I want to introduce you to the cousins Benoit Garcia and Tony Comas. Both of them grew up the the Southern French region called Occitane and they have bottled their heritage in a range of organic spirits with herbs and grains from their homeland. I followed them on a Paris promotion tour to get a piece of their Brave Occitane Wild Spirits. BOWS is a modern distillery who believe in sustainability and who wants to fight the giants of the booze market – and I believe they have nothing but success ahead.
Benoit – the master distiller at BOWS distillerie – first had the idea of distilling spirits eight years ago, and about two years ago he brought his idea into action which resulted in the first distill being bottled and out on the market only a year later. The distillery is located in the small town Montabaun in the Midi-Pyrenee region of southern France. This region together with Langedouc-Roussilion constitutes Occitane. Benoit Garcia is born and raised in the Occitane district and he pays hommage to his heritage with his Brave Occitan Wild Spirit which are organic and consist solely of local grains and herbs. To Benoit, sustainability and micro distilling are the future aspects of the booze market.
Five years ago I met Tony Comas in Stockholm. He was bartending in the most prestigious bars of Berns Establishment while I just started my bartender career and proudly served pitchers of rosé sangria and Pimms Cup at the little outdoor-bar of Berns Bistro. We became friends and later on I worked with him for a few weeks in his southern French home town, Montpellier (the largest city in the Occitan region) and when he took of to Africa I stayed with his family for one week on the countryside in a small village called Claremont l’Herault, located one hour west of Montpellier. There I befriended his mom and dad, and met his sister with family. It was a lovely time – what you can imagine of the southern French country side: the picturesque villages, stone houses, lushy greenery and many markets with all the good you can wish for from the sea, the butchers, the cheese and wine makers etc etc. I was thrown off my feet by the beautiful landscape and the wonderful people I met in the southern part of Occitan that week in September 2014.
This year in September I found my self in Paris. I had extended my visit in the city after realising I would meet Tony again if I only stayed a bit longer. I hadn’t seen him for two years, and I was really curious of the new family distillery I’d heard so much about. BOWS totally met my standards – by far! Their spirits are unique and intensely aromatic. The vodka surprised me with grassy tones and when I mentioned that, Tony bursted out: “to me it’s mango! Aaaah it’s so evident. It’s amazing!” with his nose far down the tasting glass after swirling the clear liquid elegantly with a soft movement from the wrist. And after that I couldn’t smell anything else but mango. The grassiness is there in the mouth finish, nevertheless. And when I tried the gin Benoit has aged on strawberry cask.. man, I melted. BOWS neighbours in the south produce strawberry wine and the cask used in the fermenting part of the wine production are later used to age BOWS 23 botanical gin. Their other gin is clear and contains 14 botanicals. These botanicals are all from the region and you find juniper of course, and coriander, angelica root and flowers like calamus iris and hypnoses houblon – the rest of the recipe is secret.
You might have heard of Languedoc before, since it’s a well renowned wine district. The word languedoc actually derives from “le langue d’occitane” and it refers to the specific dialects spoken in these regions. Bestiut is occitaine dialect and so is venidor. The latest additions to BOWS are called Bestiut and Venidor. Bestiut means ‘brutal’ and it is a malt eau-de-vie that has been aged for six months on cognac cask. The short aging time makes the product semi clear and quite.. well, brutal. Actually. It’s basically a distilled stout with trails of hops, dark rosted coffee and chocolate. Very interesting indeed! Venidor which means ‘future’ is a rum that has been aged for seven months on casks that previously have been used to age wine made on the Petit Manseng grape – a grape that grows primarily in Occitane. This product is an accurate example that support my statement of BOWS uniqueness – it is produced from molasses, but it has the characteristics of a rhum agricole with an earthy complexity, lacking the syrup like flavour and consistency of many traditional industrial rums that are made from molasses. Benoit doesn’t add any sugar or caramel after the distillation, and so he tones down the sweetness and brings forth the freshness of the product. If you expect a traditional aged rum you will be disappointed. If you are interested in something innovative and challenging however, Venidor holds the triumph! After tasting their stuff I now understand the reason to put the word ‘brave’ in the trademark name.
I tried to keep up with Benoit and Tony on their Paris tour. They went from bars to events and tastings and met all kinds of people from the industry with their baby (yes, BOWS’s not even a year old) and one of the places who has their range on its shelf is La Robe & La Mousse – a craft beer bar on who shares Benoit and Tony’s enthusiasm for crafted alcohol and micro productions. They threw a degusion – a tasting – of BOWS where regulars blended with newcomers and friends on an early Saturday night in the ocean blue venue with bright lights and endless amount of craft beers on tap. On each side of the BOWS bottles, La Robe & La Mousse has other micro distillates to offer.
On the following Sunday and Monday I joined them for France Quintessence 2017 – a spirit fair held at Pavillion Ledoyen on a Avenue Dutuit in the the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The products displayed and promoted at this fair are all french! And my five senses were constantly processing information throughout the days giving rise to different kinds of satisfactions. Best was of course BOWS! It’s great to see new organic products on the market and I’m not the only one signing under to that. There interest and demand for sustainable products and productions are growing and the earth needs that. To Benoit it’s a mystery how you could produce anything else but organic raw goods since the finished products are never better than the single components – he passionately explained to me on the little english he knows, and then we continued talking, in the little French I know, about fighting the giant brands of the booze market, and that fame don’t necessarily correspond with quality.
After the Quintessence the two cousins drove down to the distillery in Mountabaun to re-pack, kiss their families, and then continue touring around France with the brave spirits – a journey I wish I could have been part of, but that I at least (luckily) can follow through social media.
At last, I want to thank Benoit and Tony – who let me tag along on their Paris tour. Cheers mates, I had a blast!