Not only has Grey Goose shifted vodka's image as a rough-and-tumble, exclusively-Soviet spirit, but it's elevated the quality to a level that others who have been in the space for much, much longer struggle to compete with. Not bad for an 18 year old distillery that, if it were a human in America, could not legally drink itself. Last month we were graciously invited by Grey Goose creator Francois Thibault to check out the brand's new home—a gorgeously restored 17th Century manor house outside Cognac. It's not open to the public, but we have the next-best thing: a grand photo tour of the property.
Go ahead, make yourself at home.
Roughly 90 minutes by car from the Bordeaux airport, Le Logis is located in the Cognac region in the hamlet of Julliac le Coq, which, like much of the surrounding areas, is dominated by lush grape vines and old farmhouses.
It's situated just past the remarkably quaint town center, overlooking it like a friendly medieval fortress.
Unless you knew what you were looking for, it's not immediately clear where you are.
You enter just like the Lords of the region would have back when it was their home 300-plus years ago: through a gate into the lush front lawn. Horse carriage optional.
Grey Goose bought the property in 2012 and has ever since been meticulously restoring it. Today, it boasts 14 elegant bedrooms and a whole spread of special areas dedicated to acquainting visitors with the history of the brand—including world-class mixologists, global brand ambassadors, and various other VIPs. Sure beats a conference center.
Here's the man behind Grey Goose, Francois Thibault. The son of a winemaker and native of Cognac, he dedicated much of his early career studying to become a Maitre de Chai, or "cellar master," for one of the famed Cognac houses.
He eventually drew the attention of famed US liquor distributor Sidney Frank—the colorful entrepreneur responsible for Jagermeister's incredible stateside success—who tapped him to help create a distinctly French vodka, borne from the land already so well associated with fine wine and cuisine.
It's no wonder Frank sought him out, as proven in the thoroughly engaging Cognac master class he led us through.
Other Cognac producers did not take kindly to the idea, though, worrying the region would be tainted by its association with the traditionally Eastern European and Russian spirit. So Thibault and Frank turned to plan B: to distill with grain harvested from a region up north known as the French Bread Basket.
And while the distillery itself is up north in Picardy where the grain is grown (so as to ensure the freshest batches possible), it's transported back to Cognac where it's blended with local filtered water, and bottled.
The source of the water is crucial, as the limestone-packed soil creates a unique flavor profile instrumental in the Grey Goose recipe. It doesn't actually come from this well, but theoretically, it could.
In reality, the bottles are blended and packed in a super secure facility just down the road.
Despite such a large-scale operation, Thibault doesn't trust anyone but himself to have final say on every batch before it's bottled.
That means tasting between 10 and 30 samples per day to ensure quality control. Don't worry, he uses a spit cup.
It's his remarkable palate that helped him dream up a line of flavor-infused riffs on Grey Goose original, including Pear, Lemon, Orange, Melon, and Apple.
And as of last month, one more: Grey Goose VX, a cognac-infused vodka, packaged in a bottle shape distinct to cognacs.
That's right—they're paying homage to its home with a unique and delicious new offering. It was an opportunity for Thibault to tap into his skill-set to create a special Grey Goose cognac, made with grapes harvested from the Le Logis property...
...using one of these things, which winds through the rows of grapevines agitating the grapes off the branches.
So, what else does this palatial spread have to offer, besides a sense of wonder at the manor's history?
Besides a huge pool and lounge.
How about an outdoor kitchen and BBQ?
For casual indoor meals there's an awesomely rustic old kitchen with updated appliances and a few touches original to the home, including this incredible open fire grill.
Formal meals are taken in the large dining room, under this radical chandelier.
The Le Logis tasting room provides a glimpse into just what it's like to attempt to hone your palate. Spoiler alert: it ain't easy.
There's even a professional kitchen where their on-staff boulanger will teach you to bake bread using flour made from the same grain Grey Goose is distilled from.
Behold: the beginners' batch.
Need to chill? Feel free to retire to Le Salon.
That sofa is practically begging you to take a nap on it.
Or, if you're feeling inspired, sit down for a tickle of the ivories.
And what would the home of Grey Goose be without its very own top-notch bar?
Complete with a collection of ridiculously old and rare liqueurs.
And on-site professional mixology classes from one of Grey Goose's global brand ambassadors Ludo Miazga.
Though there's really nothing better than simply strolling through the grounds, taking it all in.
There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor, currently looking into bargain-priced fixer-upper fortresses.