THE French have set their sights on Scotland’s proud title as the best whisky producers in the world.
With it’s sun-drenched sprawling vineyards France is best-known as the home of grape-based beverages like wine and cognac.
But recent figures revealed that our friends across the pond are drinking the British under the table when it comes to Scotland’s national drink.
And now the boss of one of Paris’ top distilleries has claimed that in spite of its 500 year history of producing the “water of life” Scotland will only enjoy another 15 years at the top of the it’s game.
Nicolas Julhès, head of the Distillerie de Paris, said: “Within 15 years the world’s best whiskies will be French.
“We will be able to stop copying the Scots to bring a real French style.
“We have the greatest specialists on the ageing [of alcohol] who have always worked in wine and cognac.”
He added these specialists are now working on the production of new whiskies, “and that is going to change everything”.
But Jim McEwan – a retired master distiller from Islay’s Bruichladdich distillery – expressed some harsh skepticism over the claims.
He said: “I think we are the kings of whiskies. Just as France has produced some of the best wines in the world, we produce the best whiskies in the world.
“We do it with a passion – it’s what we like to do – and wherever any craze happens there’s a lot of wannabees.
“I’ve heard people say this dozens of times in my 52 years”, he added, “and there’s a graveyard full of wannabes.”
“I’m sure they’re going to produce some fine whisky, but there’s a word that’s missing and that’s ‘Scotch’ and it’s synonymous with quality around the world.
“If he thinks he can do it in that short time and knock us off the perch, time will judge him.”
2014 figures show that the average French adult is putting away 2.15 litres of whisky a year – making up 38.7% of total spirit consumption in the country.
The 2.15 figure is far more than their closest rivals, the Uruguayans – who imbibe a mere 1.77 litres a year.
Brits, meanwhile, come in a distant seventh, drinking just 1.25 litres per year.
In a report on the figures published in Le Figaro this week the author claimed this made France the “world champion in whisky consumption”.
But at present most whisky in the country is imported, as France is only producing 700,000 bottles domestically.
France currently buys more bottles of Scotch than any other country in the world – 86.5m in the first half of last year alone in comparison to the next biggest importer, the US, which brought in 54.8m.