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Michel Couvreur Clearach Single Malt Whisky (700ml)

Burgundy, FRANCE
$129. 99
$1559.88 Dozen
ABV: 43%
Tasting note: Produced from malt distilled in Scotland and matured between 2 to 3 years in fresh PX sherry casks. Slightly cloudy, pale gold/ brassy colour. Mildly prickly, restrained opening sniff. Meek breakfast cereal aromas, followed by hints of dried fruit and a faint rubbery edge. Doesn't really budge even after several minutes coaxing in the glass. Clean, dryish, light to medium bodied profile delivers a malty, cereal mid palate, thinning out towards the finish which is vanilla wafer like and carried by the spices. Simple and raw.43% Alc./Vol.

Other reviews... Colour: gold. No new make, obviously, but virtual whisky that’s younger than 3 years. Nose: vanilla and praline plus fudge and café latte. Whiffs of yellow wild flowers and a little smoke. More mature than many 10yo malts on the nose. Mouth: very sweet and very malty. A certain harshness, typical of very young whiskies. Vanilla and quite some oak (ginger and nutmeg). A very active cask it seems. Finish: medium long, getting even spicier (white pepper). Comments: well, I don’t know what this would have become over time, it’s already rather woody, albeit pleasantly so. 73 points - Serge Valentin, whiskyfun.com

Burgundy is a place full of personalities at the high end of the passion scale, especially when it comes to food and drink - perhaps none more so than a Belgian who is presently maturing Scotch Whisky in the heart of the famous French wine region. The fellow in question is Michel Couvreur, and he's a man on a mission when it comes to Scotch Whisky.

Entering from the wine trade, his is an increasingly familiar story within the whisky industry. He'd already established a business in the early 1950s in Scotland selling Burgundy wines when in 1978, French friends suggested that he add a top quality Scotch to his portfolio. So began Couvreur’s interest in the whisky industry from which he developed his ultra-traditionalist perspective on oak. He maintains (more radically than others in the industry) that 90% of a whisky’s quality comes from the cask, and only 10% of the quality comes from the distillation process. In the 1970s, American bourbon casks gradually replaced port and sherry casks for the maturation of Scotch whisky, a great tragedy, according to Couvreur, as it changed the essence of a product that had European barrels at its core.

In a personal crusade, Couvreur settled in Bouze-les-Beaune (close to the Burgundian town of Beaune, France), where he opened a customs bonded cellar and began selecting his own sherry casks (Pedro Ximenez and Palomino) from the Andalusia region of Spain. Some readers will be aware, since the 1970's, sherry ceased to be shipped to UK in wood. Whisky producers have now to go and select their casks at sherry bodegas, paying a premium on top of transport costs. It's partly for this reason that Michel Couvreur's cellar is located in Burgundy, half-way between Scotland and Andalusia, with straight motorways from Jerez de la Frontera to Beaune.

Courveur's "Scotch" starts out in Scotland as bulk a.k.a.“clearach” (a high proof distillate) which is transferred to his humid cellar in Bouze-les-Beaune to be aged in small sherry casks that have been impregnated with 25 years aging via traditional soleras. All required dilutions are accomplished with bottled water from Scotland. Total production is about 50,000 bottles or 4,000 cases annually. A small selection of these artisan matured spirits has just arrived in Australia.