Laurent Cazottes' father was a traveling distiller; great spirits run in his family. With two stills from his father he set up a small artisanal distillery located about a 1.5 hour drive northeast from Toulouse. All of the fruit on his land is farmed organically, and processed in the small building pictured above.
What's so special about these is Cazottes methodology; he hand pits every single piece of fruit. Yes-- that means that every individual grape is cut by him, and he takes out the seeds.
Pictured left are two of his eau de vie-- one is a brandy made from the prunelart grape, the other from the mauzac grape.
<--Now here is something truly amazing and unique. Laurent has wild cherry trees that grow on his property. He harvests the cherries, hand-pits them, one-by-one. Dries them. Makes a cherry wine from them. Then, he distills part of the wine, and adds it back into the remaining cherry wine. Then, he macerates some cherries in the fortified cherry wine, leaving us this this: one of the most incredible drinks I have ever tried.
If you even remotely like cherries in any way shape or form (during cherry season there is a constantly refreshed bowl of them in my house) this will blow your mind. What I find incredible is that Cazottes does all of this painstaking work by hand. I imagine him sitting in front of a giant pile of cherries, pitting them, juice flying, hands stained bright red for days.
<-- a portrait of patience
Laurent has .6 hectares of the remaining 2 hectares of prunelart in France. Prunelart was once popular a century ago, and makes a wine similar to dolcetto-- but at just 2 hectares it is close to extinct. Cazottes likes to work with the unique grape varieties from his region.
He makes this in the same manner as the others-- he hand cuts each grape, removes the pips, de-stems, then raisinates. He makes a wine from the dried fruit, then distills it into this incredible brandy.
The brandy was so pure-- so rich and flavorful on the palate, and it smelled so fresh as if you had just crushed a grape between your fingers. Sometimes with brandies you get an intense alcohol aroma with some fruit aromas behind it, but this one didn't have that sting at all. It was beautiful.
This is what the prunelart variety looks like:
It's special to find someone making such tiny production brandies from rare varietals; and to me, the fact that he also makes a cherry wine and a pear brandy shows a creative streak, and a respect for the natural harvest already available to him on his property.
He makes these mostly for a few high end restaurants in Europe, but I'm so glad a few bottles have made it to the US.