Smoked Bechamel and Highly Forgettable: Bellevoye Black

As the weeks slowly trickle by and I’m trapped between these four walls, I’ve grown tired of rearranging my room and have taken to reading everything on my bookcase that I have struggled to get around to. A lot of good books and some great little whisky reads, so of course, I ordered a few more because what else can you do?

I also picked up some of my old tasting-note journals and thought I would have a laugh at my more interesting notes. However, I was extremely pleased to discover a few tasting notes here and there which I’ve never shared. And wouldn’t you know it, those whiskies happen to be from all over.

So, for this week’s World Whisky Wednesday, I’ll be taking a look at the French whisky, Bellevoye Black Label.

Before anyone gets smart, no, this has no relationship to Johnnie Walker except in name (the fact that they have a Blue, White and Red label has no relevance here either).

Bellevoye was founded in 2013 by Alexandre Sirech and Jean Moueix, two Frenchmen looking to create a whisky that evokes what France is known for blending skill, raw material potential, and terroir. Looking to create a luxury French Whisky Blend that you could sip in your top hat and cane (no, seriously, there’s no relation). As the company does not have a distillery (as far as I can see) they turned to famous French blending.

For those aren’t in involved in the world of spirits the most famous French spirit would be brandy, specifically Cognac – which is a subset made within the Cognac region. Cognac Master Blenders and brands utilise multiple aged Cognacs blended thoroughly to ensure a delicate flavour and balance, and while it is not the giant it once was it still holds sway in many regions of the world.

How does this track with the whisky? Well,

Bellevoye is a blend of three separate French whisky distilleries each in different regions: Lille, Alsace and Cognac. While you may think this narrows it down, France has a startling number of distilleries and they are increasing every month. The whiskies for Black Label are each initially aged between five to ten years at their distilleries of origin, with a finish in the Bellevoye cellar in Charente for nine to ten months post blending in virgin French Oak casks. Black Label has a touch of peated whisky in there as well, or so we’re told, but it’s not until we get our noses into the glass that we can decide for ourselves. So, without further ado, Sante.

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It sure does have a touch of the luxury look

It’s a touch Octamore-ish on the nose there, getting some fried mushrooms and soibous with a touch of bacon and sausages. After that, there’s hints of salted pork, some dirty fungal (in a good way) scent hiding beneath it all. Grapes, lime zest, splashes of vanilla dotted through the nose and a hint of green fruit, but it keeps coming back to that slightly damp forest floor after a fire and just a hint of fried figs. Not offensive, but it’s a touch flat.

Now the palate I like. Lightly smoked ham, some applewood smoked cheddar, crisp dry bark and burning leaves with a slight iron taste as though it has been drawn through an old pipe. The mushrooms come back again, then some pepper, a bit of rust creeping in, green apples, hints of toffee, rust, the flecks of iron closing in again and then rust.

The finish is short and simple. Pepper and baked beans, a touch of malt and some smoked bechamel.

I’m struggling to find fault with the whisky, but at the same time I’m struggling to find merits. I’m not drawing much at all from the dram. 

The nose was flat. I only enjoyed the palate due to an upbringing in various mining towns allowing me to strongly recall that rusted iron taste. Added to this, the finish was short. But I think the whisky’s biggest sin is that it is just… well… flat and boring. I’ll try anything and find its high and low points, but this just never really had anything apart from that smoked bechamel at the end, which was captivating for a moment before just being blown away.

I’ve made more than one reference to Johnnie Walker here, and while I’m aware that Johnnie gets a panning from a lot of folk in the industry, it has made itself a worldwide name for a reason: it’s inoffensive and versatile.

Bellevoye seems to have taken that on board, trying to be a luxury blend of French whisky, but, in doing so, it feels as though they’ve missed the mark. They had the opportunity to make something that showcased the uniqueness of French whisky and highlight the strong difference between what France is distilling and the rest of the world. Yet, it just comes out bland and forgettable.

I can’t see myself ordering a bottle, or a dram the next time I see it. I can’t see myself recommending it to anyone unless they’re looking for something to drink and then immediately forget it. And, to be honest, if I hadn’t been bored out of my mind self-isolating and rereading my own tasting notes, I would have completely forgotten this bottle existed.

If you want something to introduce you to French whisky, try the Eddu instead.

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