In late 2020, the Giraud family made its move from Cognac to whisky, dropping two expressions that proved that France can work with grains (almost) as well as it can with grapes. Now Alfred Giraud is back with a third French malt whisky expression, Voyage.
Voyage is the first release in the Exploratory Blends Range, a series of rare, limited whiskies that see only periodic and exclusive releases at the Giraud family’s discretion. Showcasing two of the best French single malts, one leaning on fruity notes and the other on cereal notes, each is matured in casks with bold characteristics: new French Robinia casks, a powerful and rare wood found locally in France, and Sauternes wine casks sourced from nearby French wineries. The whisky then sees its final aging stage [in Cognac casks. No age statement.]
Sauternes casks are familiar to us, but I had to look up Robinia: These trees are small and thin-trunked; they hardly look like something you could make a cask out of. But it appears they did.
Giraud’s whiskies to date have been invariably heavy on the granary character, and Voyage starts things off along that same road. Well-toasted oak and torched cereal grains inform a dense nose, lightly smoked with notes of cane burning in the vineyards, though hints of macerated red berries offer some path to fruitdom. The palate is a bit lighter, but not much, some flashes of green apple, honey-laced custard, and quince giving things a lift. Wood and cereal still do most of the heavy lifting though, keeping the experience tamped down under a layer of oak and some ruddy, dusky spices. The finish folds in notes of some cherry and heavier baking spice notes but remains austere.
While the expected brightness of the Sauternes influence is a bit lacking here, there’s enough life in the overall experience to merit giving it a spin, should you find yourself faced with the opportunity.
B+ / $180 / alfredgiraudwhisky.com