By Melita Kiely
Nestled in the French Riviera, Comte de Grasse is aiming to tap into the ultra-premium end of the gin market. SB travelled south to discover more about its perfume-inspired offering.
Created by master scientist and innovator Marie-Anne Contamin, the gin is created using ultrasonic maceration, vacuum distillation and CO2 supercritical extraction.
Earlier this month, The Spirits Business was fortunate enough to fly south to Grasse, France, home of the distillery, to learn more about this new expression.
From gin tastings and lab sessions to virtual reality experiences and rooftop cocktails, a jam-packed itinerary left no stone unturned about the 44oN gin.
After landing in Nice, France, a short taxi ride took our group to Restaurant Lougolin for a welcome lunch to set us up for the day. The Italian influence on the Côte d’Azur region was soon evident, as the menu offered a choice of prawn or asparagus risottos, and creamy carbonara, as well as tuna tartare and fresh fish.
Appetites satisfied, our next stop of the day was the Comte de Grasse distillery. Upon arrival, master scientist and innovator Marie-Anne Contamin greeted us and showed us around the distillery as it currently stands (the official distillery is due to be built and completed by next year). During the tour, Contamin explained in detail the production process of 44oN gin.
To begin with, the botanicals are weighed and ground into a powder, before being added to a 50/50 composition of ethanol and raw water. Following a 45-minute maceration, the mixture is transferred into the rotary evaporator, which operates between 50-55ºC.
The spirit comes off the still at about 75% abv, and this is when natural plant extracts are added for extra flavour. De-mineralised water is then used to reduce the alcohol strength to 44% abv.
The gin is stored in a bottling tank, before being filled into the brand’s distinctive blue and yellow glass bottles. At present, the distillery has the capacity to fill between 750 and 800 bottles in one afternoon. From start to finish, the production process takes approximately four-and-a-half hours. Distillation alone is around a two-and-a-half hour process.