An ancient traditional technique
Double distillation of grape marc and wine
The history of artisanal distillation
The distillation process is inspired by the generations who used stills before us. Farmers have always recycled the fruits of their labor to the composting point. The idea of waste is a recent one. For us, finding opportunities with local and natural ingredients means reviving almost extinct distillation methods and creating surprising spirit recipes.
Distillation involves taking time with ingredients to extract their “spirit”, as the alchemists say. In our region, the garrigue, the Mediterranean, the mountains and the seasons offer us unique fruits and plants. Our art is to capture their aromas and restore them in our bottles.
We work with pot stills (original! – our oldest dates back to 1927). The first “passe” extracts all the alcohol contained in the material, producing a “free-run wine” containing around 30% alcohol by volume. During the second “pass”, the alcoholic strength is concentrated and the spirits are sorted, separating the “head” on one side and the “tail” on the other, to keep only the “heart”, free of the hot, toxic spirits and the heavy, unpleasant fusels.
We filter only by gravity and without any additives. In this way, we preserve the aromatic expression of our spirits. A slight deposit or cloudiness is therefore normal. As we use live ingredients, slight variations may occur between batches – just waiting to surprise you.
A day at L’Atelier du Bouilleur
Daily life at the distillery
Early in the morning, when the southern sun is still asleep, it’s time to start the stills. Here, we work mainly with wine; today, it’s Fred’s wine that’s going to be distilled. He’s an organic winegrower in Laurens, a commune in the Faugères appellation.
The day before, we had poured the wine into the still pot. Early in the morning, Martial supervises the first pass, also known as the roughing pass, until midday, waiting for all the alcohol to be extracted. Matthieu then takes over, placing the resulting alcohol in a smaller still for the second pass.
During the distillation process, Matthieu takes care to eliminate any alcohol that is unfit for consumption. It removes the heads, pampers the heart and eliminates unwanted distillation tails. By the end of the day, we had enough alcohol for Fred to make his spirit.
Theresa and Martial are back from picking, our region is generous: they have bitter oranges and a few varieties of Artemisia. The final alcohol is good and we decide to macerate the harvest so that Fred can make his Vermouth.
It was a fruit day according to the biodynamic calendar, and the alcohol will be mixed with fermenting wine at the same tempo to make Fred’s Vermouth. The sun soon sets and we share a glass of friendship, a sign of the end of a busy day.
Biodynamics in artisanal distillation
A large number of our partners work biodynamically, which prompted us to consider its application to spirits. We’re still experimenting with spirit energization and water dilution, and work to the biodynamic calendar.
This has already produced some fine aromatic results – the same hooch can taste very floral or very mineral depending on whether it’s flower or root day. An energized distillate is more stable and harmonious. We don’t yet know where it will take us, but it’s a great experience and we love experimenting.