Words by: Jane Ryan
Alfred Cointreau is 6th generation Cointreau family, and he travels the world spreading the story of his ancestors and their renowned product.
"I joined the company, or as I say La Masion, almost three years ago. My official title is something very formal, the Heritage Manager, but my role is like a Global Brand Ambassador, I do exactly the same job and in that way my office is the bars around the world. But it's different because I have the legacy and the heritage of my family to think about and uphold.
To speak about my family, it's important to understand where we are based. We've been in Angers, in western France, since the 16th century. Angers is in the middle of the picturesque Loire Valley, a spot well known for its fabulous wines. It was here I spent my childhood and teenage years. I still remember helping to make the family aperitifs, carefully prepared by my grandmother, Elisabeth Cointreau, even before I was old enough to try them.
My family weren't always in liqueur production, in fact we started out as bakers, and afterwards the family embarked into a new line of business as confectionaries. But in 1849, thanks to the pioneering dream of two brothers, Adolf and Edouard-Jean, we became distillers. Edouard-Jean was my great-great-great grandfather. The men wanted to work with natural ingredients from the region and to respect original recipes.
Edouard-Jean's son, Edouard, came on board the family business and he was very creative, an artistic type. After ten years of travel and a lot of research he perfected the recipe for Cointreau, and gave it the name of Triple Sec.
My parents aren't involved in the business at all, there's no pressure, simply because you have the name Cointreau, to work for us. If you want to, and are comfortable, then there's opportunities. Today I am the only family member in the business.
When I joined the house of Cointreau I didn't go straight into my current position. Instead I worked in all the departments we have, one by one, learning and understanding our business. This is something we do as a family when joining the distillery, it's important to play an active role in every stage of making the liqueur.
I would shadow the Master Distiller's daily routine, till I could tell you what each variety of orange peel was just by looking at them, and how to recognise the best of the bunch. Each section is vastly different, from the science of distillation to the history of the company archives where I spent many months, intrigued by where my family had come from, and how they developed such an iconic product.
My father went to the distillery when he was little but instead of falling in love with the alembic stills, as I did and my grandfather Pierre before me, he went into the garage and was totally overcome by the tools and cars, so nowadays he runs a garage which fixes vintage cars. Every morning I would see my father going to his garage with a smile on his face.
My grandfather, till he passed away aged 90, would go to the distillery every few weeks, because he had that passion about Cointreau that my father has about cars. I used to work in a totally different world, in the advertising department of a newspaper and I wasn't passionate the way my family was about their careers. I wanted something that would make me want to get out of bed in the morning. With Cointreau I definitely found that. I definitely found this passion."