Based in the world’s perfume capital, luxury distillery Comte de Grasse harnesses the science of the fragrance industry to make cutting-edge spirits
Just north of Cannes on the Côte d’Azur is the historic town of Grasse. For centuries, it has been the global epicentre of fine perfumery, but now there is a new collective in town with a rather more spirited approach to bottling the botanicals that thrive in the sunshine and gentle maritime breeze – gin-maker Comte de Grasse.
“In the history of perfumery, there was a period of decentralisation in the sourcing of botanicals as it was cheaper overseas,” says Georgina Boden, Brand Manager for Comte de Grasse distillery, which was set up in 2017. “Comte de Grasse’s founder, Bhagath Reddy, as a foreign entrepreneur, wanted to ensure that we were giving back to a local economy that gave us so much. A commitment to resettling agricultural families’ lands was one such initiative.”
The distillery’s 44°N gin, which has already won numerous awards including Gold at The Gin Masters 2020, encapsulates the warmth, energy and flavour of the French Riviera with notes of citrus, cade, mimosa, rose centifolia and immortelle. Its sibling, 06 Vodka X Rosé, marries fragrant organic rosé wine from Provence with French winter wheat.
The distillery itself is housed in a 17th-century perfumery, painstakingly restored to its former glory – both architecturally and as a hub of botanical innovation. Sustainability also permeates every other aspect of production. “Our methods bring together modern extraction techniques that utilise cutting-edge science,” says Georgina. “This includes ultrasonic maceration, low-temperature vacuum distillation and CO2 critical extraction, which helps maximise our energy efficiency. We’re committed to supporting sustainability locally by forging partnerships in the community, working with farmers to regenerate interest in botanical agriculture and sourcing 80 per cent of our botanicals from the region. We also collaborate with a social integration association to create opportunities for unemployed people to return to work.”
As well as making a difference today, Comte de Grasse is mindful of the future. Its master distiller, Marie-Anne Contamin, a lecturer at the University of Nice, works with the university on a sponsorship programme that allows spirit technology PhD students to drive innovation at Comte de Grasse in return for access to a research lab just ten metres from the distillery. This collaboration is nurturing a new generation of botanically inspired innovators.