This is Martin Brisson, master distiller at Distillerie Menaud in Charlevoix, QC.
Martin is a professional sculptor. A few years ago, he and his now partners envisioned to open the first brewery & distillery in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. If they sure didn’t understand the extent of the project they were undertaking, they jumped in the adventure and gave life to one of today’s best micro-distilleries in Quebec.
The name of the distillery is deeply embedded in Quebec’s history. Menaud Maître Draveur is a novel that was published in 1937 by Monseigneur Félix Antoine-Savard, the very priest of the town where the distillery was built. The novel was about log drivers of the region and was telling the story of the dispossession of the land and the oppression of the French population by the English. Choosing the name Menaud is an ode to the region’s history of appropriating back the land and the resources in the hands of the working force. Today, Menaud distillery tells a tale of modern use of the historic terroir that can be tasted in the very spirits they produce.
Menaud is one of the few Quebec distilleries that produces its own spirits from grain to bottle. When we met with Martin, he told us a little more about this whole process. Once the distillery was built, they had to find which cereals they were going to be using. They tested many grains from different producers of the region and made their final choice with wheat and rye produced on l’Isle-aux-Coudres, a small island in the St-Lawrence River located in the region. Menaud produces vodka and gin. The vodka is made with 75% wheat and 25% rye. No secrets on the recipe here, the grains tell the whole story. The final result is a vodka with character, one that was an instant hit with bartenders across the province. On the other hand, coming up with their gin recipe was a whole different story. It took Martin about a year and a half to come up with the final recipe. At first, they were experimenting with traditional gin botanicals and after a while, they decided to replace the traditional ingredients by botanicals that come from Quebec’s forests. They consulted with the famous biologist Fabien Girard, an expert in Quebec’s botanicals. The result is a gin that stays true to the distillery’s identity and showcases the beautiful aromatics that can be found on the region’s land.
Menaud produces more than a gin and a vodka. They their own beer called Drav, they make two ready-to-drink products with their own spirits base, they use their facility to can RTD for other distilleries and they have more products in the making that are not released yet. Overall, Menaud is a project led by passion and love for the region’s history, both of which transpires distinctively in the final products. If you have a chance to visit the beautiful region of Charlevoix, we highly recommend to stop at the distillery & brewery. The products as much as the staff are one of a kind and are sure to make a lasting impression.