Menthe-Pastille: the art of flavour

The Giffards are a family of many talents and great hospitality; read all about our editor’s travels to Angers, France, and find out the details of the Giffard West Cup Cocktail Competition!

Angers, 1885: Emile Giffard invents Menthe-Pastille, a superb crème de menthe made with Mitcham Plant, a particular variety of Mentha Piperita.

Having become a pharmacist in 1868, Emile risked it all to build what would then transform into the family business, and invested it on Menthe-Pastille, initially advertised with the purpose of helping the digestive system. Now an internationally known brand, Giffard thrives on the hopes Emile had for the business. His writing voices his desire of success, and his legacy confirms Emile has fulfilled his dreams.

On a beautiful trip to France, I have been the lucky recipient of an adventurous itinerary that showed the beauty of this historical city. On the first day, we – my group and I – had the pleasure of exploring the marvels of Angers; from the castle gardens, to the characteristic alleyways.

The main attraction, though, was right next to our hotel. Engulfed in Place du Ralliement, Emile’s old pharmacy lies there, now a modern shop, but still holding the memory of those days. Exceptionally popular for its refreshing taste, Menthe-Pastille was also acclaimed for the contemporary – at the time – and relevant forms of advertisement, which showed a strong interest in the arts. The most notorious example is a gorgeous design by poster art designer and painter, Leonetto Cappiello in 1929, portraying two ladies enjoying the sunny weather sat at a garden table and enjoying the crème de menthe.

Emile Giffard made his way up to the Universal Exposition, attended regularly, and earned medals in tribute of his work almost every year – until he was made a member of the jury. His product had been blessed with the recognition of its outstanding quality, and the rest is history!

We were fortunate enough to be able to visit both factories, the syrups’ and the liqueurs’. Giffard boasts a repertoire of 60 liqueurs – Menthe-Pastille being the main attraction – and 90 syrups, delighting bars and restaurants around the world. Chaperoned by Emile’s granddaughter, Edith (Co-Director), and great-granddaughter, Emilie Giffard (North of Europe Sales & Brand Manager), we sipped samples of their premium quality products while listening to the story and triumph of Giffard, and even enjoyed a visit to their own mint fields, sprouting in the first sun of March. They should be grown and ready to pick in July, and Edith has promised to send us pictures of the fields in full bloom!

Accompanied by Romain Burgevin, Marketing Manager, we then explored the syrups’ factory, changing into full gear and taking a tour of the grounds. The chain of production is incredibly efficient, and numbers even more impressive than expected.

Currently extending their warehouse due to high demand, Giffard’s syrups’ factory was designed to feel as close to nature as possible, with Edith’s own touch in the gardens’ design. Their main goal as a company is to reduce waste, and the newest tech additions allow them not only to reuse water and reduce electricity usage by 15% over the next two years, but also to save 4000 tonnes of glass in the process.

Giffard created their syrups in 1992, and Germany has revealed itself to be the biggest market; there is in fact a local team to assist the German demand. The company managed to reach 60 countries, with Mangrove facilitating the UK distribution since 1985, starting with the liqueurs. The UK has also proven to be a big market for the brand, with the nation becoming very fond of the bubblegum speciality flavour. Other popular choices are strawberry, elderflower, and vanilla.

As well as making their premium products and taking an interest in the arts, the Giffard family take great care of this industry’s community, and the way these often come hand in hand.

The West Cup started 25 years ago in the west of France, hence the name of the competition, and has expanded to involve international talents. Battling each other to make it to the last 20 finalists, this year’s bartenders and mixologists from across the globe – 25 countries, to be precise – will have to create a cocktail on the theme ‘Listen to the flavours’.

This year’s final will take place in the old distillery in Angers, sold to l’École des Beaux Arts, where the main room on the first floor used to be the workshop for Menthe-Pastille. The winning prize is a tour of three guest shifts at bars in the country of the winner’s choosing, selected from a list provided by Giffard.

To enter:

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