Grey Goose takes its name from the eponymous birds that migrate from Europe to Manhattan every year, and is the world’s third-highest-selling vodka, just behind Smirnoff and Absolut. Although little-known in France, this high-end vodka enjoys widespread popularity in the USA. It was originally created by an American, and has been distilled in Cognac, in France, since 1997.
While vodka is traditionally associated with Poland and Russia, the premium product on the American market is produced in France. Grey Goose was dreamed up by Sidney Frank (1919-2006), an American billionaire and importer of spirits who wanted to create a luxury vodka showcasing the prestigious image of France.
Developed in Gensac-la-Pallue, a town best-known for its eau de vie in the Southwest of France, Grey Goose is made exclusively with wheat from the Beauce region, selected for its vanilla taste and also used in patisserie. The wheat is grown by three cooperatives near Saint-Quentin, in Picardy, and is immediately ground and distilled after harvesting. The resulting alcohol is then transported to Cognac to be diluted by a cellar master. Pure spring water is used for this stage, taken from Gensac-la-Pallue where it is filtered through the limestone layers of the Grande Champagne district, an area renowned for the cultivation of vineyards used in the production of cognac.
This unique process earned the vodka a place among the finest French luxury products such as Chanel, Mauboussin, Ladurée, Hennessy and Rémy Martin, recorded in Marques de luxe françaises, a the beautiful anthology published by Eyrolles in 2009. Grey Goose is 80 proof and stands as a refined, floral vodka known for its smooth drinking. It is also one of the most expensive on the market at around 40 euros. Its recognizable bottle is crafted in frosted glass and manufactured at the Saverglass factory in Arques, in the Pas-de-Calais département. It boasts the French flag, with “France” inscribed above it. The vodka is also available in a range of flavors with hints of lemon, orange, pear and melon.
Grey Goose was first commercialized in 1997 and was immediately met with success in the U.S., where the majority of the vodka was exported thanks to an aggressive marketing strategy known as “infiltration.” This technique involves placing the brand alongside celebrities and influential figures, slipping bottles into Hollywood stars’ limousines or into champagne coolers at the Cannes Film Festival. “We gave away Grey Goose to any charity that wanted vodka at its bar,” Frank recalled in 2005. “The people at charity events are the people who are our target audience. Sales started to zoom. In 2004 we sold 1.5 million cases.”
Originally reserved for specialized establishments and smart-set events, Grey Goose is now sold in certain supermarket chains and in most liquor stores in the U.S., where the brand still makes the majority of its sales. Frank sold Grey Goose to the Bacardi group for an estimated 2.3 billion dollars in 2006. With the American and French markets in its pocket, Grey Goose is now flying higher and higher. Some 2.26 million cases of its “ultra-premium vodka” were sold last year!