French vodka is a robust category with a number of household-name brands. These include Cîroc, Pinnacle and the brand that kickstarted the vodka premiumization trend, Grey Goose.
What is it about French vodka that lends itself to the affordable luxury lifestyle? Why has this country produced so many global brands, while also supporting a growing, dynamic craft vodka category? For answers, we recently spoke with Aleco Azqueta, VP of marketing for Grey Goose. Acquired by Bacardi in 2004, Grey Goose represents the success of French vodka. Here’s what propelled the brand to worldwide heights, and what’s next.
Beverage Dynamics: What makes French vodkas different from others?
Aleco Azqueta: Grey Goose is proud of its French heritage, as it is produced against the background of their country’s rich and extensive gastronomic heritage, which is what makes Grey Goose so unique. At inception, our Cellar Master François Thibault set out to make a product that deeply reflected this. His original recipe, which remains unchanged, uses just two quality ingredients — spring water from our natural well near Cognac, and single origin, soft-winter wheat used by the finest patisseries. Because we start with the best ingredients, we’re proud to say that Grey Goose is distilled just once to preserve the natural character of our ingredients. For decades, Thibault has continued to oversee the production of each and every batch of Grey Goose, ensuring an unwavering consistency with every bottle.
We are very proud of the integrity and quality of the ingredients, the craftsmanship, and the brand’s production processes — which, fortunately for us, is exactly why Grey Goose shines.
BD: What’s the history of Grey Goose?
AA: Grey Goose was born out of collaboration between our Cellar Master François Thibault and industry veteran Sidney Frank. Nearly 25 years ago, Sidney approached François — then a seasoned cognac cellar master — with the idea to create the first French, super-premium vodka. The venture into the vodka space excited François, so he said yes, but only under one condition: that he would have complete control over the process from start to finish. François wanted to create a French vodka that would reflect the country’s long history of producing the finest wine, food and spirits in the world. Despite his prior experience being exclusively in cognac, François put his French spirits-making skills and creative spirit into the alchemy of creating a vodka with taste.
Grey Goose pioneered the super-premium vodka category (and was the first premium vodka available in the U.S.), and our brand has since become synonymous with exceptional quality, natural taste and effortless style. Our product range has also, of course, expanded to include flavored iterations and botanical-infused expressions, though the heart and soul of Grey Goose continues to be the original vodka.
BD: What innovations has the brand recently come out with?
AA: It’s no secret drinkers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, seeking lighter cocktails made with better ingredients that don’t skimp on flavor or taste. In fact, Nielsen reported that 58% of consumers are currently seeking lower-ABV serves. This spring, we launched a new line of products to fill this exact need called Grey Goose Essences. Infused with real fruit and botanical essences, the line includes three juicy variations with just 30% ABV — Strawberry & Lemongrass, Watermelon & Basil, and White Peach & Rosemary. All are made with all-natural ingredients, and without any gluten, sugar or carbs.
Designed to be mixed with club soda and topped with a fresh fruit or herb garnish, or even sipped on the rocks, Essences offers a solution for those who crave light cocktails that still pack multi-layered, vivid flavors. As one third of consumers plan to drink more cocktails made with natural ingredients in 2022 (source: Bacardi Cocktail Trends Report 2022) we’re excited to see consumers continue to sip Essences in their favorite bars and at home.
BD: What’s next for Grey Goose?
AA: We have a ton of exciting programming coming up the pipeline. Of note: last November, we announced our multi-year partnership with the Recording Academy as the official spirit of the Grammy Awards. Nothing goes better with great music than great cocktails, so to kick off the inaugural year of the partnership, Grey Goose is introducing a new martini serve: the Grey Goose Passion Drop, which will be the signature serve of all official events throughout the Grammys weekend.
There is a ton more to come, so stay tuned — we can’t wait to celebrate the industry’s most iconic performers with the most iconic vodka.
Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and read her recent piece, Why Bacardi is Our 2022 Spirits Supplier of the Year.