Whiskey, sake, brandy… The bet of microdistilleries

22:00, October 28, 2022

Effervescence in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, South Charente: the innovative company Vivant has just received its first order for alcohol pallets for shipment to the United States. “This time we are really a start-up! » laughs David Mimoun, co-founder. With winemaker-polymaker Jean-François Decroix, a pioneer of organic cognac, he embarked on the creation of the first line of 100% organic French spirits on the market. Its gins, rums, whiskeys and cognacs are ecologically and socially responsible. A bold gamble, which requires a large financial investment to make these drinks according to the rules of the art. “We’ve been a bit in the position of organic wines for twenty years: at the time, no one asked the question and then it exploded. »

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In fact, since the Covid crisis, there are countless “micro-distilleries” (regional factories) that are releasing high-quality alcohols with a local and eco-friendly vision. Like the Melifera gin, based on perennial flowers grown by the manufacturer in Oléron, which is committed to protecting the island’s natural heritage. Or Maison Mounicq, in Bordeaux, creator of a range inspired by the Gironde viticulture, including a vodka aged in barrels of Saint-Émilion red wine! The essential Maison du whiskey has just launched a subsidiary (The Avant Gardists) specializing in these start-ups that are building the spirits of the near future. A brief overview.

A local gin made in Meursault

In the land of Chardonnay, Maxime Girardin, 26, dreamed of making his own brandy. “I wanted to enhance the region’s cereals combined with aromatic plants to obtain an exceptional gin”, says the young creator of the Pegasus distillery in Meursault in 2021. Recipe is more complex than it sounds: barley and wheat from family farms in the Côte-d’Or, citrus fruits from Menton, flowers and plants from the Jura and Swiss Valais ( lemon thyme, orange mint, juniper, bitter orange, verbena, monarda), but also quality local water. A drink “100% organic and made in Meursault” (everything is transformed on the spot). Pegasus uses a new generation still (Dutch brand iStill) to extract only the “heart” of the distillation (the best quality of alcohol). “The machine only consumes energy at this point, so our energy expenditure is thirty times less compared to a traditional still”insists the businessman, who has also just put a vodka on the market.

Gin Orion, Pegasus, 45 euros

A sake brewery for Parisians

You may have been trained in sakagura (sake brewing) and be passionate about… rice from the south of France. “I wanted to make a sake with Japanese know-how, but with 100% French ingredients”, explains Takuma Inagawa, 34, alumnus of École centrale, founder of the Parisian brasserie Wakaze (2019). Objective: to produce a sake adapted to Parisian tastes with local ingredients (mineral water, organic yeast, rice from the Camargue). With an ecological conscience, he set up a system of redistillation of his sake lees (previously discarded) to serve as a base for another traditional alcohol: umeshu (plum brandy). “We donated 1% of our revenue from this alcohol to preserve the environment in Camargue”, details Takuma Inagawa. To save raw material, the main operation of “polishing” the rice grains does not exceed 10% of the volume (up to 50% in Japan). The start-up has also set up an isakaya in the heart of the 5th arrondissement, which offers Japanese cuisine to be paired with fresh (and therefore unpasteurized) sake served on tap like beer.

Barrel Saké – Red Wine, Wakaze,30 euros

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An eco-friendly vodka container from Beigbeder

“Happy Ecology”. The Beigbeder brothers’ mantra has never been more appropriate than in these times of ecological sobriety. Two years ago, the writer (Frédéric) and the entrepreneur (Charles) launched an innovative vodka with a friend: Le Philtre, playing the provincial purity card from the start (organic wheat, mineral water from Gensac, zero additives, minimalist design) . Not yet in their Basque residences, the production is subcontracted by one of the best manufacturers in the “valley of the spirit” Charente: Maison Villevert (Cognac). The key to the project is its eco-design in the circular economy: its bottles are made from 100% recycled glass from different sources (hence the bottles that have different shades, the pinnacle of chic); the stoppers come from oak remains; the labeling is based on recycled paper without chemicals. Better: Le Philtre has just been relaunched in 5-liter glass cubes, positioned in stores for customers to come and refill their precious bottles (30% cheaper).

Le Philtre Organic Vodka, 50 euros (34 euros for a 1 liter refill)

A “fair trade” Latin Charentais rum

Barrels of chestnut, oak, cherry, acacia… Gino de Vivant rum has seen strange sponsors watch its growth. As there is no other way to do it (no source of sugar cane in mainland France), David Mimoun went to Peru to get a pure dehydrated fair trade (socially responsible) juice, rehydrated and distilled in Charentes. Vivant seeks to reveal without artifice his very personal version of this trendy alcohol: sweet, fruity and very light vanilla. The Lola version (this time based on molasses from Paraguay) is richer, more structured, but with the same DNA: “We completely dispense with additives, texturizers, added sugars after distillation”, proudly states the businessman. It is therefore the wood that plays a central role, maintaining the spirit of the house: “We choose our barrels according to the origins and responsible management of the plots in question. » Vivant teams have now turned to a solidarity sugar farm project in Cuba. Next step: get organic white rum directly from Mexico and age it in Charentes.

Lola golden rum, 55 euros

A single farm grain in Seine-et-Marne

After conclusive trials on gin, Olivier Flé, a 39-year-old young farmer who launched the Isle-de-France Distillery in 2019 with two friends, is releasing his Grail this winter: his first whiskey, Athanase, not a single. (100% malted barley), but a single grain, a mixture of malted and fresh cereals. “50% of the income is barley from my combine. The rest is malted barley by an associated property that takes care of the brewing operation.”, sums up the businessman. He does not want to imitate the Scotsman by producing a whiskey, but to create a whiskey with “Parisian Identity” and serve local customers. Made with a Stupfler (Bègles) still, their farmhouse spirits exude unexpected aromas of raspberry or pear. The Isle-de-France Distillery then gives their juices fat and color, locking them for fourteen months in 100% new French oak barrels. Then patina and length in the mouth with a second filling in used barrels of bourbon and rum.

Athanasius whiskey, 85 euros

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