|Courtesy Gartbreck - artist's view|
The occasion was Feis Ile, Islay's festival of whisky and music. Regular visitors to this blog may have read my previous posts about this fabulous week long event, one that Jean is looking forward to being directly involved with, once Gartbreck is operational and the whisky is flowing.
We exchanged contacts and arranged to meet later in the week, and where better than Laphroaig distillery on Laphroaig Day, soaking up the sun, dram in hand, and looking out over a calm bay.
Many years ago, he had been living in Paris, working in advertising and as far removed from the world of whisky as it's possible to be. He decided that he wanted some big changes in his life so he asked Martine, his wife to be, whether she'd like to go with him to Brittany, where he thought he might build a distillery. Of course, why not!
|Carol, Jean et Martine|
So what comes next for a successful entrepreneur with a Celtic distillery in France? Impassioned by the success of Glenn ar Mor, an inclination for more adventure, and a belief in the great benefits of a maritime maturation climate, Jean decided to do it all again on Islay, an island he had come to love, and an already established whisky region.
The opportunity to purchase Gartbreck with its buildings and farm land, provided the perfect spot for Jean's next vision. Idyllically situated on Loch Indaal, across the water from Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte, and just a few kilometres from Bowmore, this is the spot where construction for the new distillery will commence in the Spring of 2015.
Jean's philosophy is clear. Gartbreck will be a small distillery, with its own floor maltings, producing malt peated to about 35ppm. Barley is already being grown on the estate, and the plan is to produce about 20% of the distillery requirement. Oregon pine washbacks and some wild yeasts will be used for the deliberately long fermentation process, designed for more flavour development. Small copper pot stills will be used to optimize the interaction between the spirit and the stills, and these will be direct heated, an authentic and now seldom used process, which was prevalent until the end of the 60's, but has been largely replaced by steam coils. Although direct heating is more costly, difficult and time-consuming, Jean is passionate about this slow heating method, especially for the wash still, and considers it essential for producing a balanced, oily, rich and complex spirit. Gartbreck will be the only distillery on the island to use this method, which will make for a unique visit, as well as distinctive whisky. The worm condenser will be 40 metres long, allowing a leisurely transformation from alcohol vapours to liquid. In fact, slow and steady will be the name of the game at Gartbreck.
Slainte Gartbreck! The whisky world awaits with great anticipation!