If I ask you which is the biggest wine-producing country? You will probably say France, also you will probably say Italy, Spain, United States, Chile or Argentina but if I ask you which are the main producers of whiskey you will say Scotland, Ireland, United States or Japan, you will never say France and it turns out that the hexagon is also a producer of whiskey and in fact a very good one, who is definitely making its own mark in the industry, if you are looking for a different whiskey, you can find in France distilleries from Brittany to the island of Corsica.

It really doesn’t explain why it took France so many years to enter the industry, but the country has everything it needs to become a key player in the industry. Starting with a knowledgeable, mature and growing market.

Is whiskey popular in France?

France is the largest consumer of whiskey in the world. That is to say, out of the total market of the industry worldwide, four countries account for 80% of consumption, namely India, the United States, France and Japan. But if we analyse the per capita consumption in millions of litres of whisky per country, it is France with 2.15 litres per person per year who takes the first place in the world, followed by Uruguay, United States, Australia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Ireland, India, and Canada. There is an influence of the United Kingdom in its former colonies in the consumption of whisky, but it is striking that France has the first place and Uruguay the second. I leave you the link to the source of the information here.

But it doesn’t surprise me at all that whisky is such a popular drink, as France has a long history of distilling. Besides its flagship product, wine, it also has a great experience in distilling different spirits such as the famous Pastis or the mythical Absinthe. If you want to know more about these drinks, you can read more about them in the respective articles “World Famous French drink Pastis: All you need to know” and “What is absinthe or the green fairy“. 

France is the world’s largest malt exporter

In addition to the market, which we have already seen that France has more than enough, it is also a self-sufficient country to produce whiskey, its geographical location allows it to have the necessary water and climate for the production of wheat or barley, which are the main grains used for the distillation of the drink. An example that we can present is the case of malt, which the largest exporter in the world is France with $435 million in 2020 according to OEC, I leave the link to the source of information here.

France is one of the world’s leading producers of barley and wheat.

Regarding barley, France ranks second after Russia, with a production of 11.2 million tonnes in 2018 according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

France 2nd largest producer of barley
France 2nd largest producer of barley.

As you may know, whiskey can be made from different grains, most commonly barley as in Scotland, but it can also be made from wheat. Which France is also a heavyweight being the fifth largest producer after China, India, Russia and the United States with a production of 35.80 million tonnes of wheat in 2018 according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

France 5th largest producer of wheat
France 5th largest producer of wheat.

France is the largest exporter of barrels in the world.

Well, we already talked about the target market, water, barley production, wheat and malt production, it is now time to talk about wooden barrels, where France is also one of the main exporters. Until 2020 the hexagon was the number one exporter in the world with 415 million dollars representing 48.3% of the world export market according to OEC, I leave you the link to the source of information here.

This should come as no surprise to anyone, thanks to centuries of wine making, France has a thriving industrial sector in the manufacture of barrels, from the forests of trees, through new barrels and even used barrels, as many of the spirits such as rum or whiskey for example, for aging often do so in barrels that were used to age wine or brandy as these contain aromas and tones that transmit to the future whiskey or rum. 

Does France produce whisky?

Despite being a nascent industry in the country, according to the “Federation du Whisky de France“, France already has 100 distilleries, 50 maturers, 115 different brands on the market and 1.1 million bottles sold in 2020.

And like everything the French do, they make it their own and are already leaving their personal mark as a culture, daring to experiment and create their own, as in the case of “Distillerie des Menhirs” from Brittany, which offers whiskey made from buckwheat. According to official information it is the only buckwheat-based whiskey distillery in the world. According to the owners, they decided to launch their drink based on buckwheat because it is an abundant product in the region and in this way to give it the Breton seal, but at the same time it has its competitive advantage being a plant that does not contain gluten, so the whiskey is suitable to drink for people who suffer from gluten intolerance.

Is there a French bourbon?

Technically, France does not produce a bourbon whiskey, as it must be at least 51% corn-based and for the moment French producers only make whiskeys based mainly on rye and barley. 

French whiskey distilleries?

Here is some information about some of the most important French whiskey distilleries.

  1. Distillerie Warenghem“: It is the first whiskey distillery in Brittany and France according to its website, with more than 100 years of experience in distilling, offers single malt whiskey through the Armorik brand. In 2013 they won the “Best European Single Malt” award for their Armorik Double Maturation whiskey. Here you can visit their website here.
  2. Haute Glaces”: On the French side of the Alps, this distillery is producing single malt, rye and even organic whiskey. You can visit their website here.
  3. Distillerie Castan“: Through their brand Vilanova, they offer two types of whiskey, the first 100% barley and the second 100% rye. Both are made with own-produced grains from sowing, harvesting and processing. A curious fact about this distillery is the fact that they use stills for fruit distillation, which results in a unique touch. You can visit their website here.
  4. Distillerie des Menhirs“: Mentioned above is a distillery that offers 100% buckwheat based whiskey. You can visit their website here.
  5. Distillerie Bertrand“: In the heart of Alsace, in Uberach, we find this distillery with more than 130 years of family know-how in distilling. They currently offer 3 different whiskies.  You can visit their website here.

À votre santé !