It is a group of friends who are at the heart of this project, which is original to say the least. Thomas Morin, François Sapin, Florian Meresse and Franck Gisquet are geologists at TotalEnergies, some even know each other from the banks of Normale Sup’ in Paris. This one…
It is a group of friends who are at the heart of this project, which is original to say the least. Thomas Morin, François Sapin, Florian Meresse and Franck Gisquet are geologists at TotalEnergies, some even know each other from the banks of Normale Sup’ in Paris. These forties (or nearly) have always shared an unquenchable passion for spirits, especially whiskey. So far that you would like to start the artisanal production… “A dream of an adult”, Franck Gisquet laughs again.
Trained in Segonzac
“We started making beers. And then, during the incarceration, we wanted to switch to whiskey…”, Thomas Morin says. “Basically whiskey is distilled beer,” explains François Sapin. Gradually, the friends became familiar with the fermentation of barley and brewing it in their spare time. They use “nice holidays” to test their drinks. The dynamism is launched and the idea of a future commercialization germinates.
Only problem, the whiskey has to mature for three years before it can be marketed under the name “whisky”. “It forced us to store a lot of alcohol, without any income. The solution was to produce a turpentine, such as gin, to bring it to market quickly,” explains Thomas Morin.
The quartet then went on to study distilling at the Center International Des Spiritueux (CIDS) in Segonzac in Charente. “We realized then that the gin market would reach saturation. Wine merchants are inundated with references. It was therefore risky to get started’, Franck Gisquet looks back.
Popular and festive
This is where the idea of pastis arises. “This drink is super popular and festive. We were looking for that anchoring in order to be able to offer a product in supermarkets,” continues Franck Gisquet. “This audience corresponds to the audience we want to reach with our minds,” Florian Meresse says in abundance.
These quadras, very curious by nature, then work according to a recipe whose basis consists of macerating star anise, licorice, fennel and other ingredients. “All our herbs are organic. Only soft wheat alcohol is not,” specify the accomplices who use products grown in the region, especially the Béarnais pepper.
They develop 12 recipes that they present to an eclectic panel of 25 people. At the end of the tasting process, the selection committee validates who will become the “Noustanis”. This tiny yolk, peaking at 45°C, is “more of a Ricard than a pastis,” say the Blind Pigs Distillers. Installed in Artigueloutan since the end of June (read below), they produce several thousand liters of pastis per week in their distillery, after their working day or during the weekend.
Less than 20 euros per bottle
Leclerc showed an immediate interest in marketing spirits. Since the beginning of July, the Noustanis brand has been offering in its stores in Mazères-Lezons and Pau (between 18.50 euros and 19.00 euros per bottle). Auchan Pau and Intermarché in Soumoulou should follow this summer.
As for the bars, the Brasserie Béarnaise and the Forge Moderne have adopted the drink Artigueloutanaise. The merchant Pisson will be responsible for expanding this already promising clientele.
The first animation on the shelves of Leclerc Pau has also aroused a lot of enthusiasm. “Everything was sold during this start on the hats of wheels! But we will have to wait a few weeks to assess this departure”, Florian Meresse puts into perspective. If growth continues at this rate, the merry band plans to hire workers to ensure production. “That is the aim of our approach”, assure the enthusiasts who undoubtedly toast to this successful start.
A distillery installed on a former Total site
In parallel with the development of the “Noustanis”, enthusiasts set up a simplified joint-stock company – SAS Esprit des Gaves – and are looking for a production facility. Agglo’s economic development department offers them several buildings in Pau and Gelos. But it is in Artigueloutan that the creation of the Blind Pigs Distillers distillery is completed. With a nod to history, the four friends move into the former Total Physical Measurements Centre, now owned by the municipality.
In the countryside, it is impossible to ignore this 12 m high black shed, which required an investment of 7 million euros. Inaugurated in March 2017, this site received rock slabs from all over the planet. They were then analyzed in preparation for future drilling. “It’s a surprising coincidence,” laugh the four geologists who had never set foot on the site.
The new tenants have a complete production unit here with workshop, bottling line, storage space, laboratory, cloakroom… With the installation at the end of June, they are initially aiming for a medium-sized production, ie 10,000 bottles by the end of June. 2022”, pending the delivery in 2023 of a second custom still in Condom (Gers) by the renowned Sofac (still producing Armagnac and Charente). With all this equipment, they can produce gin, bourbon, vodka and whiskey. In Artigueloutan, the friends also plan to organize events and carry out direct sales.