In a first class carriage, two passengers found themselves facing each other. Unbeknown to Paul Ballor and Emilie Roussette, their thoughts were running along the same lines. Both wanted to start a conversation.
Paul every now and then cast his eyes down to the telegram he had received the previous day. He suddenly broke the silence and said, “What would you say the word discoveries meant?”
Emilie replied in a natural way:
“Surrender. People don’t make new discoveries unless they are prepared to leave something behind”. “And why ever not? I would be ready to lose anything so as to make a discovery”. “The word is in that message.”
Without hesitation, Paul began to read.
I have just discovered Vermouth. I need to confer with you. Could you join me? Henry Freund. Post Office, Turin
Henry Freund had left Orange a month before sending the telegram. His father had bequeathed to him an enormous estate of agricultural land. In two years, he had managed to sell more than two thirds of it and now he found himself in possession of a large quantity of money to make use of.
For a good few months already, news had been arriving about the financial and social vibrancy of a city which, a short distance from there, had been getting itself talked about. Turin was destined to become the city of progress.
The lightbulb, radio, the telephone, the car: every idea of the era which was about to open up would have seemed possible to so many inventors and progress into the future would have seemed totally unstoppable.
Thus it was that Freund decided to set off in search of modernity. Wandering around to get to know the city on his first evening, he went into a literary cafe. Good hearing was all that was needed to get an idea of how things were in the business world. “Excuse me, sir, but I couldn’t help hearing what you said about that bottle.” The man still had it in his hand, empty and without a cork. “With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” “Freund, Henry Freund”.
“Another glass of Vermouth for my new guest. Now, you will discover in your mouth what you heard in your ears” said he, turning to the waiter. The following day he discovered much more. He got to the small distillery in Turin and returned just in time to send the telegram to Paul Ballor. He was surprised to see him disembark from the Genoa-Turin train Genova Torino in pleasant company
Emilie Roussette planned to arrive in Milano to visit an aunt. Then, she would have a stopover in Florence and carry on to Sicily as a guest of family friends.
But, when one meets a man like Paul Ballor, anything can happen. Including finding oneself bewitched by the expertise of a passenger, the expertise which had Henry Freund waiting for him at Turin station.
Ballor’s dedication to vegetation often took people by surprise, but engendered a degree of curiosity for where his intuition was leading him.
What Freund had tasted in the glass of Vermouth served to him at the literary cafe had been just a drop, but enough to spill over into the idea of writing to Ballor. After his arrival, events moved swiftly. Herbs, roots, woods, bark, leaves, fruits, seeds, resin, peel, golds: Ballor would learn to extract the best from these. Freund’s aim was to remain in Turin and launch his own production. Within a short time, Paul, Henry and Emilie were seated around the table of a notary to sign the articles of association for Freund, Ballor & Co.
Henry Freund. With its rounded vowels and pointed consonants, Henry’s handwriting revealed something of his intriguing personality. That last signature, added to the last page of the articles of association on a spring day in 1856, was the legal step marking the distilled resolve of three determined souls, all focussed on a common project. Sitting around a solid walnut table, under the watchful eyes of the notary, the three partners had just signed the essence of their future: Freund, Ballor & C.IA was just a few minutes old.
From the third floor of the notary’s office, they could look out over Piazza Repubblica and the bustling open-air market of Porta Palazzo. Fabric vendors, fruit and vegetable stalls, medicinal herb merchants: with Genoa’s annexation by the Kingdom of Sardinia, Turin had become a huge emporium of goods.“Here is the source of our supply,” said Henry Freund, looking out the window. The city at the time attracted much commercial traffic – in particular turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, natural myrrh, piper cubeb and incense – which had travelled from their countries of origin across the five continents along the spice route as far as Lisbon, before onward transport to Genoa and finally to Turin. The reduction in duties granted by Sardinia’s Prime Minister Cavour had prompted the future Kingdom of Italy to seize the opportunities international trade offered. In this liberal climate, commerce flourished – liquor dealers, apothecaries, pharmacists, innkeepers, distillers, confectioners – which in turn had promoted the founding of literary cafés and liqueur shops.
With Paul’s expertise as a liquorist and Henry’s entrepreneurial flair, Freund, Ballor & C.IA had everything their business needed to develop their innovative spirit within a mercantile atmosphere in continual ferment.
Stills, graduated vessels, and glass pipettes. When Paul Ballor reached Turin station, he was grasping the handle of a large suitcase. When he set off, he’d elected to pack more instruments than clothes.But the wealth of botanical knowledge he carried in his mind was infinitely more precious than the contents of his case: this was the main reason that had prompted Henry Freund to ask him to leave Provence and join him in Italy.“We’ll need a large laboratory with wooden flooring to keep the moisture at bay.”A few days after he arrived, in a secluded corner of the inn they were lodging in, Henry listened while his future partner sketched out the place he wanted to work in.“It must have high ceilings to let in as much light as possible and allow the air to circulate and change regularly.”When the day came for them to inspect the premises Henry had located just outside Turin, Paul wasn’t expecting to find exactly what he was looking for. After all, his intention was to select 100 herbs and create a new bitter with a distinctive exotic flavour. Pretty soon though, herbs and spices from all over the world were being ground and macerated in their laboratory and transformed into a truly noble extraction of aromatic ingredients.“It’ll take time to balance them all within the same mix,” Paul Ballor said. Time itself would weave its magic in the large, deep basins filled with water, alcohol and sugar. In them, each infusion would be blended with others to harmonize aromas and balance perfumes in a concentration of organoleptic characteristics and myriad essences: the freshness of balsamic accents, the breadth of the bitter notes, and the austerity of characterful spices.
When the telegram reached her, she was enshrouded in the heat of a Calabrian summer. In a farmer’s shed in the village Brancaleone, Emilie Roussette was busy exploring the organoleptic qualities of bergamot. It was Paul Ballor who’d directed her to this land with its profusion of wild herbs; he’d hoped to satisfy her thirst for exploration – a side to her character evident to almost all who met her. Upon her return to Turin, Paul was counting on her supplying him with specimens of medicinal plants so he could realise the idea that was uppermost in his thoughts: creating an Amaro containing 100 herbs.Browsing through his archive of ancient recipes, he’d spotted in dried wormwood flowers the essential ingredient that, along with gentian root and verbena leaves, would give his product its bitter accent. But in the complex pattern of persistent tastes and enduring aromas he was composing, Paul Ballor couldn’t help thinking something was still missing. After reading the short telegram, Emilie knew instantly what the next stage of her journey was to be and the family friends who would be waiting for her.There, on that island, surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean, she was certain she’d find just the right balsamic note Henry had asked for in the telegram. Sitting in the shade of a carob tree, she could smell the rich scent coming from the thin blades of lemon grass, wafted on the breeze from a nearby vegetable garden, which at times melded with the heady scent of the mint plant climbing a whitewashed wall. Gazing out at the sea off the coast of Augusta, Emilie searched for meaning in her life, and more than ever, saw her destiny becoming increasingly intertwined with that of Freund, Ballor & C.IA.
Paul working on new amaro.Need balsamic notes.Can you help us?Henry Freund.Post Office, Turin