drinking vodka in cognac, france

When you think of Cognac (the place) chances are you think of cognac (the brandy), as it’s by far and away the region’s most well-known product. But there’s another liquid that comes from the very same place and you likely – like us – had no idea… Grey Goose. Yes not only is it a French vodka, it’s made in the same place as Remy Martin and Hennessy.

We went over to Cognac to visit the home of Grey Goose and find out what it is about the region that makes the vodka so good. Tough job, we know. And when we say the home of Grey Goose, we literally mean home – the brand took over and renovated a 17th century manor house in the village of Juillac-Le-Coq. Grey Goose has always been a premium product but it became synonymous with poppin’ bottles and sparklers-in-the-club rather than luxury in an elegant way. That’s what Le Logis represents: beautiful surroundings and the finest ingredients, without the flashiness.

The house has 14 bedrooms (ours was enormous, with a huge separate bathroom complete with roll-top bath), a salon, a dining room, a bar, a country kitchen (with an open fridge policy), a terrace, a swimming pool, a petanque court and beautiful gardens. The place is absolutely stunning – very rustic French-chic – and whilst it is branded, it’s still very tasteful. We’ve got no problems with a goose on the end of our cocktail stirrers.

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There’s plenty of booze on hand, of course, both in the salon drinks cabinet and in the fully stocked bar, and they certainly don’t skimp on the food either. The breakfast spread is basically a huge table covered in pastries, bread, house made jams, fruit, charcuterie, cornichons, cheeses, tomatoes and fresh juices, and the in-house chefs whip up amazing three-course meals at lunch and dinner.

You expect to have good food when in France but this area also happens to be home to some fantastic artisanal products, like Caviar Gensac (the sturgeon live in the same water that is used for Grey Goose) and Baume de Bouteville (a craft balsamic vinegar that’s made using local grapes and aged in cognac barrels), so it’s not surprising that we ate very well indeed. And with a load of drinks experts around, it’s not difficult to get your hands on a mean martini. Now for the bad news. Le Logis isn’t actually open to the public at the moment, so it’d require some string-pulling to nab a stay there.

Le Logis also has spaces dedicated to the brand story of Grey Goose and we were given a crash course in vodka by head honcho Francois Thibault. Having been a cellar master at a cognac house, he was able to transfer all that skill and knowledge to the production of vodka. Though the process is different, the commitment to using the highest quality raw ingredients is the same, and there are only two ingredients in Grey Goose; grain made from wheat grown in Picardy (this is the wheat bakers use for flour and is why the pastries taste so much better in France than they do here), and natural spring water from Gensac-la-Pallue, close to Cognac.

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The whole process, from harvest of the wheat to drawing of the water to the distillation and filtration, is controlled by Grey Goose. And it’s the climate and terroir, just as with wine and cognac, that impacts on the quality of the liquid – this vodka only needs a single filtration to finish it off. You do taste the difference too, there’s a smoothness rather than that hideous burning at the back of your throat. The fruity ones (all natural flavours of course) are even easier to drink neat.

We were lucky enough to have Chris Moore, former Head Bartender at The Savoy and owner of Coupette, recently crowned Best New International Cocktail Bar at this year’s Spirited Awards, with us in France, so we also learned how to mix up some summery spritz cocktails using flavoured Grey Goose, regional French liqueurs and wild flowers picked from right outside Le Logis. Though it’s very much a Bethnal Green neighbourhood bar, Coupette is inspired by France and the passion that the French have for regionality, so if you’re looking for a somewhere to get a slice of the Grey Goose life in London, this is it.