This review has not been influenced by anyone at Brother Bears Gin, the views are our own, and we have not been paid for this post.
It’s always exciting when we find a new gin that we’ve never seen anywhere before, and it’s even better when it turns out to be an absolute gem. We were recently sent a bottle of gin all the way from a tiny village in France, from the guys behind the Bear Brothers’ Project.
The Bear Brothers Project is the brain child of brothers Alexandre and Julien Caruana, along with their lifelong friend Frederic Gommard. Everything is managed in-house to create their citrus forward London Dry Gin, and it’s one that we rate very highly. All the ingredients are handpicked by Alex, Julian and Frederic, including the juniper which they get 1,300 metres up in the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains which borders close to their home in France.
The botanicals in their gin have never been frozen, and they only use fresh fruits which have passed their stringent quality control process. The recipe is very bright and it includes a lot of different citruses including bergamot, lemon, bitter orange, three different types of finger limes, Buddha’s finger and Kaffir Lime (Combava). All of the ingredients are prepared by the team and distilled by Frederic in 2 batches - one being in the spring/summer and the other in Autumn/Winter. Both are defined by that year’s harvest.
When we heard that this was a citrus heavy gin, we assumed it would be overpowered with Citrus, but we were wrong, so very wrong. When drunk neat, our initial thought was how smooth this gin is. The first flavour to jump out was Kaffir Lime, which is a flavour we love at the Gin Bandit HQ. The citrus notes are very well balanced with lots of piney juniper and a strong citrus finish which is slightly sweetened by liquorice. This is a gin that you can enjoy neat, and one which goes down very easily.
For our G&T serving, we went with Merchant’s Heart Light tonic and garnished with Szechuan Pepper and Pink Peppercorns. We’re not sure but we think it’s the Kaffir Lime that takes us to Asia with this gin, so we wanted to include that in our serve. We also think for a savoury G&T it pairs well with Merchant’s Heart Pink Pepper tonic with a slither of ginger and fresh chilli.
We put some questions to Alexandre to find out more about their Bear Brothers’ Project.
Can you tell us a bit more about the team behind the Bear Brothers Project? What did you guys do before gin and how did you end up getting involved in the spirits industry?
It was an idea we thought of back in the summer of 2018 myself (Alexandre), my brother (Julien) and our childhood friend (Frederic). We officially created Distillerie des Pyrénées and the Bear Brothers Brand in April 2019.
We all had other jobs before this project in restaurants, bars and consulting offices and we were all fond of food, wine and spirits. We had a good knowledge of the industry since 2005, during which we had built up a collective wine and spirits collection of over 2,000 bottles of prestigious and rare samples. We have eaten in hundreds of Michelin starred restaurants in France and Europe. One day, over dinner, whilst drinking gin & tonics, we discussed starting our own gin brand, Bear Brothers. We agreed there must be one rule and only one: we will do exactly the gin we like, only fresh products, and all ingredients will be local to our distillery (1 hour maximum). We have had an organic certificate since January 2020.
Where did the name come from?
Bear Brothers comes from the relationship between two brothers and a friend we have had since we were 10 years old. We are from a very small village in the mountains, the Pyrenees, very close to Spain. The French government introduced a few wild bears twenty years ago and now there are more than sixty and sometimes we actually come across them during treks. Moreover, another similarity is that we are all ex rugby players, strong men who can have a wild bear temper!
One thing that we liked is the label on the gin and also the bottle top. Who came up with the design?
Again we wanted to brag about our local wild bears. A friend of ours worked on the design for us and it took a few months to find the perfect result. The cap is made from natural wood by a local, renowned French factory.
We love a citrus led gin, can you tell us how you came up with the final recipe?
We are all fond of citrus, and local to us, in the mountains we have a world specialist in Citrus. He helped us to find the best products for the taste and smell. We distilled all the products alone with few techniques, then we tasted then all and kept only the best samples. Then we assembled these samples until we had the best results.
How did you agree on the final recipe and how long did it take for you all to agree it was perfect?
We narrowed it down to five recipes, we then invited ten spirits and wines specialist and we tasted the gin with them to agree on the final recipe. We had to do the tests every 6 months because we distil only fresh products. We distil in the spring-summer and in autumn-winter, so the recipes are different. All of our bottles are limited edition, the two recipes will be slightly different, because the products we use will have different tastes depending on the season.
Who is in charge of distillation and can you tell us a bit about the distillation process?
Frederic is in charge of distillation and we follow the same process. We prepare the fruits 30 minutes before we macerate, then the botanicals spend different amounts of time in neutral grain wheat spirit. After that we distil in our Stupfler Alambics, which is considered to be the Rolls Royce of alembic stills (We are the 4th generation of alembic builders spanning back 200 years in Bordeaux and our father was awarded the best in France). After distillation the gin sleeps for 3 months, and we reduce the ABV using mountain water drop by drop, over 2-3 months.
Throughout your journey from start to finish, what has been your biggest learning point or achievement, and what have you found most difficult?
For us, the most difficult thing is to find the best products - wild, organic and with good taste and smell. We work like crazy to highlight each of them because they deserve that. We decided to build our own greenhouse for the citrus so that we can have the best ones when we need them and we prepare them just 30 minutes after they are hand pickled.
You must have drunk a lot of Bear Brothers gin in various different ways since launching. What is your favourite way to drink it as a cocktail and also your perfect serve for a G&T?
Oh yes, we’ve drunk a lot! For us, we can drink the gin alone on the rocks, or as a Dry Martini because our product deserves that. But we also like basil smash, gin fizz or a gimlet. For a G&T, we like it with a neutral tonic, not too much sugar, and only a few balls of finger lime (we use 3 types of finger lime, we prefer the finger lime with grapefruit taste and not those with citronella taste) or a lemon peel.
Plans for the future?
Of course, we already have a Vodka in the market but if we’re only speaking about gin, then in June we will launch a new recipe. We will still have the citrus one (named Microcitrus), but we will also add a very special botanical recipe (named Juniperus) which to name a few contains sage, thyme, rosemary and hops…
Lastly, and most importantly for our followers. Where can they pick up a bottle of Bear Brothers to try themselves?
For now they can order directly on our website: www.bear-brothers.com . We are currently working on finding a distributor in the UK. We are a young distillery and this is a priority for us.
Thanks guys, it was great to speak to you.
CHECK OUT OUR INSTAGRAM PAGE ON 13TH MAY WHERE WE WILL BE GIVING ONE OF OUR FOLLOWERS A CHANCE TO WIN A BOTTLE OF BEAR BROTHERS GIN - HERE
You can follow the Bears Brothers Project on their social media links below.
Instagram - Here
Facebook - Here
LinkedIn - Here
If you're interested in stocking or distributing Bears Brothers' Gin, please contact the guys here