Citadelle, the French Gin
It was the kind of day that defines summer in the southwest of France – abundant sunshine baking the vineyards, the branches of the juniper trees swaying in the ocean breeze.
The combination exerts an almost irresistible force on the pace of life – to slow down, order another plate of huitres, take another sip, your work will always be waiting.
The work at Château de Bonbonnet, of course, is all about creating artisanal spirits that are meant to be savored. On that July day in 1996, we had a particular one in mind: gin. How could we distill the essence of this region into one perfectly crisp spirit? We were lunching on the back terrace, and the debate – as is often the case with close family – was lively. The challenge was issued: create summer in a glass. Beyond the obvious juniper berry, lay a mélange of botanicals that would make a unique gin.
The discussion moved to the distillery. Bent over the open flame copper pot stills, they began to experiment. It took 19 aromatics and botanicals, layered in just so, before they re-convened around the table to agree: this gin would be the perfect tonic and cocktail partner.
For more than 20 years, we have shared this fine Gin de France all over the world. But we never stop trying to make it better. Our ultimate goal is to make Citadelle in the same way vintners make fine wine, with terroir from juniper berries grown on our estate. A true chateau-to-bottle gin. So, we are clearing acreage and planting junipers with an eye toward future harvests.
These days, July still finds us gathered around the table on the back terrace for lunch still talking about gin. But now we debate the probability of rain, and the best time to harvest the juniper berries. And like as not, we also have on the table, iced, mixed with tonic, topped with a shaving of lemon peel. Summer in a glass.