A is for Aymeric, the producer of this fine whisky. A is for Agnès, his wife and supporter throughout this wildcard project. A is for ager of spirits and artisanal prodution. And A is the first letter of the alphabet, a new beginning much like this, the first year for the domain.
“I officially launched my brand last May at Vinexpo, after three years of preparing the project”. Aymeric Roborel de Climens is originally from Bordeaux. And the world of wine is one he knows well, having worked for twenty years as an oenologist, often in châteaux that you’ll already have heard of: Jean Faure, Haut Maurac, Haut Ballet, Mas Amiel, Château de Panigon, Clos Fourtet, Château de Sours… “I was looking for a business project that I’d really enjoy in the wine and spirits industry. I thought about buying some vines, but it had to be something feasible. Being a great fan of whisky, I was interested to find out about the development of French spirits. The lightbulb moment came during a family meal in the Dordogne with an uncle who said he wished to get the old family distillery back up and running, using our own barley.” This is how Aymeric came to launch his business, seeking to promote the savoir-faire of French spirit production from start to finish. He was easily drawn into this industry and its dynamism as it has seen a renaissance of sorts in recent years. Aymeric is particularly passionate about the vast range of grape varieties grown in France, and by the richness that can be found in the barrels used for maturing wine. His idea is to give these barrels a second life, thus marking the whisky and giving it a unique identity.
Meeting Yannick Hepp was also a decisive moment. From a family of distillers, Yannick has his own artisanal distillery in Uberach, Alsace. After discussing and tasting, a deal was made and Aymeric could come and collect the whiskies once distilled. The wheels started turning with a 100% French pathway that Aymeric sees as central to the product. The barley is grown in French fields and then the Soufflet group transforms it into malt to bring out all the aromas. After passing through the Meteor brewery and then the Hepp distillery, it’s Aymeric’s job to select the whisky he wishes to refine, meaning that it’s to him to mature and age the cuvées.
Aymeric’s whisky undergoes a double maturation. The whisky is first matured in new oak barrels, ‘washed’ by another whisky beforehand. The idea is to give the whisky a certain silkiness without them becoming overly marked by the tannins of the new oak. This first phase lasts 3-4 years and makes the base of the whisky, giving it volume and flavour. Then comes the time to refine, and this is when the real identity of the whisky is crafted. Aymeric has picked barrels from different domains and châteaux so that the wood, marked by the wines previously aged in it, enriches the whisky with its aromas. This careful and varied selection is a result of strong relationships built over time, and it can be a delicate process due to the time constraints involved – the barrels have to be transferred quite quickly in order for the double maturation to run smoothly. Aymeric really wants to highlight the influence of different grape varieties, so you can try a whisky that was matured in a barrel used for Sémillon (Château Doisy Daene Barsac), for Sauvignon (Clos Floridène), Merlot, Rolle etc. “I decided not to necessarily choose barrels from the biggest names or the most well-known Bordeaux châteaux. Since the wine matured in the barrel passes its character onto my whisky, there has to be real meaning behind my choice of domains. I tend to opt for my personal favourites, places where I have a good relationship with the wine makers, where I know the work is done out of passion and the terroir is truly important. This is a marriage of flavours, so the family all needs to get on!” This second phase lasts 6-18 months, and during this time the whisky takes on all the aromas of the wood. “I was surprised to see how much a grape like Sauvignon could mark a whisky, this is one of the most distinguished bottles in my range.” This range currently includes 6 bottles.
Happy so far with the launch of his business, Aymeric currently sells in around 30 French regions, the vast majority to wine shops. Some of his bottles make it as far as Belgium, the US and Singapore! Despite the difficulties experienced over the last few months, there are several ideas brewing in the mind of this entrepreneur: his next project is the release of a whisky matured in Cabernet Franc barrels. An experimental project is also on the horizon, hopefully using amphora pots from Jérôme Bretaudeau in the Muscadet. With such an open-minded approach, it’s clear that Aymeric Roborel de Climens is a name to watch on the stage of French spirits.