Behind the creation of the French Melifera gin
MEET CHRISTOPHE AMIGORENA, FOUNDER & CEO OF MELIFERA
By Laurence Froger
In November 2019, Christophe Amigorena decided with three partners to create Melifera, a French organic gin distilled with immortelle flower in Charente-Maritime. Because, his professional career, rich in experiences alongside large international companies and start-ups teeming with ideas, tells him that now is the right time. Because an emotion inevitably leads him to this creation. This is the story of an incredible adventure, narrated by a passionate, committed and inspiring man.
LF. It all started with …
CA. A feeling. An emotion anchored in memories which, through a founding text, tell an idea of happiness and a flower, the immortelle. This text, written one evening with my wife, allowed us to put words on our inspirations, our desires, the meaning we wanted to give to our brand, our environmental awareness.
“ I remember when I came back from the
The smells coming back… these flowers…
This yellow… for me, it was gold.
I remember the laughs, I remember the
I remember the waves, their strength, their
I remember the light.
And this flower…
This little excerpt concentrates what, for me, is the very essence of creation. The creation of a brand is the expression of an emotion. Throughout my professional career, each experience has developed for me, in a somewhat innate way, an entrepreneurial side and highlighted the desire to create.
I wanted an experience where, every morning, I wake up with the desire to move forward, to share, without barriers. To start from a blank canvas and be master of my destiny, by surrounding myself with benevolent people and sharing my vision.
LF. How do you go from the emotion to the idea of creating this 100% French organic gin, from Charente, distilled with immortelle flowers ?
CA. The immortelle is for me, a true emotional trigger. With its spicy, floral scent, this flower, even when you don’t know it, acts like an imprint you can only remember. She has this power to bring back memories, of summer breaks, sun, and laughter. This is really the effect it has on our customers. For my part, the Ile d’Oléron, its moments shared with family and friends, at the heart of the dunes, its sea and the Chassiron lighthouse, served as a catalyst. During my experience at L’Occitane, I had also discovered the richness of the virtues of the immortelle. I started to imagine what I could do with this flower, to walk towards an idea. The universe of spirits? Obviously for someone like me, who grew up in Cognac, loves good food and good wine… Besides, no one had yet thought of using this specific botanical to make a spirit.
LF. Why did you create a gin rather than another spirit?
CA. We decided to start with the gin. It is a fairly dynamic market, which has continued to grow strongly for the past ten years or so, with great opportunities. The idea was to aim for excellence through the creation of the brand, the bottle, an innovative juice based on a pioneer ingredient. If at the moment, we focus our energy around our gin, we do not forbid ourselves to imagine and then create other spirits.
LF. An island, a flower, a legend… With Melifera, you take consumers on board in a very unique universe.
CA. In a world of legends. With this flower, a silent and immortal witness to everything that may have happened on this island, we wanted to give a slightly mystical side to the brand, to portray a legend. That of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her crown of immortelle.
LF. The birth of a spirit is always accompanied by the creation of its bottle. What does Melifera’s story say?
CA. Our bottle tells the story of Alienor d’Aquitaine who married Henri Plantagenêt, future king of England, as a second marriage. 1152 is the date of this union, sealed by the donation of the Island. The legend says that Eleanor would have braided her wedding crown of immortelle flowers in order to guarantee spiritual wealth and fruitfulness of her union, as did the Celtic virgins. The designers with whom we worked knew how to capture the essence of this story and transcribed it in a unique bottle incorporating the codes of luxury and perfumery.
LF. Melifera, why this choice ?
CA. What drives us is to give meaning to everything we do, at each stage of the project. Stay in the authenticity, by aligning the values which are close to our heart with the history of the island of Oléron, of the immortelle. Among these values, there is the protection of biodiversity and, of course, of the bee and its fairly logical link with flowers and their pollination. We wanted to pay tribute to a domestic species, the black bee, otherwise known as “apis mellifera mellifera” . Melifera was born.
LF. Is being a committed brand a priority ?
CA. More than that. We fully assume our environmental awareness. Along with the preservation of bees, the protection of the coast is important to us. Several projects are being considered, notably with the ONF. Another commitment is dear to us: that of local roots. We have planted our own fields of organic immortelle flowers in Oléron. We also want to plant new species and recruit the market gardeners who trusted us two years ago in the Melifera adventure. It’s a real global and positive dynamic which makes sense for us.
LF. Tell us behind the scenes of the making of this premium organic gin ?
CA. The idea for the product was to rediscover the olfactory sensations that I had as a child, when I walked home from the beach at the end of the day. I wanted our gin to exactly reproduce stroll through the dunes. A slightly salty, slightly spicy, very floral scent, smells of pine trees… With our partner distiller, we have grown the immortelle flower so that it is the dominant note. It was a gamble, but we are delighted with the results. Melifera has a real olfactory signature, linked to the immortelle, which makes all the difference, and which has allowed us, despite a launch in the midst of COVID, to find our market, to seduce starred wine merchants and restaurants. Another imperative in the specifications: make an organic gin, which our distiller and partner has been able to do perfectly for years.
LF. Make us dream before tasting! What will we discover during the tasting of Melifera ?
CA. It is a very balanced product. The top note is very floral, very different from what we are used to smelling in a gin. But once in the mouth, it was important for us that the amateurs find themselves in this product. It is truly a classic gin, even if, at the end of the palate, there is this note of immortelle which comes to titillate the taste buds. You can have a very differentiating nose but stay with a traditional product. This Gin is made from grains which give it a lot of roundness. A slight sweetness is noticeable. We are indeed on juniper with a nice length in the mouth to arrive, in the end, with this little kick typical of the immortelle flower, which returns to the palate in a very pleasant way and questions the complexity of the product. And which makes you want to refill !
LF. Is the positioning of Melifera, rather premium gin or gin produced in Charente-Maritime ?
CA. Organic gin above all, and I insist on the preservation of biodiversity. It’s a premium French gin of course, but during a tasting I don’t need to say it. When you see the bottle, when you smell the product, you are already in a premium universe. The tasting begins with the visual aspect of the product and its color of a
very light yellow, a little tinted. We then move on to the first floral note. People are very surprised, they almost have the impression of smelling a perfume, which very quickly plunges them into the world of luxury. Then come the comments. “I’m not usually very gin, but now I am able to drink it”. “It’s very fine, very elegant”. ” “I can drink it without ice cubes, which is quite rare”. Out of hundreds and hundreds of tastings, I have had only one person who did not adhere. Melifera reconciles a lot of people with gin.
LF. Female or male audience, do you notice a difference ?
CA. Women are more receptive, I think, to all the work done around the brand, from the design to the positioning. Men will judge the juice more quickly while women, who, in my experience, often have a richer imagination, very quickly enter the universe with the bottle, the story. They are therefore at a more advanced stage when they start tasting.
LF. After less than a year of existence, what are you most proud of ?
CA. Beyond the launch of a gin, it is to have created a brand. A committed brand, with a universe of its own.
To have succeeded in getting men and women on board with this adventure, to forge strong links with partners, to highlight the territory and its protection, to create jobs, to share a human adventure. It is very enriching.
I am also proud that Melifera is listed in very beautiful stores alongside international brands. Proud to incite real interest from importers in Japan, England, where the market is very competitive.
Proud to note that 8 months ago, Melifera did not exist and that today, we have visibility, from the press, we have succeeded in raising funds and started to be listened to internationally. It is rewarding and very encouraging, although there is still a long way to go.