The interest in craft beer and spirits that started in North America and the UK has trickled over to France, thanks to a cutting-edge cocktail scene and a growing community of discerning drinkers. Inspired by these craft movements during their fifteen years of experience as consultants for the spirits industry, Nicolas and Sébastien Julhès of the eponymous epicure decided to launch their own distillery in the heart of Paris. Five years and not a few setbacks later, La Distillerie de Paris started production this year with a gin, a vodka, and a malt spirit which, in time, will become Paris’ first whisky.
The Julhès brothers gave themselves quite the challenge: located in the 10th arrondissement, La Distillere is the first distillery to set up in Paris in a century. Little, if any, structure existed for defining the legality of distilling in the city. According to Nicolas, it was a little like trying to get a driver’s license in a country with no roads or traffic laws. “We could have set up in the country, it would have been much easier,” he says.
Easier, maybe, but not nearly as exciting. Julhès is counting on the rich cultural mélange of Paris to infuse and shape his spirits, which will be limited to small batches. The advantage of a micro-distillery is its petite size: smaller batches make experimentation easier. “We’re not trying to compete with the large, established distilleries,” he says. “We want to do what they can’t, which is experiment.” Collaborations with chefs, perfumers, street artists, and more are in the works.
Experimentation is at the heart of La Distillerie, but so is transmitting a more thoughtful way of enjoying spirits, especially whisky. Although the French are the world’s top consumers, outpacing even the Americans, it’s often a bottoms-up, on the rocks kind of consumption that Julhès and other spirits aficionados would like to revisit.
“We’re very influenced by the world of gastronomy, a philosophy of taking the time to explore the tastes, texture, and story of a spirit,” explains Nicolas. His fondness for the amber liquid comes across in the careful way that he pours and explains how to taste a snifter. “Tasting a whisky should be a moment of personal luxury,” he says.
Be sure to follow La Distillere de Paris on Facebook for regular updates on events, tastings, and more.
La Distillerie de Paris – 56 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010. Tel: +33 (0)6 24 33 24 37
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