We are hearing sad news from France today. The craft distillery Glann Ar Mor in Brittany (Bretagne/Breton) are closing down on August 15, 2015. The distillery, which was started back in May 1997 by Martine and Jean Donnay, produce the unpeated Glann Ar Mor and the peated Kornog (see reviews here).
The quality of their products is well-known, and they have received much praise and a lot of awards for their whiskies. They have long since labeled their whisky as “Whisky Breton”, whisky from Brittany. They are, rightfully, proud of where they are from, and they focus strongly on the terroir of their products. As such they supported the initial efforts to have in place a Protected Geographical Indication (IGP – Indication Géographique Protégée) much like you have for Champagne and Cognac.
Work on the IGP was started by INAO (Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité) back in 2009 and all seemed well. The four whisky distilleries in the region supported the work. In today’s press release from Glann Ar Mor, Jean Donnay says:
Unfortunately, between the first meetings in June 2009 and the establishment of the PGI early 2015, the project has gradually evolved into an IGP that Glann ar Mor considered too detrimental to its activities.
Ironically business was going really well for Glann Ar Mor, with activity growth of 25% over the last year ending March 31. The reason they now have to close is not economical, but rather that they find the final IGP regulations (see here) make it impossible for them to continue with a viable business.
In particular the following regulations turned out to spell doom for the distillery:
- Only single malt made from barley can be labeled as “Whisky Breton”. This makes it impossible for the Donnays to sell their planned rye based products with the branding they have so far used. They can no longer promote such products as whisky from Brittany!
- The alembic stills they are currently using in their products are no longer allowed if they are to call their products “Whisky Breton”.
With the global trend very much being focus on terroir, and all elements of where a product is from, it seems absurd that Glann Ar Mor will now be prevented from even mentioning their origin on their products.
Many of you whisky fans out there are now probably worried about the plans for the new distillery Gartbreck on Islay, which is another project of Maryine and Jean Donnay. Well, we can relax on that front at least. Here is another quote from a post by them on Facebook just a few minutes ago:
To our friends of Kornog Whisky : Glann Ar Mor in Brittany will be closing its doors permanently on 15 August 2015. This being the consequence of a new Geographical Indication for “Whisky Breton”, put in place by the French “INAO” with a technical file which is unfortunately simply unacceptable for our distillery.
But do not worry : Glann ar Mor is one thing and Gartbreck is another thing. There are no relations at all between the situation and the future of each of the distilleries
We certainly wish Martine and Jean all the best for the future! Glann Ar Mor might be dead, but long live Gartbreck and craft distilleries!