BOWS Distillerie - Whisky (and more) Production in the Tarn et Garonne

So if your favourite spirts are coming from much further away, maybe now is the time to reduce the air-miles in your tumbler and get behind a man with a dream.

BOWS stands for Brave Occitan Wide Spirit and it’s the perfect name for Benoît Garcia’s brain child – his idea, his work and his passion have brought together this intriguing new Montauban based distillery.

This is an industry steeped with ancient know-how and equipment that looks like the contents of Merlin’s laboratory.  All of which has come together with Benoît who has added patience, extreme hard-work, contemporary design, modern thinking and an ability to balance old and new tastes and styles.

So how did all this come about?  Benoît originates from Hérault but his family had roots in the Tarn et Garonne. As a younger man he travelled the world extensively before spending time in Paris and then heading back south to Toulouse and of-all-things entering a world of air-conditioning and heating.

He was a man driven by a belief that somewhere there was a way of starting a business that would combine his experiences with his passions.  Before travelling Benoît had the chance to gain experience in vineyards but his real passion was for spirits and craft-brewing.  So these formed the beginning of his business idea.  An idea that he then proposed to several regional towns to see if they were interested in supporting his vision. Montauban welcomed his ideas and agreed to help him install his distillery in an area known as Verhalguet. 

A later-day alchemist Benoît has been researching and experimenting.  He’s absorbed techniques from all over the world (particularly Scotland) he then blended his own research with some real chemical logic and his own obstinate determination.

It’s all paying off! All this drive and enthusiasm has borne fruit or at least liquor! Benoît was able to test his equipment last December and then January saw the first hectolitres of precious nectar coming out of his very shiny, new alembic.

Can this all be done in an environmentally friendly way? This is important to Benoît who uses for his whisky distilling, local ingredients such as barley grown between Montauban and Gaillac. After picking and drying, the malting of the barley is done locally in Salvagnac (Tarn). The barley then begins a series of processes back at the distillery and as residue is produced it’s sent for use as animal feed or fertilizer.

At the gleaming heart of the production there’s a large, gleaming copper alembic, with three individual tanks; equipment designed by Benoît and manufactured for him by Alain Lagorsse, a coppersmith from St Amans de Coly.

Whisky production takes time, a lot of time! So it’s not possible to sample the whisky yet.  The young ‘whisky’ needs to spend 3 years resting in old oak-barrels (some coming from Cognac and Armagnac distilleries).  Benoît has lovingly called the cellar where this resting takes place ‘la galaxie des anges’ - a place where his dreams are sleeping with the angels.  So the world awaits the very first taste of BOWS whisky. Bearing in mind that from every 3000 litres of water added to the barley malt, Benoît expects to finish up with 180 litres of whisky, so it is a long process but also a very precious result.

The length of time taken ‘resting’ whisky doesn’t mean that all is quiet at the distillery.  The shorter processes involved in producing gin, rum and vodka means that Benoît’s range of spirits already has a growing number of fans.

So you may have come across BANDAREL Gin, produced with juniper, coriander and iris roots giving it a particularly delicate and original flavour. Or the AROC Occitan Vodka, a pure spirit with no added flavours or sugar, or the very invocative ESTADOR Rum.

Three months from the start and Benoît’s spirits are being enjoyed in Montauban (naturally), Paris, along the Riviera and even in Kuala Lampur!  Soon you’ll be able to acquire these spirits from the distillerie’s proposed website.  Why not ask at your local bar – see if they know about these locally distilled spirits? Spread the word about this imaginative man with literally barrels of energy!

BOWS, 569 Chemin de Bégué, 82000 Montauban. Tel : 06 22 65 05 28. Follow Benoît’s progress on {Facebook} bowsdistillerie

Researched by Valérie Rousseau – who never touched a drop!