Quicktake: Eddu was the first whisky in the world made from 100% buckwheat
If you listen to Paris Cocktail Talk, you won’t be surprised to hear that France’s whisky consumption is the highest in Europe and that the French consistently top the charts globally when it comes to per capita consumption. For a country with a history of distillation and a love of whisky, I’m always surprised it wasn’t until sometime in the 80’s that whisky distillation picked up steam here. I’ll be sharing some more in depth posts on French whisky in general soon, but today I’m highlighting one in particular: Eddu Whisky
Eddu was the first – and remains one of the few – whiskies to be distilled entirely from buckwheat. “Eddu” means “buckwheat” in the Breton language from where it’s made. Created by the Distillerie des Menhirs in Brittany and under a protected geographic indication of “Whisky de Bretagne”, Eddu first launched with their original Silver expression in 2002. Over the following two decades they also released the Brocéliande and the Gold expressions.
Having done some extensive tasting and cocktail testing with the Silver and Brocéliande expressions, I found both enjoyable neat. So it’s not a big surprise that having played around with them in cocktails, I appreciated them best in cocktails that still let their aroma and flavors shine through. The original Silver Eddu made for a very refreshing highball that makes for a great aperitif. While the Brocéliande with a spicier aroma and a woodier, richer flavour profile works nicely after a meal in a straightforward old fashioned. It is a good French whisky that doesn’t need a lot of adornment to impress.
The family owned and run operation is on land that has a long history of distilling. In 1921, Frances Le Lay bought a still to carry out cider and eau de vie distillations for the locals. In 1986, Guy Le Lay left his day job as a professor of mathematics to officially launch the Distillerie des Menhirs to make Pommeau and Lambiq, a spirit made from distillation of the local cider.
It still took some time to realize his dream of 100% buckwheat whisky, due to the grain-like seeds being less productive and producing less alcohol than the grains typically used in whisky production. But Le Lay was not daunted by the challenge and persisted, pulling in experts like Pierre Durroset, researcher in the Food Quality Institute ADRIA, to work on the malting, brewing and fermentation or the Cognac Master Blender and spirits expert Robert Leauté to guide him in the art of distilling, ageing and blending. Not only did he have a vision, but he had the gumption and persistence to see it through – so he’s got my respect.
Buckwheat is not just a unique base material for a whisky, but in this case it’s a fun nod to the distillery location with Brittany being famous for galettes made with buckwheat. And if you happen to be in the area, the distillery does guided tours all year round.