Fruit can be a very difficult raw material to work with for alcohol beverage production. Every type of fruit has varying levels of sugar and non-sugar substances that alter the way they can be processed. Compound differences in fruit type with specific fruit variability and it is an uphill battle to a palatable final product. Take a single apple tree for example. The geography of the land, climate and environment all add to the overall quality of the apples from that tree. It sounds like we are talking about terroir, and in fact, we are. Terroir might be apparent in fruit wine production, for example, but how do we trace that through the distillation process? It’s difficult. There is no doubt about that. I would like to think this is important to distillers, as it is to wine makers, but giant companies and their large scale processing techniques trample the farm distillers, their stories, their unique expressions and most of all, the “terroir” from which the fruit has come.
Laurent Cazottes’ story is mentioned in this New York Times article, but lets expand. His story is more than just one of terroir. It’s about terroir, sustainability, preservation and production. This is the story of why we at Astor Wines & Spirits saw it as essential to showcase his products. They all come in 375ml bottles, all of which are expensive, but with good reason…
The use of chemicals to encourage consistent growth of plants and fruits is a widespread issue. Cazottes has made his commitment to the environment by only utilizing fruit from his 20 hectar biodynamic farm. For his products, Cazottes exploits several fruit categories such as pome, stone and berry. Each of which has different processing parameters to follow. Sugar content of pome fruits vary greatly based on type, variety and particularly, its ripeness. Unlike other fruits, young pears for example are not suitable for distillation. They must be picked and ripened off the tree before processing. Stone and berry fruits should also be ripened off the vine/tree first, but it is still possible to yield alcohol from an under ripe batch. Stone fruits are a tricky category. Sugar levels can be very low, except in the case of juniper, which has high levels of essential oils and resin. I wonder why Juniper was chosen as the predominant flavor in Gin?
It’s a tricky business but liqueur, eaux-de-vie and schnapps producers have managed for century’s right? Correct, but not without the large degree of variability that comes with fruit distillation. This is why Laurent Cazottes approach is so distinctive. For several expressions, he removes the skin, seeds and stalk from every piece of fruit so only the flesh is used. He is working with Prunelart, Folle Noire and the nearly extinct grape variety Mauzac rose. Using intricate maceration and distillation techniques he produces intensely aromatic and highly flavorful liqueurs from wild quince and cherries. Terroir, sustainability, preservation and production. Even through distillation he can retain it all. Take a look at some his master creations and see for yourself.