It's on these grounds that Mailhot, a popular fixture in the area who’s known as the town’s Grand Dérangeant (“big troublemaker”) as well as a grower, organic producer and now distiller, harvests the corn and barley used to distill his spirits. He beamed with pride when he told us, “It’s my own grain!” His products, Saga Grand Gin and Petite Eau vodka, which are 100% organic and made from fully traceable local ingredients, are sold as Origine Québec products at the SAQ.
It’s owing to the organic grains that SAGA gin is certified organic, as is Petite Eau, the first-ever Québec vodka to obtain organic certification. The newest addition to the lineup is SAGE, which is made with SAGA gin and aged in bourbon casks or beer casks. Fun fact: the beer barrels used in the aging process come from Maltstrom, a craft brewpub located just a few kilometres away, which in turn reuses the SAGE barrels to make a gin-flavoured beer!
Mailhot spoke about his process, his local values, the exquisite branding of Grand Dérangement and how he wanted to set it apart with the help of the marketing team at Paprika Design. Admittedly stubborn like a true Acadian, he wanted to stand out not only through his high-quality products, but also through the story of where he came from—where the Quebecois people came from. More specifically, the story of the Great Upheaval (in French, le Grand Dérangement) of 1755, when the English expelled Acadians, who later found their way to Quebec. This served as the inspiration behind the name on every bottle.
SAGA depicts the story of two women and two men who were victims of this major upheaval and later settled here in the Lanaudière region. The name SAGA refers to the tale of hardship endured by all Acadians of that time. Their faces appear on the labels in black and white, purposely cut off by a yellow wax intended to shock and disturb, just like their sordid story. (The yellow hue is a nod to the colours of the Acadian flag.) It’s a fine, elegant gin with delicate notes that are complex yet well balanced, leaving a nice freshness on the palate with a pleasant hint of citrus. We dare you to identify the 15 secret botanicals used to make it!
Petite Eau is reminiscent of the purity of water and a certain time when, not so long ago, waterways served as drivers of economic development—this was also the case in New Acadia. When the three bottles are lined up, you can make out a blue river, a tribute to three ancestors whose vocations were inextricably tied to water: the miller, the water bearer and the dowser.
Why cover their eyes? “To be disruptive,” explained Mailhot. During our tasting of the product, he pointed out the crisp, bold and slightly sweet taste attributable to the corn, with a subtle textured finish. A vodka that’s sure to wow beginners and connoisseurs alike!
On site, you’ll discover the art of distillation from master brewers and learn about the history of New Acadia by visiting the economuseum and taking a guided tour. You can even test your knowledge by playing an online game, as well as taste the products at the end of the tour. The mission of the non-profit economuseum is to promote sustainable development and tourism in the Lanaudière region.
Before you leave, be sure to take in the site’s architecture—it’s rather impressive. Designed by architectural firm Ædifica, every aspect was carefully thought out. The modern building flows into the landscape, creating a strong image through its sloping angles, a tribute to the upheavals endured by the Acadians. Its white imprint and simple lines evoke the traditional little Acadian house—we bet you’ll never look at it the same way again!