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Kornog: Peated French Whisky

19/01/2017

 

The strong Celtic influence in France’s Brittany has always fostered an affiliation with whisky and while Bretons have long been consuming the world’s best spirit, only recently has the rest of the world been allowed a sample.

Distillerie Glann Ar Mor was founded on the north coast of Brittany in 1999 by Martine and Jean Donnay and Kornog is the peated single malt brand of the distillery (their unpeated lines appear as ‘Glann Ar Mor’).

The distillery name means “Seaside” in Breton and the location in Tregor was chosen for its maritime climate.

The Kornog whiskies – one of which was named as European Whisky Of The Year in Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible – showcase a rawness and freshness that is reminiscent of the distilleries coastal, and sometimes harsh, location.

A couple of their expressions, have now made it to Australia.

The small distillery has two copper pot stills, heated with a naked flame, which is a very traditional method. Theirs is a slow distillation and they use a worm tub condenser to create body and structure in the spirit.

They also use wooden washbacks made out of Oregon Pine, to help encourage indigenous yeasts during the fermentation process.

All these techniques help create flavour and complexity in a spirit that was always going to have to be released at a reasonably young age, particularly to keep the smoke.

Highly enjoyable whiskies in their own right, the Kornog range perhaps also provides an insight into the Donnay’s next plans: Gartbreck.

Jean’s love of peated whiskies has led him to their spiritual home – Scotland’s Islay. The small island in Scotland’s south west is home to juggernaut distilleries like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore and Caol Ila. Ten years ago the Kilchoman farm distillery was built on Islay and they’ve proved that it’s possible to produce a brilliant whisky in a short amount of time.

Having purchased a plot of land on the island’s west coast between Bowmore and Port Ellen, Donnay plans to build the Gartbreck distillery there. The plan is a small, artisanal set-up with its own malting floors – basically taking the successes of Glann Ar Mor’s Kornog to the next level.

Whilst there were hopes the distillery would be built (and completed) in 2016, as of January 2017 construction has not yet started. They are still providing updates though, so hopes are still high. Although Hunter & Laing might beat them to being the next distillery built on Islay, after receiving approval for Ardnahoe.

In the mean time, sit back in tour favourite chair enjoy a Kornog. 

Click here to see the expressions.

Scott Fitzsimons