewery is also in the race.

The humorous prose of the American Mark Twain uses metaphor to pay homage to the delicacy of this alcohol: “His whiskey was so legendary that when he drank it, he spoke Scottish”. Who knows: next year, there may be many of them speaking the Haut-Marne dialect.

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