Meet the sibling distillers making liqueurs from French Alpine plants

Distilling flavoured spirits ‘génépi’ and ‘sapinette’ in the mountains runs in the family for this brother and sister

Romain and Sarah Gauthier bought Distillerie Aravis in La Clusaz (Haute-Savoie) in 2020; Génépi is a famous green Alpine spirit

The Distillerie Aravis in La Clusaz (Haute-Savoie) high in the French Alps, has been making ‘Liqueur des Aravis’ since 1878, when the drink was devised by a local monk.

Distiller François Thévenet loved the tipple so much that in 1954 he bought the secret recipe and set up the Distillerie Aravis in La Clusaz.

The business remained in the same family for three generations until in 2020 it was bought by siblings Sarah and Romain Gauthier, also from a family of distillers.

Read more: Whisky production in France is picking up pace

Siblings planted own génépi to distil

“We grew up in Ardèche where our parents are distillers, using a variety of fruits, which is the tradition we bring to the distillery,” says Sarah Gauthier.

“Because of Covid we couldn’t open the boutique until late 2020 but since then, it’s been doing well.”

They planted their own génépi in 2021, and have already distilled their first bottles of the famous green Alpine drink.

They are also continuing to make Liqueur des Aravis, from génépi, gentians, hyssop and Armagnac.

Sapinette is made from pine buds gathered in the springtime.

They also make liqueur from gentians, and eau de vie.

Romain has created blueberry génépi, a new liqueur.

“My favourite is Génépi Sec which contains the least sugar. But I also love Poire William.”

Read more: €48-a-bottle French truffle gin is hit as a liqueur

Two months to make a bottle of liqueur

The siblings make everything themselves using aromatic mountain plants, pears, plums, blueberries, chestnuts, and raspberries.

The process involves a 40-day maceration of plants and fruits followed by the distillation process which takes a day.

Then there is assemblage, bottling, labelling and packing. All in all, it takes around two months to make a bottle of liqueur.

Skiers and hikers buy product

They wholesale their products to other boutiques in the area as well as selling direct in their own boutique in La Clusaz.

“Obviously the ski season is very busy, and we’re open seven days a week all winter. But summer is also reasonably busy with mountain bikers and hikers. Out of season we close on Sundays.”

For the future, they plan to develop new products, and set up a small museum of mountain plants and the history of génépi that the public can visit.

“People love to see how our drinks are made, and where they come from.”

The pair offer free visits to the distillery which have to be booked in advance either through the website or by phone (06 26 64 85 28).

Related articles

Meet the French craft beer brewers taking wine drinkers by storm

Meet the producers: the Toulouse farmers who mill their own crops

The onion - flavours, dishes and festivals to celebrate a French icon