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Interview with Grey Goose Cellarmaster François Thibault

François Thibault talks winter wheat, young cognac and the perfect dry martini.

Francois Thibault

Hometown Pérignac, France
Home base Jonzac, France
Claim to fame Developing the recipe for Grey Goose vodka
Favourite Bar “Recently, I discovered Dogma, in Antwerp. It’s an exceptional bar, with a great cocktail list that’s refined and very comprehensive.”
Next Vacation “I think I might go to Sri Lanka and the ­Maldives to pursue my love of scuba diving. Besides spirits, the underwater world is what excites me most.”

What sets a French-made vodka apart?
We use soft winter wheat from Picardy, which is a very fine wheat that grows in the Cognac region. And so that people can really understand the quality of the ingredients used in the production of Grey Goose, we launched Boulangerie François – pop-up bakeries with bread made from that same wheat.

Where was your last trip?
I spent two days with master mixologist Dale DeGroff, on a martini-tasting tour of the bars at the Baccarat, the St. Regis and the Plaza in Manhattan. He knows everything about the places and the cocktails. It’s fascinating.

Visiting bars is part of your job. What makes a good bartender?
I like a bartender who asks if I have a favourite cocktail, or if I’d rather he make me something unique on the spot. But I always order a Grey Goose dry martini with a splash of Noilly Prat, stirred not shaken, and garnished with an olive or two.

Tell us a bit about the cognac-infused vodka Grey Goose VX.
I created a young cognac, aged for only a year and a half in very old barrels without tannin or aromas – I wanted to focus on the aroma of grapes. We use the ugni blanc grape, the most common variety grown in this area. It was the best way to really establish Grey Goose in the region.

And what about the taste?
With the hints of jasmine and light citrus, it’s different from Grey Goose. Women have told me that they weren’t in the habit of drinking aged cognac, but that they like the subtle aromas in VX. In fact, VX has such a way with the ladies that it might make some men jealous.



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