During the last Harvest Festival, which takes place every September in Magog, a crowd of curious people gathered in front of the Distillerie du Granit kiosk. In the bottles, the originality of the flavors piqued the curiosity of the tasters: coffee and hot peppers, blueberries and fir or even rhubarb, cucumber and melon.
Behind the counter, Jean-Michel Lavoie patiently explained what differentiates his spirits from others: the base alcohol is made with maple syrup. This particularity gives a soft texture to the drink, without giving it a sweet taste.
It was while trying to valorize downgraded maple syrup that the chemist, holder of the Industrial Research Chair in Maple Technologies, had the idea of distilling it. “There is a good amount of sugar that we don’t know what to do with in the maple industry,” explains the professor. As sugar ferments, we have tried to produce different alcohols. The gin was the best. »
To test his ideas, Jean-Michel Lavoie has been collaborating for several years with the maple grove-school of the municipality of Saint-Romain. Established in the immense maple forest, near Frontenac National Park, the school provides the scientist with the raw material, the precious syrup. However, the distillery project quickly aroused the interest of the community. So much so that the municipality has partnered with the researcher to start the Distillerie du Granit in 2021. “We knew that the world of gin was popular, but there is another and worse on the shelves,” comments Mr. Lavoie. . We didn’t want to market a gin and dilute ourselves in an ocean of similar products. »
Maple liqueurs made with maple syrup: you had to find something better to stand out. The researcher set himself the challenge of flavoring his drinks with different herbs from the region. He chose the cranberry, but he had to use his scientific knowledge to successfully blend it. “Cranberries are not an easy fruit,” he said. It is bitter and we are not able to extract the aromatics. »
He discovered that the fruity taste of the small red fruit particularly stands out when assembled with the raspberry. The recipe was found. Then, the scientist became interested in the blueberry and once again, he discovered a winning combination. “I took formulations that I had worked on several years ago to make a blueberry and fir liqueur,” he explains. The fir tree did exactly what the raspberry did in my other liqueur, it amplifies the taste. »
The only downside: Jean-Michel Lavoie is not currently using downgraded maple syrup as he initially dreamed. Since the Distillerie du Granit has an artisanal alcohol license, the company must only use the raw material it produces. However, the quantity of syrup downgraded by the maple grove-school of Saint-Romain is not sufficient to produce several drinks.
“We would need an industrial permit to buy and then upgrade the sugar from the shacks,” says Mr. Lavoie. But that’s not possible at the moment. It will restrict our distribution and impose major costs on us. »
While waiting for the law to change or the business to be viable, the researcher tests new processes in his laboratory and new recipes in his still to make the “golden gold” shine.
Jean-Michel Lavoie wanted to reproduce the mixture of gin and reduction that marked his youth. To do this, he called on his colleagues at the University of Sherbrooke. Together, they developed a technique for smoking pieces of wood and thus flavoring the drink. The result is unique. The maple syrup-based gin has a soft texture that blends beautifully with maple wood. On the finish, the smoky notes amplify the spice aromas. Perfect for celebrating sugaring off time.