Pierre Tissandier from Bhlas Tasting Glass and the Whisky Lodge

The Whisky Lodge is a family story that began in 1968 in Clermont Ferrand. A boutique specialising in the sale of exceptional spirits and rare alcohols, family-owned and independent since Gabriel Tissandier founded Les Caves Tissandier. He also later found the Bhlas tasting glass and The Whisky Lodge in Lyon.
 “Tasting is a delicate art, with variable geometry, to which we constantly try to apply logic and method. Thus, to direct our olfactory and gustatory senses to our desires, it seemed essential to us to frame what by definition cannot be Gabriel Tissandier
Pierre Tissandier joined his father in 2011, after working for several years within the drinks industry in France. For 36 years, the company has remained family-owned and independent.
Pierre Tissandier Whisky Lodge
Pierre Tissandier, the Managing Director of The Whisky Lodge and the son of the company founder was kind enough to agree to my invite and to spare some time to talk with Inside the Cask.


Inside the Cask: Hi Pierre, you are involved with the Whisky Lodge in Lyon and also the Bhlas tasting glass. However how did it all start for you? Where did the interest in drinks, and more specifically on whisky come from?

Pierre Tissandier: It is, of course, a long story. My father was an oenologist and owner of one of the best wine cellars in France, back in the 60s. He started his career as an agricultural engineer in the Cognac and Armagnac vineyards. He was also trained by the best wine experts in Bordeaux and Burgundy. He opened his own business in 1969 in Clermont-Ferrand, where we lived back then. “Les Caves Tissandier” soon became a reference both for wines and spirits, the latter being quite terra incognita at the time, at least in France.

He moved to Lyon in 1993 and opened The Whisky Lodge, a shop specialized in whisky, which was quite a challenge at that time: the market and the consumers’ knowledge were not what they are today. He was the first on the French market, and his shop still proudly stands today.

I took over his business in 2011, but was in the whisky industry for a while. After a law degree in Paris, I moved to Glasgow to attend an MBA, along with an internship at Guinness, part of Diageo. I stayed there for almost 10 years as brand manager and head of the malts portfolio. When my father retired, it was obvious for me that I had to continue what he had started. All things considered, it’s always been a family affair, and a passionate one.

bhlas tasting glass

Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about the Bhlas tasting glass? What makes it so different against other glasses available in the market place? 

Pierre Tissandier: My father, him again, invented this glass 20 years ago. And again, he was ahead of its time. Loads of professional glasses existed back then for wine, but not for spirits.

As a great professional, he needed a professional tasting glass: accurate, clinical and ruthless. As such a glass did not exist, he invented it, and patented it.

This was way before Glencairn and Whisky Exchange’s Blenders’ glass were even conceived (the latter being a poor copy of our Bhlas). At the time, my father didn’t have the salesforce to place the glass on the international market. This is what I intend to do today.

What makes this glass so special is his technical uniqueness. The long stem makes it easy to handle. The globe allows the aromas to turn inside the glass, in a specific and precise order. But the funnel neck is what makes a true difference: Bhlas is not onion shaped. With its vertical abruptness, the top of the glass makes all the aromas come right up your nose, for a surgical analysis. Once you’ve tried it, there is no turning back.

Bhlas tasting glass

Inside the Cask: Most people have no idea on how to create a new tasting glass. What does it involve? How long did it take for your father to produce Bhlas?

Pierre Tissandier: It took years to develop such a great product. We started from scratch; our professional needs were our only technical guide. We drew the pattern, and had to make lots of prototypes.

The big challenge was the balance between the long stem and the round globe: we originally wanted Bhlas to be crystal, but the weight of the globe was too heavy, which is why we went for crystalline.

Only one company was able to craft it the way we wanted. Once the glass was patterned, it took another couple of years for us to elaborate the user’s manual and design the case. More than 20 years after the original idea, Bhlas is finally ready to take over the world!

the whisky lodge lyon

Inside the cask: Can you share more with us about the Whisky Lodge in Lyon, France? How did it come about?

Pierre Tissandier: As I said before, it’s a family affair that started back in the late 60s. The Whisky Lodge started as a retail shop, but soon became a broader distribution structure, very active on the B2B trade.

At a time where most of the French drinkers only heard about single malts and merely drank Haig or Chivas, my father was the official distributor for brands such as Edradour, Glendronach, Pappy van Winkle, Adelphi, Gordon & Macphail…

Back in the day, there were no blogs, no Internet, no Whisky Base. In order to buy whisky, you had to pick up your phone, make appointments and book the ferry to Scotland. There was no other way to do it. Today, everything seems so easy in comparison…

When I took over the business, we developed the B2B trade a lot. Today, we have our own independent bottling range, Orcines for malt whisky and Peuchet for French alcohols; we are also official distributors for great spirit brands such as James Eadie and Bristol Classic Rum. Our brand-new website is the new branch of the company’s strategic developments to come. Along with a salesforce covering all the regions of France, to promote our products.

orcines whisky lodge

Inside the Cask: There are a growing number of French whisky distilleries. Which ones do you think I should keep an eye out for?

Pierre Tissandier: As always, time will make the difference. A few very solid projects are now providing quality whiskies, namely in Brittany, a pioneer region for French malts. Some distilleries and brands are now of very high standard: Warenghem, Celtic Whisky, Distillerie des Menhirs, Rozelieures, Distillerie du Vercors… If the people in charge are serious, these good products will only get better.

For reference from Inside the Cask – The French Whisky Map

Pierre Tissandier Keeper of the Quaich
Pierre Tissandier as a Keeper of the Quaich


Inside the Cask: Scotch whisky remains a large and popular drinks category globally. Any up-and-coming trends or brands to watch out for in the category? What can you tell us about the French whisky market?

The growth of French whisky is baffling. Since the 50s, an average of 7 distilleries a year were created in France; 130 opened in 2021 alone! The market for French whisky is booming, and not mature yet. Of course, most of these new brands are not even selling whisky yet. Some of the distilleries are not even of critical size: small breweries tend to distil, almost for fun, and many companies have yet to prove themselves.

There are many opportunities to come, but a lot of new players will disappear, many of them because their product is bad, others because they lack the finances required, some of them for both reasons! Only the best products and the most serious people will last. But, for sure, French whisky has a great future ahead. Nevertheless, assuming that the current growth of the global market will last… Always remember that 30 years ago, distilleries were closing because of overproduction. Things can go fast in our business. To finish with: however popular in the media and the public opinion, French Whisky remains a drop in the ocean of Scotch: 1.1M bottles sold in 2020, against 1.6B. That’s only 0.06%!

the whisky lodge

Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about your personal background? What else are you passionate about?

Pierre Tissandier: I have a very academic background: I studied law, history, literature… Moreover, my parents were bookworms. As a kid, I read a lot. My holidays were spent visiting Europe’s historical monuments and studying religious architecture. And in my spare time, I listened to classical music and opera with my father. This is very important to me: solid roots and great knowledge, which, I fear, are missing today.

My business is absorbing, but when I get a chance, I grab a book, and listen to many podcasts on various topics: culture, philosophy, history… I also travel to Italy, where my wife and I have family. Today, I try to share all this with my young son.

Inside the Cask: What would be your advice for anyone else wanting to work in the drinks industry?

Pierre Tissandier: A lot of courage, a serious amount of technical knowledge, and patience! That’s what it takes to succeed today. With Internet and the social networks, information is widely available, and things can seem a little too easy. But the keys to succeeding in making a great product have not changed: time, money and a great deal of professionalism.

Making whisky can seem fun, and in many ways it is. But is also harsh and many subjects are demanding: custom management, chemistry, complex trading issues…

the whisky lodge

Inside the Cask: What surprised you most about working in the drinks industry?

Pierre Tissandier: In the end, what always strikes me is how difficult it is to make great whisky. There are so many parameters to take into account, so many variables… Even with the exact same process, two same casks filled the same day with the same new spirit and aged the same way for the same amount of time in the same place can be different. One can be good, the other bad. You can put your whole self in hard work, some things are part of a bigger picture, and there’s nothing you can do about it… except being humble!

All things considered; the quality of your average daily dram is staggering. Making good whisky is a kind of miracle. We tend to forget that today.

Inside the Cask: What is the favourite part of your job? Anything that you would like to share that not many people would know about you? 

Pierre Tissandier: As I mentioned earlier, many aspects of the business can be harsh and demanding. But in the end, we have to remember that it is a great chance to work in such a field as the whisky industry. Malt whisky is an incredibly noble product, benefiting from an everlasting popular image.

At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is that the consumer is happy with what’s in his glass. Above all, this is our reason to be, that we put back in play every morning.

Not everyone can work in an industry that provides so much pleasure and joy worldwide. And these are the most enjoyable aspects of my job: the ones that are related to the product and the consumer. Most of the year, I spend my time on my computer analysing trends and figures. So, when I get the chance to visit a distillery, try some samples or simply give a hand to my team in the shop around Christmas, it really makes my day. I am a hard worker, and this implies to be tough, but I am a true epicurean: I love my products!

Pierre Tissandier the whisky lodge


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