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Hautes Glaces reproduces its own seeds every year and is constantly on the lookout for new ones. Our selection focuses less on yield than on taste and the best possible adaptation of cereals to our mountain climate and the consequences of climate change (drought, disease, pests, etc.).
In collaboration with INRAE (Institut National de Recherche pour l'Agriculture, l'Alimentation et l'Environnement) and more specifically the CRB (Centre de Recherche Biologique), we are testing and experimenting with old grain varieties that have been neglected - based on intensive agricultural yield criteria - and that can meet our ambitions. The oldest of these seeds date from the second half of the 19th century and the most recent from the first half of the 20th. Before adopting a grain, we test it in the tanks of our nursery and then in the field in our experimental plot. In particular, the plants are subjected to heat in stainless steel tanks, the shallow depth of which also enables us to test the resistance of the root system.
ORGANIC, REGENERATIVE AND COLLECTIVE AGROECOLOGY
Located close to the farm-distillery, the 19 farmers who supply us (140 to 200 hectares per year), are all certified Organic Farmers. They are also all members of the Graines des Cimes association, which facilitates collaboration between them (exchanges, advice, loans of equipment). The farmers meet 3 or 4 times a year on their farms to discuss their practices in the field and gradually build up their common agro-ecological base.
At the heart of our agricultural vision, preparing the land for growing (tillage) is based on long crop rotations. In other words, the plots are only used to grow the grains (barley, spelt, rye) that supply the farm-distillery 30% to 40% of the time. They alternate with other crops such as green manures (leguminous plants that enrich the soil) and/or grassland (which often remains for 5 years). This rotation prevents disease and promotes fertility.
This approach is well suited to the members of the association: whisky provides a secure supplement for these small farms, which practise mixed farming and sell quality products (cheese, potatoes, wine, chickens and eggs, etc.) on the local market.
SOIL PREPARATION: NO-PLOUGH AND CIRCULARITY
Most of the farms in the Graines des Cimes association also practise what is known as a 'simplified' cultivation technique, which consists of not ploughing and just working the soil superficially. This method promotes soil life and saves energy (lighter machinery). Furthermore, every year 280 tonnes of ‘spent grain’ (the residue left over from mashing grains) are composted and then spread on the fields. An amendment that also helps to enrich the soil.
Prepared in this way, the soil harbours a denser layer of life, enabling it to retain water better to cope with periods of drought, improve biodiversity and store more carbon. On one of the farms, which switched from conventional to organic farming ten years ago, the average level of organic matter, which quantifies the life in the soil, has increased by 44%, providing every guarantee of excellent carbon storage. To make this data more solid, a programme of soil analyses is underway on the association's 19 farms.
HEDGES AND COMPANION PLANTS
On some of our farms, biodiversity is encouraged by the creation of ecological corridors. This involves transforming areas that were previously cultivated into permanent grassland, creating buffer zones between fields and forests. Wild animals find these meadows and come to graze.
Similarly, when plots of land are too large, we plant hedges, which also attract wild fauna and flora. On several of the association's farms, the hedges and borders of ecological interest exceed 10% of the farm's surface area. The Gentiana association (botanical society of the Dauphiné region) also works on three of our farms to disseminate messicolous plants (which live in cultivated areas) such as the Vachère, the Dauphinelle des champs, the Poppy or the Oralya with large flowers.
At every stage in the whisky-making process, we look for the best way to reduce our ecological footprint, but we also have to admit that certain obstacles have not yet been fully overcome:
• Some of our plots lack hedges or ecological corridors and their size does not encourage as much biodiversity as they could.
• Our experiments, whether in agriculture, water or energy management, are not always sufficiently measured and documented.
• Not ploughing and not using herbicides means that we have to work the soil at the end of the summer. This can lead to the soil drying out in the heat. To alleviate this problem, we are looking to plant permanent plant cover.
• Thanks to cutting-edge technology, our water is used twice: first for production of Whisky and then for irrigating the fields. Although almost all of this water is reused, it still comes from the drinking water source that supplies the region. In this respect, we need to further reduce unnecessary consumption (by improving sparge (washing) procedures) and increasing its recyclability.
• Office life sometimes escapes our ecological vigilance: transport for distant employees, over-packaged meals, waste sorting that needs improving.
• While ecosystems can suffer from not questioning the reasons for growth, Hautes Glaces, is in a growth phase that has resulted in investment, construction and its inherent impacts. This is a transitional phase though and one that has been managed with the highest level of conscience. For our future, the quantities produced are naturally limited by the borders of our small territory, the Trièves, and by the need for farms to have several activities, of which supplying grain for whisky must remain a complementary activity.
• Although we have greatly reduced the carbon footprint of our bottles, we need to make progress in organising their re-use. As a first step, some of our whisky will soon be available in bulk at Hautes Glaces.
The yeasts used in fermentation come from the same source as the grains: they are first collected in the fields. Most whisky on the market use yeasts marketed by the industry, which are very often GMO-derived and designed to produce more alcohol. We prefer to grow our own native yeasts, as their influence is decisive for the quality of our whisky. Over the last five years, this has led us to gather yeasts from our fields, then multiply them in the laboratory and test their physiology and their influence on our liquids.
Today, we are autonomous and keep our yeasts in a growing library that offers us a host of possibilities. Each yeast transforms its environment and expresses its terroir differently. They create their own aromatic profiles, textures and bitterness. In particular, these mountain yeasts allow us to work at lower temperatures, for longer fermentations. A process inspired by the world of wine.
RENEWABLE AND LOCAL ENERGY
Most of the energy we consume is used to heat our stills. Gas is the most common fuel used to make whisky, but we prefer wood, a renewable and locally available resource. Purchased from Alpes Bois Energie - a sector described as 'excellent' by Ademe and bearing the Bois des Alpes label - it is transported directly from sawmills in the nearby Chartreuse massif. This fuel is fed into automatic wood-fired stills that autonomously manage the supply of wood according to the desired temperature. Electricity consumption is very low and comes from a contract with Gazel, which guarantees that it is 100% produced from renewable energy sources.
WATER AS AN ENERGY CARRIER IN A CLOSED CIRCUIT
Whisky-making alternates between heat (mashing, infusion, distilling) and cold (condensation). We therefore keep the water hot or cold to transfer its temperature according to our needs and avoid further energy consumption. This unique equipment takes up a quarter of the distillery and allows us to store the water in huge vats.
During the mashing process, for example, we need water at 60 or 80 degrees steeping. So we send the mains water (temperature: 8°) to an exchanger where it is heated by 90° water from the still. In addition to this production circuit, we also use excess heat to help heat the buildings.
WATER RECOVERY AND IRRIGATION
Producing just one litre of our whisky requires around ten litres of water. Certain stages require a lot of water, such as malting (a controlled germination process), mashing (steeping the grains in warm water) and distillation, which involves evaporation.
But it's the cleaning of the equipment that uses up this resource the most. To avoid using cleaning products, we choose to wash without any products. This choice is guided by the need to recycle water: Water used to irrigate the fields must be free of certain cleaning products. But this requires large quantities of water to obtain clean containers.
The water from the production process contains the yeast used to make the whisky, which has a real advantage: when used for irrigation, it helps to fertilise the soil. The quantities spilt (1,200 m3 per year) represent the equivalent of a heavy rainfall every year, and a godsend in times of drought.
Previously, we used new, non-recycled glass, which had a high carbon footprint. This was the only way to respect certain traditional whisky aesthetic codes (colourless, shiny, thick glass). Our research led us to do away with this unnecessary constraint and replace the bottle.
We have discovered a solution that is even more environmentally friendly than recycled glass, because it remedies an industrial waste. Technically, the glassmaker's furnaces cannot stop between one batch of new glass and another of recycled glass. Between the two, the factory casts bottles that cannot be sold because their colour does not meet customers' requirements. Although they are of excellent quality, they are never used again and are destroyed and then recycled. To help avoid this waste, we decided that our bottles could be made from this "transitional glass" which, although it doesn't offer exactly the shade that some people are looking for, has two advantages: it avoids waste and is 96% recycled.
This choice has enabled us to reduce the bottle's carbon footprint by more than 38% for the same quantity of whisky sold, compared with the old model. The good news is that the process in no way limits creativity. For example, an exact replica of the Obiou Mountain Range, as seen from the Hautes Glaces, has been moulded into the base of the bottle.
LESS FOR MORE
We have reduced the size of the bottle from 70cl to 50cl. This choice is in keeping with our identity: our whisky, the fruit of a limited terroir (the Trièves) and small-scale production from mixed-crop farms, will naturally see a ceiling placed on its volume. This local vision responds to a global situation: the planetary limits (climate, biodiversity, water, etc.) with which we are confronted. Under these conditions, a smaller bottle means that more units can be distributed more widely, and a variety of experiences can be encouraged (barley whisky, spelt whisky, rye whisky, etc.). Like a collection of books, a series of stories and explorations, our bottles are ideally placed in a bookcase.
All these changes have led to a reduction in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), an indicator that covers all packaging and includes every component and every resource (water, glues, cardboard, etc.). Between the old and new bottles - for the same volume of whisky packaged - the EPI has fallen by 81%
CORKS, LABELS AND PACKAGING
Our corks are made from spent grain (the residue from brewing cereals) so as not to consume new resources.
The tin cap, often seen as an essential marker around the neck of a whisky bottle, has simply been abandoned because of its high ecological footprint. On the new bottle, the surface area of our labels - printed in a single colour on PEFC-certified paper - has been reduced. Finally, the packaging is made from recycled cardboard.
Similarly, in the package we send to our customers, these flat-sided bottles enable us to eliminate a lot of wasted space. Thanks to their design, our bottles save 13.4% of empty space and just as many unnecessary resources for transport.
We welcome you to our cellar from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm.. An opportunity to make initial contact and taste our spirits. You can also simply relax and sip a syrup or cocktail in the shade of our hundred-year-old trees in summer, or by the fire in winter.THE HAUTES GLACES MENU
VISITS TO THE DOMAINE
Come to the Domaine to immerse yourself in the world of Hautes Glaces and discover the secrets behind the production of our spirits. From our agro-ecological vision and farming practices to the art of distillation and ageing, together we'll go through each of the stages that make our products exceptional spirits.
By prior arrangement, we can organise private tours for small groups, families or friends. For more than 2 hours, we'll walk around the site together, taking time for the essentials, anecdotes and details. You'll then get a taste of our work through a guided tasting of some of our spirits. PRICE : 150 EUROS (8 people max.)By reservation only (by phone or email). Date and time to be defined together according to your availability. Tours can be organised for larger groups (clubs, works councils, etc.): please contact us.CONTACT US
Profitez de nos créneaux de visites collectives pour une première immersion (prévoir 1h à 1h30). La jauge est limitée (20 pers. Max) : pensez à vous annoncer et à réserver.
A votre convenance, la visite se prolongera au caveau par une dégustation guidée.
-> Low Season (October - April) : SATURDAY only Tours depart from: 10:30 am / 2:30 pm -> High Season (May - Sept): WEDNESDAY to SATURDAY Tours depart at 10.30am / 4.30pm. At your convenience, the tour can be extended at the cellar with a guided tasting.THE HAUTES GLACES MENU
DISCOVER THE WORLD OF HAUTE GLACES THROUGH GASTRONOMIC PAIRING !
We welcome you to the Domaine for a tour of the distillery followed by a gastronomic pairing workshop, a convivial opportunity to taste bold and subtle combinations between our spirits and selected dishes or ingredients.
Several themed workshops are organised throughout the year.
A discovery of the extraordinary pairing of cheeses and spirits. A series of unforgettable perfect pairings that will renew your knowledge of how to end a meal!
A sweet and cheerful conversation between our spirits and a farandole of delights prepared by local artisans.
When Hautes Glaces meets the art of mixology: a workshop that revisits the history of the cocktail and teaches you the basics of a few classics to taste on the spot and make again at home!
NO DATES AVAILABLE
Booking is compulsory.. Don't hesitate to contact us for more details or to organise a private workshop with your friends, family or colleagues.
EXHIBITIONS & EVENTS
As the seasons go by, as we meet new people, we occasionally open the doors of the Hautes Glaces to inspiring energies: concerts, exhibitions, conferences, etc. So many opportunities to get together and celebrate the living in all its forms!
To keep up to date with the programme of events, check out our news or join the Bien Vivants section.SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER