Twelve, a whiskey made in France, born in the highlands of Aubrac.

posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 3:44 pm.

Between basalt walls and granite rocks scattered across the plateau, where the deep blackness of peat bogs shows through from time to time, Aubrac looks like the Highlands; now added whiskey from the dream of twelve friends.

“My childhood friends and I walked on New Year’s Eve in Aubrac. One of them said it would be great to make whiskey there, because nothing is more reminiscent of Scotland than Aubrac!” says Christian Beck, co-founder and director of the Twelve Distilleries in Laguiole, north of Aveyron.

Born at the dawn of 2014, in the euphoria of the post-New Year’s day at an altitude of about 1000 meters above sea level, the project, whose name is reminiscent of the number 12 of the department and the number of partners, “started small”. It will take six years for the first three Twelve whiskeys to see the light of day.

Among them, the Basalte blend was first voted “Best French Whiskey of the Year” 2020 by expert Christine Lambert of Whiskey Magazine. She advises “go to the bowling alley” as there are only 2,200 bottles on sale at the moment.

“We were very proud!” exclaims 57-year-old Christian Beck, laughing. “We thought about making garage whiskey with friends for our enjoyment, selling some to cover expenses (…) But we got bogged down in the game,” he told AFP.

– Qualification of the cellar master –

The distillery’s “fantasy” took shape with the acquisition of the Presbytery of the Angels, the remnant of a fort more than three centuries old, overlooking Laguiole. Then the neighboring former monastery, a beautiful, richly decorated basalt house, will become an aging cellar.

But in order to move from dream to reality, an “artist” was needed. If the founders, including three women, have “successful careers and enough funds to invest”, they are aeronautical executives, surgeons, lawyers, astrophysicists, salesmen, etc. None of these “Averonne stock or heart” has ever produced alcohol.

The trigger is a chance trip to a wine merchant in Normandy when he meets Florent Caston, a very young whiskey sommelier whose grandfather distilled Calvados.

Its first distillate will be released in mid-2017. He perfected it over the course of three years to create Basalt, made from four Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry casks, red wine, rum and young oak, and then blended in Sauternes casks for a year.

Every morning, this 31-year-old cellar master mixes water and malt (sprouted grains) to brew beer, the foundation of any whiskey, in tall steel vats.

“We only work with barley to keep a clear taste (…) In the world of whiskey, we can find up to 13 grains: millet, sorghum, spelt, rye, corn, etc. But the more of them, the more difficult the mash”, he explains over the gurgling of the carbon dioxide exhaust.

– Boil, distill, clean –

After the brewery, it adjoins the distillery, a large cube of modernist steel with explosion-proof standards mounted on the side of the building, where Stupfler, gleaming with copper, sits on a throne. Seven hundred liters of beer are loaded into this Rolls-Royce alembic every day, which turns into 70 liters of 70% alcohol.

This “white” will give different whiskey Twelve, which today produces 100,000 bottles a year and employs six employees, with an investment of about three million euros.

Twelve “is one of the most high-quality and promising French distilleries at the moment,” Anne-Sophie Bigot, specialist writer and blogger The Whiskey Lady, who was in love with Albariza, told AFP.

This sweet spice-flavored single malt has been aged in two successive sherry casks; others are in barrels that only contained rum, vermouth or cognac, etc. “If you only make whiskey from new oak, you get only juice from the boards,” Florent clarifies, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

As for the peat whiskey, Twelve is considering smoking barley with decomposed wood waste. “Peat mining is not sustainable at all, and the Aubrac peat bogs are protected,” says Christian Beck, detailing further projects, including malt production at an old neighboring farm.

“We want to receive our supplies from local barley producers, produce our malt, master various links. Our goal is quality, not quantity,” he emphasizes.

Dreaming of “tasting a 40-year-old Twelve before he dies,” he admits that building a distillery from scratch isn’t profitable in the short term. “It’s like planting a forest for our children or even our grandchildren!”