Back in April I had the pleasure of discovering the French Spirits company FAIR, the world’s first and only Fair Trade Certified spirits brand. This tasting just made me thirsty to learn more about this fascinating and responsible company, a craving satisfied recently over a drink with its Paris-based brand Ambassador, Martin Dupont.
The tasting event was hosted by The Chamber, a fabulous private cocktail club which organizes a number of excellent events around wine and spirits each month. It was held at Le Distrait, a cool bar on a tiny street in the 2nd arrondissement, known for their excellent cocktails, some of which include FAIR products (don’t worry, their products are available both in Paris and internationally – more information at the end).
The comprehensive tasting included information and a sample of their full range included their newest exciting liqueur (see below!). We also sipped on a few custom cocktails featuring FAIR at the end. My palate had thus been very teased…
During our follow up conversation, Martin took me back to the origins of FAIR. It was founded in 2009 by Alexandre Koiransky, who’d spent a number of years working for a French spirits company in Chicago. There he gradually noticed that cognac had seemed to found a niche market through rap music with certain rappers associating to luxury cognac brands. Mulling this over he questioned himself over who he was, what he liked doing and what he wanted to do before finally coming up with the concept for a brand which would help people, be responsible and original all at the same time.
Following the principles of Fair Trade seemed the logical path to achieving his objectives. In order to have the Fair Trade label, a company must respect around 200 rules that ensure that farmers are paid at a fair price. This allows them to cover their production costs, live from farming, educate their children and build schools. In this initial development process Alexandre had the idea of combining this ethos with the rich traditions of distilling in France, specifically the cognac area. Through a first-hand research trip to Bolivia and in working with local partners back in France, he came up with his first spirit: a vodka distilled from quinoa. This was not only the world’s first spirit made from quinoa, but also the first Fair Trade spirit. Since their “spirits family” has grown to include a coffee liqueur, a goji berry liqueur, various rums and gins and finally the newest to the FAIR family, which I’ll reveal below…
Martin emphasized that all of these products were based on the same founding principles: ethics, originality and quality. They follow the French values of terroir and heritage, but the aspect of originality is very important to this tryptic. In addition, since they sell directly to consumers, through wine and spirit shops, and to businesses, like bars and restaurants, their products have to appeal to both. Regardless of the avenue, they tend to attract the curious and those who believe in the importance of quality.
I picked Martin’s brain a little about their different markets. He said that they try to understand cultural differences when approaching each market and also in deciding on their next lines. For example, the British are more keen on cocktails and quality spirits whereas the French like to shop at a caviste, just as they shop at the market, and have a some bottles to sample at home with guests. Over in Asia, especially Japan, savoir faire and aesthetics are a high concern and across the Atlantic, Americans love originality and the Fair Trade aspect… wow a vodka made of quinoa!
If a vodka made of quinoa sounds cool to you, you have to try their newest product: liqueur made of a kumquat. Kum-what?? Yes, they’ve made a tasting spirit from this tart and succulent little Asian fruit… and it’s delicious. So how do they go about deciding on their new products?
“It has to be pertinent,” explained Martin. “We have to be with times but also to be practical. What can be atypical and creative, also needs to be attractive to both of our markets.”
He went on to tell me that they’d wanted to create a citrus based liqueur, however, orange had seemed to be well cornered on the market already by brands like Cointreau. Nobody was making a kumquat liqueur, so they went about finding the right local cooperatives, through their international Fair Trade partners, which led them to farms in Malaysia.
The Kumquat liqueur was designed, like most of their line, to be enjoyed on its own, that said, it’s also very delightful on ice cream and sorbets, the perfect companion to summer. If you don’t have it on its own, Martin thinks the ideal drink for the season is a kumquat kir royal (yum!).
The other spirits by FAIR fare particularly well in many summery drinks like Gin and Tonics, Moscow Mules, Dark and Stormys or even Daiquiris. So get your blender, cocktail shaker or chilled glass out and sip away at some responsibly fabulous drinks.
FAIR products or cocktails made of their spirits are available extensively in France as well as a multitude of venues in the major American cities, across the UK and mainland Europe. You can check this handy map online to see where your nearest vendor is.
Here in Paris you can enjoy their spirits at above-mentioned Le Distrait in addition to other premier cocktail bars like Moonshiner, the Experimental Cocktail Club, Gravity, Les Bains, Le Mary Celeste and Tiger.