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18 award-winning spirits worth a look from France

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16/02/2024 Discover spirits variation produced in France, reinforcing its esteemed reputation in the world of fine spirits. Also, sharing 18 award-winning French spirits recognized by the Bartender Spirits Awards to enhance your collection.

Widely recognized for its exceptional spirits, which have a global reputation for their dry, sweet, spicy, and bitter profiles. The French have a long-standing tradition of crafting a diverse range of high-quality distilled spirits, from iconic brandies like Cognac and Armagnac to a variety of mouthwatering liqueurs, such as Grand Marnier and Chartreuse. French spirits are celebrated for their complexity and depth of flavor, making them a favorite among connoisseurs worldwide. In addition to its famous spirits, France has played a significant role in the history of absinthe, a highly alcoholic spirit flavored with botanicals like wormwood.

Beyond these iconic spirits, France produces an array of other distilled beverages, such as fruit brandies like Calvados and eaux-de-vie made from various fruits. Overall, the country’s expertise in the art of distillation has cemented its reputation as a global leader in the world of fine spirits.

To further explore France's exceptional spirits, one can delve into the winners of the Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, which showcase the finest examples of craftsmanship and flavor. Here are some of the distinguished winners from the Bartender Spirits Awards:

Acquired Taste Cognac VS

Image source: drinkacquiredtaste

Acquired Taste Premium Cognac is produced using some of the industry's oldest distilling techniques, including the use of Limousin oak barrels for aging. It is aged for 2 years in these barrels. 

Acquired Taste Cognac VS is produced by a family business with over 40 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. Having worked with top Cognac brands such as Martell and Courvoisier, the family has become true masters of their craft. This Cognac boasts a very smooth finish and is great to enjoy neat or in cocktails.

Tasting Notes: Warm cheese and fig on the nose. Vanilla, oak, and stone fruit on the palate. Tannic dry finish.

Tattu Gin

Image source: tattuspirits

Tattu gin combines the finest botanicals from around the globe, infused in harmony by their Master Distiller to exquisite recipes. Using one of the world's oldest distilleries, they aim to deliver an elegant, smooth taste that comes as standard. 

Tattu gin won a remarkable score of 93 points and a gold medal for their amazing taste profile at Bartender Spirits Awards 2023. 

Tasting Notes:
Juniper and citrus on the nose. Pleasant mid-bodied mouth feel and a cooling finish.

Branson Cognac VSOP Royal

Image source: bransoncognac

Branson Royal is a unique, elegant, and strong blend of Eaux-de-Vie from some of the best vineyards throughout the Cognac region. Royal balances smooth notes of oak, vanilla, and spice with stronger notes of wood, herbs, and a slight burn for a one-of-a-kind blend.

Winner of 93 points and a Gold medal at Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, along with 2023 Cognac of the Year as well as 2023 Cognac Producer of the Year at the competition.

Tasting Notes:
Kiwi and honey on the nose. Really nice straw and stone fruit on the palate. Small hints of vanilla as well.

Rémy Martin VSOP

Image source: remymartin

Rémy Martin is one of the most esteemed Cognac houses, renowned for its high-quality products. Their VSOP expression is characterized by its smoothness, complexity, and balance of flavors, which often include notes of vanilla, oak, dried fruits, and spices.

Rémy Martin VSOP is a popular choice for both sipping neat and using in cocktails, thanks to its versatility and rich flavor profile. It's a great introduction to the world of cognac for those who are new to the spirit, but it's also appreciated by connoisseurs for its quality and craftsmanship. Winner of a prestigious gold medal and 93 points at Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, Remy Martin VSOP is truly a masterpiece. 

Tasting Notes:
Sweet honey nose open to baking spices on the palate with some dried fruit characteristics.

Seven Tails XO

Image source: seventailsbrandy

Seven Tails XO is a type of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France.  Inspired by the art of alchemy, Seven Tails XO is an innovative blend of French brandies aged between 5-30 years and finished in port wine casks for a depth of flavor and richness in color, encompassing luxurious tasting notes of toasted vanilla, pecan pie, blackberries, and fig.

Seven Tail XO won a gold medal with an astonishing 92 points at the 2023 Bartender Spirits Awards, rousing for its unique and authentic flavor profile. 

Tasting Notes:
Fantastic product, complex on the palate, and with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Gentle grape character.

Drouet Cognac VSOP

Image source: glassrev

Drouet VSOP is a Cognac that has been aged for a minimum of four years in oak barrels. During this aging process, the spirit develops complex flavors and aromas, often including notes of dried fruits, vanilla, oak, and spices. VSOP Cognacs are known for their smoothness and balance, making them suitable for sipping neat or using in cocktails.

Drouet's VSOP Cognac is likely to embody the qualities of craftsmanship and expertise that the house is known for, delivering a rich and enjoyable drinking experience. If you have a bottle of Drouet VSOP Cognac, I'm sure you'll find it to be a delightful addition to your spirits collection.

Visit the winner here: Drouet Cognac VSOP

Tasting Notes:
Enjoyable honeycomb note on the nose and dried blueberry on the palate. Oak presence is very heavy on the palate with the tannin and baking spice coming through.

St-Rémy Signature

Image source: st-remy

St-Rémy Signature is a premium expression from St-Rémy, a well-known French brand famous for its expertise in producing high-quality brandies, particularly those made from apples and grapes. St-Rémy Signature is a lovely refined and carefully crafted blend of brandies, showcasing the distillery's commitment to excellence.

The first maturation in new oak casks delivers spiced notes, indulgence, and vivacity, while the second maturation in traditional casks balances the blend with roundness and sweetness.

Tasting Notes:
Herbal and fruity nose opens to well-rounded notes of toasted oak and vanilla.

Domaine Tariquet VSOP

Image source: châteaudutariquet

Domaine Tariquet VSOP is a premium Cognac aged for a minimum of five years in oak barrels, as indicated by the "VSOP" designation. This aging process allows the Cognac to develop complexity and depth of flavor, resulting in a smooth and refined spirit.

As with other Cognacs, Domaine Tariquet VSOP is likely to exhibit notes of dried fruits, vanilla, oak, and spices, with a balanced and elegant profile.  Served at room temperature or ‘on the rocks’, the cognac is a great match for Slavic, Indian, and Oriental specialties.

Tasting Notes:
Fresh stone fruit, honey, evident maple, and butterscotch along with some toasted baking spices.

Meukow 90 Proof Cognac

Image source: meukowcognac

Meukow 90 Proof Cognac is a variation of Cognac produced by the Meukow Cognac House, a well-known producer based in France. The "90 Proof" indicates that this Cognac is bottled at 45% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is higher than the standard bottling strength for most Cognacs, typically around 40% ABV.

This higher proof level results in a more intense and robust flavor profile, with a greater concentration of the characteristic flavors and aromas of the spirit. Meukow Cognacs are generally appreciated for their smoothness, complexity, and richness, and the 90 Proof version amplifies these qualities while also providing a more pronounced alcohol presence. Meukow 90-proof cognac, which has earned 91 points and a gold medal, was a standout at the Bartender Spirits Awards 2023.

Tasting Notes:
Hay and oak on the nose. Baking spices and citrus on the palate along with some candied apples. Dry tannic finish.

HSE Rhum Blanc Agricole

Image source: rhum-hse

HSE Rhum Blanc Agricole is made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice and is typically unaged or aged for a short period in stainless steel tanks. This results in a rum that is clear in color and has a crisp, grassy flavor profile with notes of sugarcane, floral hints, and a subtle sweetness.

This 91-pointer and a gold medal award-winning rum is well-regarded for its quality and is a popular choice among rum enthusiasts and mixologists alike. If you have a bottle, we recommend experimenting with different cocktail recipes or serving it in a simple daiquiri to experience its vibrant flavors.

Tasting Notes:
Light-bodied and grassy with some well-balanced vanilla and citrus.

Baie des Tresors, Plein Soleil

Image source: baiedestresors

Baie des Trésors’s Plein Soleil has a unique flavor profile and characteristic of Agricole rum, with grassy, floral, and fruity notes derived from the fresh sugarcane juice used in its production. 

As with other agricole rums, Plein Soleil can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a base spirit in cocktails. On the palate, the attack offers a remarkable roundness and a beautiful complexity, very well controlled, balanced between exotic fruity flavors and slightly spicy vegetal notes.

Tasting Notes:
Olive brine nose, big sugared citrus flavor. Some overripe banana with a welcome prickly mouthfeel.

Citadelle Jardin d'ete

Image source: citadellegin

"Jardin d'Été" translates to "Summer Garden" in English, suggesting a botanical-forward gin inspired by the flavors and aromas of a summer garden.

This particular gin features a variety of botanicals, including floral and citrus elements alongside more traditional gin botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and angelica root. 

As a limited edition release, Citadelle Jardin d'Été offers a unique and refreshing twist on the classic gin profile, perfect for summertime sipping or crafting creative cocktails. 
A newcomer to the gin market, Jardin d’Été has already won gold with a remarkable 90 points at the Bartender Spirits Awards. 

Tasting Notes:
Juniper up front on the nose, with bitter melon and radiant citrus on the palate. Spicy peppery finish.

D'USSE Cognac VSOP

Image source: dusse

Naturally aged for at least four and a half years, the bold and full-bodied blend of D’USSÉ VSOP Cognac is made from a selection of the finest eaux-de-vie, including some that were carefully matured in the cellars of the Château de Cognac. The result is a distinctively powerful Cognac that begins with bold intensity and finishes pleasantly smooth and balanced.

The natural humidity of the cellars impacts evaporation and maintains the perfect balance of humidity, dryness, and temperature, unique aging conditions found only at the Château de Cognac. Produced using the Charentaise method - slow double-distillation in copper stills. D'USSÉ VSOP is known for its smoothness, complexity, and rich flavors, making it a popular choice among cognac enthusiasts. It's often enjoyed neat or as a base in cocktails, adding depth and sophistication to drinks.

Tasting Notes:
Toasted apple along with rich molasses and some spices. Approachable cherry on the palate.

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Liqueur de Grandmont

Image source: distillerie-de-grandmont

Distillerie de Grandmont is located just outside of Limoges, France, where it reinvents old and forgotten flavors. This floral and herbal liqueur takes its name from the French for ‘The Monk Path’ and displays notes of angelica, wildflowers, cut grass, and fresh citrus on the palate with a silky texture and hints of smoky camphor on the palate. Winner of perfect 89 points and a silver medal from Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, recommended to serve it with lime juice, gin, and maraschino in a riff on the classic last word cocktail.

Tasting Notes:
Spicy punch of black pepper, cinnamon, and unmistakable marsala spices with slight honey for balance.

Élixir du Roy

Image source: ambix-distillation

Made from saffron, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, aloe vera, oranger flower, and capillary, white, the formula used by the Ambix distillery tries to respect the recipe found by chance in the library of Vaison la Romaine (Vaucluse). 

Elixir du Roy is a French liqueur produced in the Cognac region of France. It's made from a blend of aged cognac and various botanicals, including herbs and spices. The result is a rich and complex liqueur with flavors of dried fruits, herbs, and spices, along with the characteristic warmth of cognac. Elixir du Roy is often enjoyed as a digestif, sipped neat or over ice, and it can also be used in cocktails to add depth and complexity.

Tasting Notes:
Extremely floral and sweet, with a spicy, long finish.

Emperor Vodka Passionfruit

Image source: emperorvodka

Bartender Spirits Awards 2023 silver medal and 89 points winner, Emperor passionfruit vodka is a flavored vodka that infuses the tropical taste of passionfruit into a smooth and versatile spirit. This vodka is typically made by infusing high-quality vodka with a natural passionfruit flavor, resulting in a vibrant and fruity profile. 

It can be enjoyed on its own over ice, mixed with soda or tonic water, or used as a base for a variety of cocktails. Its sweet and tangy flavor adds a refreshing twist to classic vodka drinks, making it a popular choice for those seeking a tropical and fruity experience.

Tasting Notes:
Peach schnapps on the nose. Could be a decent modifier.

The Gardener - French Riviera Gin

Image source: thegardener

"The Gardener" French Riviera Gin is a premium gin inspired by the lush botanicals and Mediterranean flavors of the French Riviera. Crafted with a blend of traditional gin botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and citrus peel, this gin also incorporates local herbs, flowers, and fruits commonly found in the region.

The Gin from the French Riviera is a delightful and fragrant gin that has a distinctly French twist. It features flowery and plant-based aromas with subtle hints of citrus, giving it a refined and lively flavor. It captures the essence of the natural beauty and gastronomic abundance of the Riviera. This gin has been recognized with 83 points and a silver medal at the Bartender Spirits Awards 2023, which is well-deserved recognition for its excellence.

Tasting Notes:
Hot nose with lots of juniper. Lemon peel and juniper on the palate, with hints of black pepper. Medium finish that is pleasantly bitter.

Marie Duffau Napoleon

Image source: armagnacmarieduffau

Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac, aged for a minimum duration of six years, exhibits a nuanced flavor profile characterized by discernible notes of cocoa, orange rind, cake batter, and vanilla. Its climax is marked by a velvety texture, accented by delicate tannins on the finish and a subtle trace of rancio. Garnering acclaim from the esteemed Bartender Spirits Awards, the spirit attains a commendable rating of 94 points and a gold medal. 

This Armagnac is perfect for mixologists looking to create exciting cocktails. 

Tasting Notes:
Rich maple with some baking spices, praline, caramel, and honey.

In conclusion, the selection of French spirits showcased here exemplifies the rich heritage and unparalleled craftsmanship that France is renowned for in the world of fine spirits. From the exquisite Cognacs aged in Limousin oak barrels to the innovative blends of botanicals in artisanal gins, each spirit represents a unique expression of French expertise and tradition. Whether served neat, in cocktails, or as part of culinary pairings, these spirits offer an opportunity to savor the depth of flavor and complexity that defines French spirits. With a nod to centuries-old distilling techniques and a commitment to quality, France continues to set the standard for excellence in the global spirits industry.

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