Review: Version Francaise Single Malt Whiskies – Armorik 2014, Ninkasi 2017, and Artesia 2018

Review: Version Francaise Single Malt Whiskies – Armorik 2014, Ninkasi 2017, and Artesia 2018

Our friends at La Maison & Velier recently dropped a new line of small-production, single vintage, single cask Armagnacs, all being sold under its new Version Francaise line. At the time, we mentioned that French whisky was also coming out under the Version Francaise label, and that is precisely where we’re headed today.

While some of the brands below may be more familiar than the Armagnac producers we covered, these are still decidedly rare bottlings, each drawn from a single cask. We tasted the trio live with LM&V product development manager Marion Attardi, who chatted with us via Google Meet from her home in France. Thoughts follow.

Version Francaise Armorik 2014 – Armorik was France’s first whisky distillery (making it since 1983), and is based in the far northwest corner of France. Closely inspired by Scotland, the pot-distilled whisky is aged in a refill Oloroso sherry cask that previously held a heavily peated Scotch whisky. Though the whisky isn’t peated, the peat smoke is ample and immediate on the nose, evoking Islay over Brittany. Some fruity sweetness is underneath, but indistinct. The peat is tempered a bit on the palate, though the sweetness is less distinct than expected, evoking baked apples and orangey citrus, driven by the sherry casking. There’s a clear but fleeting note of Dutch process cocoa powder on the finish. Ultimately, this could easily pass for a milder Islay production, should that be your angle. 100 proof. B+ / $160

Version Francaise Ninkasi 2017 – Distilled in Lyon in 2017, bottled 2022. Unpeated, distilled in a Charentais still, and aged in a Cognac cask. Very fruity, very floral. The nose kicks off with a blend of tropical fruits, then a potpourri of dried flowers and a hop-like aroma. The palate’s sweetness is immediate and refreshing, showcasing some of the floral and linen notes evident in the Cognac barrel. A healthy lavender quality grows with time in glass, but the juicy, fruit-forward notes linger prominently, with a touch of ginger popping on the finish. 92 proof. A- / $110

Version Francaise Artesia 2018 – Originally a brewery in the north of France, the operation later added distillation to its operations — here offering one of its first experiments, a lightly peated whisky distilled in a Holstein column still in 2018 and aged in bourbon casks for 4 years. Very unusual, the nose immediately evokes bubblegum and banana, almost candylike with its ester-heavy aromatics — and no peat smoke evident at all unless you jam your nose in the glass and breathe deep for a long while. Similar elements keep the palate lively, taking a tour through sweet breakfast cereal, tropical citrus, and reprises of bubblegum and banana notes. Reminiscent of some other French whiskies I’ve encountered over the years, and at this state in its life, a bit much at times. 100 proof. B / $110

Version Francaise Ninkasi 2017




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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