Apple, apricot, almond and clove – these are the rich aromas of the Vallet family Cognacs. But after six generations of perfecting the art at Château Montifaud, a new generation has turned to gin.
Some of the most satisfying moments of Laurent Vallet’s career have taken place under the blue skies of Cognac, as he pruned vines on his family’s estate. There at Château Montifaud, he worked alongside his father and grandfather to prune and pick grape vines, learning with their guidance to make the Cognac that had been their family’s passionate pursuit for generations.
“Working together with family isn’t easy every day,” laughs Laurent. “But when we see the evolution through the generations, we can say that it’s worth it.”
In 2006, Laurent was joined at Château Montifaud by his wife, Elodie. To this talented pair, a perfect complement of talents and taste, family and history are central. But they’re also a new generation, working hard to transform and modernise the family distillery.
As Laurent says, “We discuss a lot, make every decision together, and our differences help to grow all of the projects we’re working on, and build our future.”
One of these shared projects is the beautiful gin in your Gin of the Month box. Made from a grape base spirit, suffused with the key aromas of Château Montifaud Cognacs and designed to express Elodie’s fresh and dynamic personality, it’s the next step in a journey that goes back six generations. Meet Osmoz Citrus Gin.
Fruit of the Vine
When Laurent was studying winemaking, preparing to join his father and grandfather on the family estate, making a gin was the furthest thing from his mind.
He was, instead, wholly focused on the task ahead of him. He was the next in a long line of proud Cognac producers who had been working the same land since 1837 when his ancestor Augustin started growing grapes on this slice of southwestern France.
It wasn’t always easy, but the Vallet family stuck it out generation after generation. By the time Laurent joined in 2000, the estate spanned 60 hectares and demand for their Cognac was booming. Laurent got stuck right in, expanding and restructuring to keep up.
When Laurent married Elodie, she came to work with him, taking over communications and branding. By 2010, the pair were running the Château, and thinking about what kind of future they wanted.
Then, at a German spirits fair, they got speaking to some customers. Elodie recalls, “Many customers asked us what we were doing with our pot stills and tanks between vinification and distillation periods. As we always answered, ‘nothing special’, our customers wanted us to make some gin. After several demands, we decided to embark on the adventure!”
For Laurent and Elodie, it was a natural progression. Laurent says, “Living in the Cognac area, we have the knowledge of distillation and of blending. We work every day with aromas, so we’ve developed a certain curiosity. It’s natural for us to be interested in other spirits.”
So Elodie and Laurent decided to take the leap. In 2016, they had celebrated the 150th anniversary of their family’s Château, 2017 would be another banner year, but for a very different reason.
“It was the year that we launched our brand of gin,” says Elodie. “Osmoz.”
Craft and Care
Elodie and Laurent were excited to get started on their new adventure. But, as artisans with six generations of Cognac producers behind them, it was imperative that they do it right.
Laurent says, “We wanted to find a link, a perfect osmosis, between the Cognac we produce and our gin. We didn’t want to produce a gin for the sake of it – we wanted to a produce a gin of our region, with a soul and a story.”
They started by identifying the aromas that made their Cognacs so renowned: linden, apple, apricot, liquorice, almond and clove. Those aromas formed the basis of their botanicals. They also knew that their base spirit had to be made out of grapes, a tribute to Cognac.
Then it was time to start experimenting. In the end, it took a year and a half to get the recipe right. “The most important work, being the technicians that we are” Laurent continues, “were the recipes themselves. Writing them was a tough, but very interesting and wonderful experience.”
But there was one spot of trouble – or, at least, a complication. The further that Laurent and Elodie got into writing their recipe, the more that their palates called in contrary directions. Laurent – steadfast, classic and traditional – was drawn to juniper-forward gins. Elodie, on the other hand, was attracted to the zingy brightness of citrus flavours.
Laurent says, “We realised that there was a multitude of very different tastes, so we made several recipes. As my wife and I have different tastes and personalities, two recipes emerged.”
One is Osmoz Classic, a juniper-forward gin designed to please Laurent and lovers of London Dry Gins. The other, fresh and dynamic just like Elodie, is the Osmoz Citrus in your July Gin of the Month Box.
July’s Gin of the Month is a wonderful expression of the Cognac region, Elodie’s personality and the partnership of love and respect enjoyed by the newest generation of Vallets.
In this gin, a wonderful whirl of botanicals – saffron from Cognac, bitter orange, cucumber and lime, almond, apple and apricot amongst others – meet in a grape base. “Fully developed and distilled from grapes,” Laurent says, “the gins are totally faithful to our values and appreciation of eaux de vie. The grape-based spirit gives our gin a round and smooth taste, which is also a characteristic of our Cognacs.”
As you sip, see if you notice the painstakingly engineered progression of flavour. First, the freshness of juniper hits the palate, complemented by the citrus hits of oranges and lemons. Then come the subtle aromas of liquorice roots, apple and apricot, followed by fresh herbal notes of cucumber and coriander, resplendent alongside a triumphant return of citrus. On the finish, the fresh and spicy notes of clove and saffron ease you out of your sip.
Elodie says, “The aromatic notes evolve towards the aromas of almonds, while the well-represented orange gives some fresh bitterness. The finish is very pleasant, very fresh and – above all – long.”
While still wholly recognisable as a gin, the Osmoz Citrus Gin in your July Gin of the Month box is a winemaker’s take on our favourite spirit. Lovingly crafted, made to the exacting specifications of Laurent and Elodie, it’s a revelation for gin lovers.
Elodie says, “We hope that even at the first smell, people will be excited and curious to discover what’s inside the bottle. Then, by the first sip, would like to experience a new journey through gin discovery, thanks to the grape base, the special flavours and the delicate, expressive notes of the citrus.”
“Although we are strongly attached to our family, culture and traditions,” Laurent adds, “we are a new generation. As winegrowers and craftsmen, innovation is at the heart of our thinking. This is why we’re exploring new aspects of gin, to find an original, unique and local touch. This is the spirit of our gin.”
Whether you’re enjoying an Osmoz Citrus G&T or whipping up one of the cocktails in this month’s issue of Ginned! Magazine, this spectacular gin will take you on a voyage of discovery this summer.