In the world of Armagnac, Veuve Goudoulin is like something from outer space.
When Michel Miclo took over the company in 2009, rival firms fell into two categories: on the one hand, the Gers producers, who passed their distilleries down from father to son, and on the other, the major spirits groups like Pernod-Ricard. Michel Miclo is heir to an Alsatian distiller and moved to Tahiti where he developed a passion for brandy. It was here that he discovered Armagnac and decided to buy one of the jewels in the Gers crown.
At the same time, the grandson of the founder of Goudoulin was looking for a buyer who would continue the family tradition and maintain the company’s artisanal dimension. A deal was done. “This is an unusual story for the region," explains Catherine Robine-Bouteloup, who has managed Veuve Goudoulin since the take-over. “Originally, Michel Miclo was nicknamed “the Chinaman”. Now he’s the “Alsatian””, she jokes.
Whilst Michel Miclo’s background is unconventional, the Armagnacs themselves are made according to true local traditions. As a merchant firm that matures its Armagnacs, Veuve Goudoulin has recruited a winemaker and cellar master from a leading Provence Cru Classé to supervise its brandies, from the vine to the bottle. He also travels the region in search of new cellars and quality stocks to bolster supplies. Renowned for its premium blends, the house takes an haute-couture approach when it comes to marketing.
From the shape of the bottle, to the colour of the wax, case or wooden case, including the information on the label, each aspect can be customised. “There are almost as many bottles as there are customers!" quips Catherine Robine-Bouteloup. This strength appeals to traditional marketers, particularly wine merchants, but also private clients and leading French and foreign restaurants. In fact, exports have seen their share grow since 2009 and now account for 50% of Veuve Goudoulin's sales. The company is putting its efforts into novel products such as its VSOP double barrel cask strength and its XO single barrel cask strength to secure new markets and raise exports to 70-80% of its sales over the next few years.
By Alexandra Reveillon