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Wambrechies 8 Year Old

Single Malt Whiskey
Image by Christian_Birkholz for Pixabay

Wambrechies whisky is made by Claeyssens, the French jenever distillery situated in Wambrechies, France. Jenever is the traditional, strongly alcoholic liquor of the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France which is juniper-flavored and from which gin evolved.  Can a gin distillery make a good single malt whisky? Well, that’s a matter of taste.

Claeyssens originated in 1817 after the creator Guillaume (or Gaillium depending on the source) Claeyssens fled Belgium to Lille, France during the French Revolution in 1789. There he bought an old watermill on the River Deule and converted it to a oil-seed mill. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Claeyssens family converted their mill for a second time but this time into a distillery to make the local “genever” gin.  Their success was based on the ability to cheaply bring in grain supplies via the River Deûle canal.

Claeyssens special technique is based on the design of Henri Lenssen, who created an  automatic system of machines to prepare the ingredients, distill the gin, and pour it into oak casks for storage. The waste leftovers were sold to local farms for cattle-feed. Now, even 200 years later, little has changed (besides the conversion to steam power in 1850). The distillery has been classified as a historic monument.

The distillery, with only 10 employees, makes forty different products in volume, alcohol content and type of juniper.  Only one is whisky — a blend of 20% malted barley and 80% rye which undergoes a unique distillation process. While many whiskies are distilled twice (or thrice), Wambrechies is distilled in a column still to a relatively low alcohol proof and then distilled for a second time in a traditional pot still.  So, how does it taste?

Before water:

Nose: light, no strong alcohol taste, thin and bitter. Slight rancid notes.
Palette: spicy, cloves.
Finish: warm, smooth.

After water:

Nose: meat, acrid, with subtle maple.
Palette: sour fruit, powdery (like icing sugar).
Finish: warm, light.

Overall, it’s an easy, plain, non-intimidating whisky and actually borders on weak and bland. Personally, it’s too weak and lacking in depth for my liking, but much like the Glen Grant we reviewed earlier in the year, it’s a good introductory whisky, especially for those in France where it is more readily available, and for only 23 Euros.