Wednesday morning, I meet up with Yen Pham, owner of Yi Chan, in Brussels Central. Together with about ten others we’re invited to visit Le Logis Grey Goose in the heart of the Cognac region, for an immersion into the universe of the world’s first ‘Premium Vodka’.
Yen and I meet up with the others in the departure hall of Charleroi Airport and a short flight takes us to Bordeaux. We’re picked up by a transfer taxi that takes us to the 17-Century manor after a quick, but delicious, stop in Bordeaux itself. Upon arrival on the premises of ‘Le Logis’, we’re greeted by the hosts of the Manor and Marc, brand ambassador. A short introduction and rundown on who will be sleeping in which of the 15 (absolutely stunning) rooms is followed by “Get changed and meet us at the pool, it’s time to relax and have a drink!”. Even though we hadn’t exactly been busy yet, after being on the road for over 10 hours it was a more than welcome invitation.
We all meet each other poolside, immediately being served a cocktail. A thirst quenching signature highball with Grey Goose and St-Germain. We all dive in the water or relax in one of the beds. The sun is shining, music is playing, and all aches of being on the road fade away.
The next drink we’re being served is a Grey Goose Melon & Ginger Beer combo, refreshing and playful. After that, it’s time for Ran Van Ongevalle and Maxime Willems to showcase what they have prepared. During the entire trip they had been hyped over some preparations they made. Oyster Martinis, Olive Highballs, Sazerac-style drinks, … they serve killer cocktail after killer cocktail, each more enticing than the other. The tone is set and the amusement levels rise. This trip only getting better.
A delightful dinner is followed by some chatter and a few games of petanque (we’re in France after all…), after that it’s time to call it a night, tomorrow it’s the big day.
Rise and shine, full breakfast awaits! The most wonderful selection of fresh foods is followed by the arrival and introduction of Monsieur François Thibault, himself.
Mr. Thibault is the owner of Grey Goose and it is him who will lead us during the coming immersive sessions. We start outside of Le Logis, in the vineyards surrounding the domain, where he tells us all about the region of Cognac, the different subparts, like ‘Grande Champagne’ where we are right now, he covers everything we need to know, from tories about grapevines over terroir to the production, aging and blending of cognac.
Back on the domain we are introduced to the world of Vodka. Mr. Thibault tells all about his shift from Cellar Master of a Cognac House to purveyor of the highest quality in the world of Vodka. You see and hear he’s not just knowledgeable, he’s also mesmerizingly passionate about his craft. From farm to bottle, innovative distilling techniques, natural resources, we’re getting excited. It’s time for tasting. Both the regular and several flavored expressions are tested, but the most amazing experience for me is the ‘Grey Goose Ducasse’, a triple grain-expression that came to existence in collab with Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse.
The last stop is the aging room. Several casks are stacked on each other, in front of us a table with five small casks. We get to try four of them, followed by a game of ‘guess the type of wood’, and only then, the last: A four year old blend of all four (Acacia, French Oak, American Oak, Cherry). As a parting gift, we receive a bottling of this unique blend. Each bottle comes signed by Mr. Thibault himself, with our names handwritten on the label, a gift like no other.
The second part of the day consists of more poolside activities and getting ready for the mixology sessions at the bar of Le Logis. We each get our station and the entire backbar is ours. After Ran, Rob and I prepare ‘Ducasse Martinis’ as a starter, we’re all allowed to get the creative juices flowing. Each and every one of us gets at it, shaking, stirring, throwing, building, a twinkle in the eyes, as if we’re kids on Christmas, a very very boozy Christmas. To conclude the session we have one last Martini with some Caviar, a terrific three-course formal dinner awaits us, prepared with utmost care and beautiful ingredients.
Smiles, laughter, nerdy booze talk, the evening brings so much joy to each and every one of us. And as a finishing touch we’re led to the lounge room where I take place behind the piano, accompanied by Rob and several others, we play, sing, and rejoice. The evening is filled to the brim with all that is good, including some XO Cognac that flows down even more gently than the first sip of coffee in the morning.
The morning after we get ready to leave, back to reality. One last breakfast together, a drive, a flight and a beautiful goodbye in Charleroi Airport.
But those memories, my dearest, those will last.
I want to thank Marc Colfs and Yves Van der Auwera for inviting me, François Thibault and the entire team of Grey Goose for their dedication and sharing their world, the amazing crew of Le Logis for their hospitality… and anyone I forgot to mention, please forgive me, too many people made this possible and you all deserve praise.
Disclaimer (Eng): All pictures (with exception of the last) and text are property of Matthias Soberon / Served By Soberon. Nothing can be used or copied without written permission of the author and the addition of credits.
Disclaimer (NL): alle foto’s (m.u.v. de laatste) en tekst zijn eigendom van Matthias Soberon / Served By Soberon. Niets mag overgenomen of gekopieerd worden zonder uitdrukkelijke toestemming van auteur en duidelijke vermelding van diens naam.