Following my success with travel retail I started searching far and wide for interesting or unusual whiskies, as well as continuing to enhance my collection with bargain basic expressions of distilleries I had yet to try. I also had the opportunity to sample some of the French supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Leclerc and Carrefour. We are exceptionally lucky to share my parent-in-laws holiday home in the Mayenne region of France for a week or so once a year.
Mayenne is the north-westernmost tip of the Pays de la Loire region, and butts up against Normandy to the north and Brittany to the East. It is a typically rural area steeped in lots of History and beauty, particularly the local landmark of Mont St. Michel.
The surrounding area is also famous for apple production which the locals turn into Cider, Pommeau and Calvados [apple brandy] all of which I have sampled. The area is also subject to fantastic gastronomy heightened by the fact that three regions border here and each region individually demands that their Normande, Bretagne or Pays de le Loire dishes respectively are the best. There are also a number of local French whisky distilleries nearby such as Distillerie Des Menhirs, producing Eddu; Distillerie Glann ar Mor [http://www.glannarmor.com/home.htm], producing Glann ar Mor and Kornog; and Distillerie Warenghem [http://www.distillerie-warenghem.com/], producing Armorik.
I was particularly interested in scotch expressions made directly for the French/European market and not normally available in the UK, as well as gathering some more standard expressions at much better prices i.e. €20 to €30 which at the time equated to £15 to £20 due to the favourable exchange rate and also reflecting the lack of UK alcohol duty. So in the last few years of visiting I have managed to collect:
Cardhu 12 year old [Diageo]
Knockando 12 year old [Diageo]
The Macallan Fine Oak Masters Edition Triple Cask Matured [http://www.themacallan.com/]
The Balvenie 14 year old Cuban Selection [http://www.thebalvenie.com/]
Aberlour White Oak 2001 [http://www.aberlour.com/]