Gin and gin-based coolers

Scanning the shelves, it’s hard to miss the first gin made by BluePearl Distillery, BleuRoyal. Launched December 18, 2018, this spirit stands out for its intense blue colour, which comes from the blue flowers of the butterfly pea vine, and turns purplish with the addition of a bit of acidity, such as the touch of lime or lemon in a gin tonic. It’s a great way for a Montreal distillery to make a truly Quebec product that even sports the province’s colours in the liqueur itself.

Already distributed in France, Bleu Royal is now available as a ready-to-drink gin-tonic, in the same colour as the original product. Two formats that bring to life a product that was a smash success right from the get go, beyond the expectations of the company’s trio of founders: Francis Bluteau, Karl Fortin, and Jonathan Perlstein. “I never would have thought it would take off so quickly,” admits Bluteau, pointing out that the distillery is ready to open new plants that will allow it to increase its production five-fold.

From guest room to distillery

Not bad for a company that, in a sense, owes its existence to an apartment rented by chance in Montreal. After completing university, Bluteau happened to rent an apartment in a building owned by Karl Fortin’s mother. Walking by the apartment underneath his, where Karl and his friend Jonathan lived, Bluteau noticed some fermentation vats and other rather experimental-looking equipment in the guest room. Karl had been the technical manager of the student microbrewery Sherbroue at the University of Sherbrooke and his friend Jonathan had a fascination with stills. Together, the pair had put together a rather interesting pastime.

At university, Bluteau had been an organizer of student parties, from the smallest to the largest, which allowed him access to breweries and other suppliers for these festivities – so much so that he was able to discover the inner workings of this sector of the industry. While he dreamt of opening a microbrewery, he hesitated given the large number of players in Quebec. But once he met Fortin and Pearlstein, the idea would change, becoming instead a distillery.

Quickly pushing his two friends into creating BluePearl, Bluteau set up a game plan, sought financing, and set the machine in motion. The two others set about creating the distinctive product that would become BleuRoyal. In the opinion of the partner responsible for sales and marketing, the experiments of his two buddies accelerated their product design once it came time to start creating a real distillery. “The best way to learn how to make good pies is to make a bunch of bad ones,” explains Bluteau.

Going green

The BluePearl team have no intention of letting things get humdrum. The distillery just launched a new lighter gin (30% alcohol), full of freshness and aromas of cucumber, mint, basil, and rosemary. A recent arrival in stores, the new gin is particularly aimed at people looking to create a balanced lifestyle and stay healthy by moderating their calorie and alcohol intake. “It’s half the calories of a regular gin,” insists Bluteau.

Going digital

While launching this new product, the distillery reacted to the arrival of COVID-19 by producing hand sanitizer; they also started thinking about creating a liqueur made from a base of buttermilk as well as many other colourful products, as is their wont. They have also taken time out to dispatch the plant material used by the distillery to feed a herd of goats and to concoct cocktail recipes with the help of professionals like Julien Presseau of Made With Love or their more loyal customers.

"You can never be bored in this business," states Bluteau. Given the current pandemic, the BluePearl team has ensured they will stay in touch with their customers by launching a newsletter, which has attracted no fewer than 1,500 subscribers in less than a month. It’s a touch-point that’s more important for a brand that particularly relies on such relationships. “We survey customers about our product labels, we try to answer their questions right away, even when they come in at two o’clock in the morning,” he insists. A few ways of keeping in touch over drinks, even from a distance.