If you know me personally, or have followed my journey since the beginning, it’s no secret that one of my favourite vodka brands is Grey Goose. There’s not many brands in the world that I don’t like to be fair, each liquid has its own unique trail, but Grey Goose is one that sticks in my mind as the first premium level vodka I ever had the chance to experience almost 8 years ago. I’ve worked with the brand in nearly every bar or restaurant I managed, and I am more than happy to promote their activities and expressions through my work with Drinks Enthusiast. So you can imagine my delight when I recently had the chance to visit Le Logis, the home of Grey Goose!
Although I’ve already covered Grey Goose on my site before, It’s always good to attack the brand at a different point, as the trip to the Cognac region of France would put a lot of perspective on what I write for your (hopeful) viewing pleasure. So I’ve scrapped my original piece, and replaced it with a more thorough insight into the life of Grey Goose.
Over 100 km away north of Bordeaux, the small commune of Juillac-le-Coq in the Charente department of south-west France now houses the home of Le Logis, a Grey Goose home so-to-speak that is now open to teach the journey of the brand. The Château sits upon a hill overlooking the vineyards and sunflower fields, with baking sunlight touching every part. Perfect atmosphere then for a Grey Goose Le Fizz, a blend of St-Germain elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice and soda water, chilled and ready for your arrival. The idea behind a trip like this is to unwind, relax and ultimately soak up the surroundings in the peaceful commune. A couple of hours can fly by with a bicycle ride through the vineyards or exploring the village, returning to the private pool complete with a Grey Goose bar offering a variety of simple Grey Goose creations such as Grey Goose La Poire and tonic.
Fresh food served up by the pool caps the day off, with a selection of canapes followed by lamb chops with thyme, beef bavette with confit shallots, large prawns with garlic, parsley and aniseed alongside marinated and grilled vegetables. A selection of regional cheeses follows, with small desserts including pear and Grey Goose in a chocolate shell, caramel toffee tart and raspberry and green aniseed macaroon amongst others. To finish the evening off, espresso and Grey Goose cocktails amongst company, which for this trip included London lifestyle media as well as drink based journalists.
Waking up to a sun shining view from your window is a sight that will etch in your memory for ever, as will the fresh croissants, pain aux chocs and brioche available in the kitchen quarters for breakfast. An early morning start on the Grey Goose timeline, effectively from grain to bottle, starts with the Grey Goose Maître de Chai François Thibault. François, alongside Global Brand Ambassador Ludo Miazga. Talking within the Le Logis vineyards, François talks about how he grew up in Cognac where his father was a wine-grower. With such a passion within the family, he trained to be a Maître de Chai (effectively referring to the person in charge of the vinification and aging of wines) from a fairly young age, training in the regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy until receiving the title back in 1992. Since then, he worked for cognac distilleries including H. Mounier before meeting a gentleman named Sidney Frank, an Europe to America liquor importer for which François created the cognac Jacques Cardin along with other cognacs and brandies.
It’s here in 1996 that Sidney Frank approached François about an idea to create a premium vodka.
Once back in the walls of Le Logis, François explains that he took on the recommendations of French pastry chefs, utilising three local farmers in Picardie, northern France for their harvest of soft winter wheat. The harvest is a 9 month cycle, with the longevity in the soil creating a better base ingredient for Grey Goose. After harvesting, the wheat is taken to Saint-Quetin, a town not too far away from the wheat fields, and is stored within silo’s, moistened and rested for a period of 24 hours, humidified to remove and impurities since the harvest and then milled through metal rollers to create flour. Once they have their milled grain, it is added to a metal tank (lauter tun) for fermentation, wherein the starch will break down into sugar. Hot water is added to the flour within these tanks, with cooler water later added to break down the larger molecules, followed by the introduction of a yeast strain. The fermentation process happens over 6 tanks, making sure that all the glucose turns into alcohol.
Distilled 5 times in continuous columns soon after the fermentation process creates a spirit at 96.3% abv. It is then transported to Gensac, south-west France, where Grey Goose have their own purpose-built blending and bottling plant. Just outside the bottling plant, a well can be found which houses ‘pure’ water 40 metres below the limestone ground. To become the perfect water, it is demineralised by reverse osmosis which involves it being pumped through tubes at very high pressure through a ceramic membrane. The membrane stops any of the larger molecules (residue, sedimentation etc) from passing through, therefore leaving only pure water. It is then filtered through charcoal before being blended with the 96.3% abv spirit and bottled.
Grey Goose was launched in 1997 (the UK in 2001) to compete with the expansion of Belvedere in the US, and by 2004, Sidney Frank accepted a rumoured $2.4bn for Grey Goose by Bacardi. Not a bad journey in seven years by François and Sidney!
Of course, no Grey Goose tutorial would be complete without a chance to sample and experience the range –
Grey Goose – 40%
A clean nose with a slight mix sweetness as well as subtle nut and pepper gently arising. A smooth palate with cracked pepper, liquorice and butter with a lingering aniseed flavour. Creates a rounded finish.
Grey Goose L’Orange – 40%
Uses the natural essence of 1 kilogram of fresh oranges per 1 litre of Grey Goose. A deep, rich aroma of ripe orange with lots of freshness on the nose. Very smooth as it hits the palate, with a burst of flavour and a long finish.
Grey Goose Le Citron – 40%
Using the essential oils from the zest and peel of lemons from southern France. Very fresh and zesty with a lemon meringue aroma making its way around the nose. Light and subtle on the palate, with a long mouth-watering finish.
Grey Goose La Poire – 40%
Using fresh maceration of pears harvested 300 km north of Cognac. Strong and sweet combines on the nose with lots of fresh, juicy pear aromas. Short and sweet on the palate, but full of bold flavour when it hits.
Grey Goose Cherry Noir – 40%
Harvested Basque black cherries from a small village in western France. Fresh, deep nose of cherry. Rather floral, with a sweet finish of cherry bakewell. A sweet start on the palate, with sharp hits of the cherry that grows to a light, fragrant and slightly tart finish.
Grey Goose Le Melon – 40%
Uses Cavaillon melons from the south of France. A rich, fresh melon aroma on the nose follows boldly onto the palate. A long, sharp flavour of the ripe melon flavours comes through, creating a soft, dry finish.
Grey Goose VX (Vodka Exceptionelle) – 40%
Launched in July 2014. A blend of 95% Grey Goose and 5% Cognac created from grapes from the Grande Champagne cru that is slightly ageed.
Light on the nose with a distinct cognac fragrance. Soft, white grape and wheat producing a floral honey aroma. Soft on the palate, subtle hints of the cognac coming through, with developing aromas of white fruits blended with wheat. A lingering finish.
One the vodka experience is wound up, lunch on the La Terasse is served, before more hours to wind away before a cocktail masterclass hosted by Ludo Miazga himself.
Housed within Le Logis is a newly refurbished bar, perfect for demonstrating three classic Grey Goose serves –
Grey Goose French Mule
50 ml Grey Goose Le Citron
1/2 Fresh lime
Fever Tree Ginger Beer
Squeeze the lime into a copper mule and drop half in. Add good quality ice cubes and pour in both Grey Goose and ginger beer. Garnish with a lime quarter and sliver of ginger.
Grey Goose Dry Martini
60 ml Grey Goose
10 ml Noilly Prat Dry
1 Dash of Orange Bitters
Fill a shaker with ice and add the Noilly Prat. Stir to coat ice and strain out. Add Grey Goose and bitters, if desired, and stir well. Strain into a chilled Martini glass. Present with a lemon twist.
Grey Goose Le Fizz
35 ml Grey Goose
25 ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
20 ml Fresh Lime
70 ml Soda Water
Hand squeeze lime into a large wine glass. Add al of the ingredients, top with cubed ice and stir.
All three serves can set you up nicely for the last evening meal, a more formal sit down occasion. A starter of gravlax salmon, Saint Moret cream cheese with Grey Goose L’Orange, followed by beef wellington, sauteed chanterelles and confit shallots with baby carrots kicks of proceedings perfectly, accompanied by a choice of red or white wine. Cheese plate served on a piece of cognac barrel, with a finish of a chocolate sphere, roast apple with a pastry cream and Grey Goose vodka capped the evening, and trip off perfectly.
The trip to Le Logis and to discover Grey Goose first hand is a fantastic opportunity which looking back at it, I’m now more confident at delivering Grey Goose showcases when using the brand within my work. To meet someone like François Thibault, who has single-handedly, and still to this day, created Grey Goose and its flavour expressions is a real honour. The energy that Ludo has in presenting the aspects that Grey Goose offer is shows why he is the man to represent the brand all over the world, and to see it in the new home of the Grey Goose experience, Le Logis, the 17th century property restored by the brand since its ownership in 2012, really makes the trip worthwhile.
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the legacy that Grey Goose has carved out, and with the experience it can now show first-hand, I’m sure it can re-establish, or even convert many a persons thoughts on this French brand.
For more photos of my trip, please visit my Facebook page.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.