SB Meets… Bhagath Reddy, Comte de GrasseBy Melita Kiely
French distillery Comte de Grasse took inspiration from the region’s perfume industry when creating its inaugural gin – Comte de Grasse 44°N. SB caught up with founder and CEO Bhagath Reddy to discuss botanicals, ‘peak gin’ and moving into brown spirits.
What inspired you to make Comte de Grasse 44°N Gin?
I grew up in Bangalore, in a family that shared a deep passion for fine spirits. After years of research and planning I decided to pursue my dream of building a distillery. I chose the historic town of Grasse for a number of reasons: it has an exceptional technical know-how for aroma and flavour extraction; a magnificent array of raw materials; and a community eager to explore a new chapter in their local culture and economy.
The gin, 44°N, is our first product from the distillery in Grasse and I am incredibly pleased with how it has turned out.
The bottle is positioned at the ultra-premium end of the gin category. Do you think producers have neglected this part of the category until now?
The category is growing fast, but at the ultra-luxury level, there isn’t much that gin is doing. We feel this is an interesting space to work in and given the conscientiousness that goes into making 44°N and the cost of production in working with such diverse group of suppliers, our price point means that only we can play in this space.
Also aesthetically, as you can see, the stunning Bleu Klein glass bottle and presentation box is spectacular. We decided to present 44°N in such a beautiful way to appeal to this audience and other markets.
With so many gins on the market, why should consumers be willing to spend more on a bottle of 44°N?
Competition in the gin world is higher than ever, but 44°N is not just another gin. There are three key factors that elevate 44°N’s luxury status, which make the gin so desirable.
The extraordinary landscape of the Côte D’Azur, lends itself to the perfect climate, to some of the purest water that flows from the mountains down to the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. Particularly, our home in Grasse has its own microclimate, which lends itself to harvesting the most precious botanicals in the world. Therefore 44°N’s Provençal heritage elevates our luxury status.
44°N has been created using age-old perfume extraction techniques, melded with cutting-edge distilling technology, in turn creating a liquid with phenomenal complexity, delicacy and a long, refined depth of flavour.
The focus on sustainability is also a key aspect to help us stand out from the competition. Our team is constantly seeking ways to create a more sustainable luxury spirit.
What makes the brand stand out from the other hundreds of gins on the market?
The main factor that sets 44°N apart from the crowd is the way it’s made. This is the first time gin has been made like this.
Regarding the botanicals, our home in Grasse has its own microclimate, a place where botanicals grow freely, and we’re blessed with constant sunshine and warmth. Cade, rose centifola petals, jasmine, lavender and local honeys are just some of the ingredients sourced from the local community that we use in 44°N.
This is definitely a gin with juniper to the fore but on the nose, bright, tangy lemon and grapefruit give way to lovely seaside sentiments from samphire, and the unmistakable woody characteristics of cade (juniper oxycedrus).
A deep floral body follows with hints of Grasse’s rose centifola petals, jasmine and jammy facets of bitter orange. The base offers tangy warm spicy notes with the honey sweetness holding its own as floral and citrus notes mingle.
Can you tell me about your plans to create a rum and whisky in the future?
Yes, we are planning to scale up our innovative distilling process next year and release further luxury spirit brands, all following the same principles as 44°N.
We are working closely with local producers to plan ahead for the crops we need to create the perfect raw ingredients ,whether it be for a rum or whisky. We may also be inspired by the terroir to create other liquids as there is such an abundance of beautiful ingredients in the local area.
People always ask the question ‘when is the gin bubble going to burst?’ What do you think about this? Do you think it will happen, or is gin here to stay?
Needless to say, the ‘gin renaissance’ has taken the UK by storm. It is one of the most prominent consumer trends in the past 10 years. I strongly believe that gin is here to stay. The category will sustain growth as we continue to bring new, innovative products to the market and in turn, keep inspiring bartenders.
We will continue to see an emergence of new gins by small craft distilleries, as well as a wider variety of flavoured gins resulting from its mass popularity.
One key thing to watch out for is the growth of premium and super-premium gins that are taking market share from other star-performing luxury spirits categories. Premium gins like 44°N are honing in on this opportunity by introducing more ambitious botanicals and sophisticated flavours that are really capturing interest.
What makes the gin category so exciting to work in at the moment?
The most amazing thing about gin is that it is so creative, as it’s a combination of science, technology and, essentially, art.
You have the complete freedom to use almost any part of any plant; you can be creative in each step of the process.
This allows us to work with such a diverse group of suppliers, including the local Renouer [association for personal services] in Grasse to help us harvest, and the International Museum of Perfumery to access a range of botanicals that have been used for some of the most premium perfume houses. We even call on the University of Nice for expertise on the production method.
There’s no limit to what you can produce. Simply, gin is exciting.