Elixirs and Liqueurs: The Old Distillery

The Old Distillery founded in 1839 and still in use

I have always been a great fan of all liqueurs from Armagnac to Cognac and all the rest. If it hadn’t been for those elixirs and miraculous herbal medicines concocted by our dear monks of the Middle Ages, today’s liqueurs or liquor wouldn’t have been born. Regional specialties of Corrèze are the walnuts and they have some great nut wines (vin de noix) and nut liqueur (liqueur de noix) which are usually taken for apéritifs. I have visited some interesting distilleries, but this is the first time I discovered a family run distillery still using the same old method since its founding in 1839. As I entered the small store distillery run by the Denoix family in Brive la Gaillard in Corrèze, I felt as if I was entering a beautiful living museum. It is like going back in time, the store resembles that of a 19th century food store, with wooden shelves and along the sides are wooden barrels. This lovely distillery was founded in 1839 by Pierre Lacoste and Louis Denoix. Its tradition has been handed down for generations and today is still run and managed by the same family. “We are the only distillery that is still using the same method like it was first founded at the beginning of the 19th century and our famous nut liqueur the Suprême de Noix was also created at that time” says Laurent Vieillefosse husband of Sylvie Denoix, while showing me the place where they make the sugar syrup to sweeten the liqueur.

Churning the sugar syrup

This place is amazing, and they are still working like in the 19th century. On a special stone stove are copper pot stills for distilling the liqueur and next to it is a large copper cauldron where they make the sugar syrup in the old fashion way. It was Thursday, sugar syrup making day and I was lucky to come today to see the process of making it. Logs were placed underneath heating away the sugar syrup. When using non refined sugar, the syrup needs to be clarified and egg whites are used and when scum begins to form, it is delicately cleared away. The process can last several hours until the sugar syrup is clear devoid of any impurities and ready for use.

Pouring egg white to clarify the sugar syrup

Denoix’s nut liqueur is unbeatable, fine caramelized sweet nut taste with an aromatic touch of Armagnac that lingers on. Green nuts picked on the day of Saint John the summer solstice around end of June are aged in wooden oak barrels for 5 years until ready for use. Using their home made sugar syrup and blending it with top quality fruits, plants, seeds,orange peel Cognac and Armagnac, plus their secret recipe handed down for generations, no wonder it has such a unique taste. Let’s hope that they will remain for more centuries to come.

Churning the sugar syrup and clearing off scum

Their home made sugar syrup is I guess one of the secret for obtaining such a great taste of their liqueurs. Worth mentioning is their Moutarde de Violette made from grape must, red wine and spices. This unique grape must mustard, created in the 19th century is delicious with fish, meats, salads etc … So if you come to this region, a visit to the Old Distillery is a must and don’t forget when drinking liqueur and elixirs….have it served in a chilled liqueur glass and pour it on an ice cube. Happy liqueur !

The famous Moutarde de Brive

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