At the 25th edition of Spirits Selection by CMB, some 2,400 samples competed for precious medals. Among all the products, one French whisky stood out, winning the international revelation for an organic product. Introducing this atypical distillery, where an ancestral Sequoia tree takes pride of place.
The Distillerie du Vercors, nestled in the heart of the Royan valley in the Vercors Regional Nature Park, was born in the Domaine De Flandaine, a former silkworm nursery. The Distillerie du Vercors is committed to producing whisky that is entirely homemade, from barley processing to brewing, fermentation, distillation and barrel ageing. Behind this ambitious project are Éric Cordelle and his wife Anne-Hélène: “We wanted to produce something with our own hands, something that could be shared (both the place and the product) from a simple raw material.” So, as if on cue, the couple came up with the idea of creating a distillery with a single production objective: organic single malt whiskies.
So they had to think of every detail, no matter how ambitious. “It took us 2 years to find a building with sources and not connected to the city water supply. We’ve been organic from the start. There’s nothing else in the Distillery. We’ve even had all the land around the Distillery certified, which encourages virtuous agriculture and protects our springs.” All the water comes from the estate’s own springs in the Vercors, a region renowned for the purity of its waters. So it’s safe to say that Sequoia Whisky is a true local product. “In France, when we talk about vines and terroir, it’s obvious to everyone. It’s the same for single malts. Terroir is three things: the place, the people and their know-how, their technique. Our work is truly artisanal. 2 people are in charge of production (brewing, fermentation, distillation, cellar work). And we discuss the aromatic line as a team.”
Currently, the distillery works with local farmers and receives the malted organic barley directly. “The barley is then crushed and brewed with our spring water.” After fermentation, distillation can begin. “We use double pot still distillation, in 2 different stills. The 1st distillation takes place in our wash still at a low temperature (around 50°C), depending on the recipe required (peated, unpeated, or whisky intended for 3-year olds or older). The second distillation takes place in our spirit still. With one tonne of barley, we produce 5,000 liters of beer, equivalent to one cask of 65% distillate, which will become whisky after a minimum of 3 years’ ageing. Bottling is done at the distillery, which limits transport. The special feature of the production process here is low-temperature distillation. “When we embarked on this project and designed our process and still, we were the only ones in the world to make our single-malt this way. It took Eric 2 years of research and development to perfect and build Nautilus. This still has two advantages: the first is energy, the second is taste. To distill whisky, beer has to be boiled, which cooks it. When boiling takes place at less than 50°C, the beer is cooked at low temperature. As in cooking, this gives a taste that sublimates the aromas, in this case those of malted barley“.
A well-deserved award
A few weeks ago, Whisky Séquoia Signature was awarded the title of International Organic Revelation. This is an elegant, gourmand and delicate whisky. It expresses all the complexity and delicacy of low-temperature distillation. With powerful notes of fresh malt, combined with subtle hints of dried flowers and white fruit. The palate is precise and suave, with a distinctly salty honeyed touch. Non-peated and aged in French oak casks, notably ex-cognac casks. For the producers, it’s obviously a great joy to receive this award. “It’s a great source of pride, the recognition of 10 years’ work. My wife and I are self-taught. We built our distillery with our heart, a distillery on a human scale for precise, well-done work. For the past 10 years, we’ve been working, learning every day, questioning ourselves, trying to take a fresh look at whisky-making and working on a stable line.”
What about the future?
An entrepreneur is always full of projects, and when we ask Eric about them, the answers come thick and fast! “Over the next 2 years, I’d like to rework the consumption of water and energy flows. To do this, I’m going to increase the number of fermenters and improve the thermal insulation of the machines. I’m also going to improve the way we welcome visitors by renovating our boutique in the spring of 2024. And last but not least, in 2024 we’re seriously preparing the release of our 8-year-old Sequoia. The first distillations took place in 2016, so we’re almost there! Scheduled for release at the end of 2025.” Understandably, the Vercors distillery has its head full of projects. The quality of their products is undeniable, and between the roots of a well-established tradition and the wings of stimulating ambition, we can’t wait to discover what’s next.