For generations the Bigallet family has spent July climbing near vertical, treacherous inclines in search of wild genépi a small plant related to absinthe. Today, harvesting the wild genépi plant is limited to what an individual can carry in one hand. Found between 2,000 and 2,500 meters, on steep, slate slopes in the French alps, you might think that this peculiar limit is to leave one hand free to climb with but actually it is because this small plant is very, very rare. Genépi is now protected by law with each French Alpine region setting its own limits. In Isère the limit is 100 stems per person and in Ecrins it is illegal to pick the plant at all. Today the Bigallet family aquires its genépi from specialist farms that cultivate the plant in a controlled environment. The quantities are larger, the quality consistently high and the harvesting is considerably easier.
Genépi is from the same botanical family as absinthe but while absinthe grows to between 1 and 1.5 meters, genépi only grows in small tufts measuring between 5 to 20cm. Bigallet uses the stems and flowers of plants from the Maurienne and Tarentaise ranges of the French Alps to make Grand Tétras. The genépi is still picked by hand every July and the stems and flowers are then dried in the dark until September.
Named after the mountain bird of the same name, Grand Tétras owes its yellow colour to the Genépi flowers, while chlorophyll from the plants’ stems provide the unique flavour.