Arnaud Fressonnet primarily grew up in Burgundy, France, surrounded by a regional legacy of great wine and eau-de-vie; however, Arnaud came of age in Mexico. Upon completing school, he drew upon his heritage by diving into the burgeoning Mexican wine industry.
Years later, Arnaud shifted his focus to traditional distillates of Mexico, involving himself in artisanal rum and mezcal production in Oaxaca. The rural farming communities of Oaxaca inspired Arnaud, recalling memories of his first home, and a desire took root to explore the distillation of other crops among Oaxaca’s generous bounty.
Though the practice of distilling maiz enjoys a long history among the Mayan peoples of Chiapas and Guatemala, it is rare among the distilling communities of Oaxaca; more regionally common is the practice of adding corn (in one form or another) to the distillation of agave. However, recent decades have seen the birth of a small but growing Oaxacan whiskey trade, taking advantage of the state’s massive quantity and diversity of heirloom Creole corn, particularly in the Sierra Norte Mountains.
Inspired to create his own take on the fledgling cottage industry, Arnaud began a collaboration with fifth-generation maestro destiladors Rommel and Alex Krassel of Cuicatlán. The team approaches Oaxacan corn whiskey as they would the production of eaux-de-vie, rather than simply as whiskey evangelists. Named in honor of the indigenous method of cross-cultivation (typically of corn, beans, and squash), Arnaud’s new label Milpa began in 2016 with an unaged corn distillate—not because it was cheaper to produce (as many Americans would assume) but because it offered an opportunity to explore the unique heritage flavors of the region’s grains without distraction. Now, Milpa Ambar offers a bridge between old and new: a lightly aged 3-year-old expression of Oaxacan whiskey which, despite a 100% corn mash bill, tastes unlike any American whiskey we’ve ever tried.