What rare thing do Benedictine and Combier have in common? Pot still design, by famed French producer, Egrot. What they don’t have in common is a still house designed by world-renowned engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel. The inner structure of Combier’s still house is an architectural engineering masterpiece, only it doesn’t stand 324 meters high in the center of Paris like Gustave Eiffel’s most notable engineering project, the Eiffel Tower.
I kept two pictures of the distillery at my workspace for almost a year, until I finally organized a trip.
The distillery is located in what also happens to be my favorite wine region in France. The beautiful wines of the Loire Valley, many reminiscent of *some of our offerings at Astor—such as the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine “Selection,” Dom. des Cognettes 2012, the Sauvignon Blanc “Au Bout du Moulin,” Dom. des Cognette 2012, and the Sancerre Rouge “Croix du Roy”, Crochet 2008—were very much a part of my social experience on this trip, though I was not able to make any winery tours. Let’s face it; I’m a distiller. Fermentation isn’t enough for me. Entering the still house at Combier only reaffirmed this. The pot stills sit along the walls with lyne arms that run all the way to the ceiling and back down to the condensers in the middle of the room. The condensers are so high up that a staircase is required to access them. If you lose track, gazing at the unique layout, you might get caught walking into the large spirits receiver tubs and piles of botanicals lying around the distillery. On display near the condensers, and stored in tiny compartments along the wall, are some of the botanicals that are used for production, including wormwood, handpicked from a secret location by owner and master distiller, Franck Choisne.
On the opposite side of the distillery, there is a large vat for making high-quality syrups and flavorings. Even more interesting is the derinding machine that is used to separate meticulously the pith and zest of the re-hydrated sun-dried orange peels to produce Combier’s historic orange liqueur. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
Combier is producing, without a doubt, the best orange liqueur on the market, but I bet you didn’t know that it is actually triple sec, the original triple sec, to be historically accurate.
When Jean Baptiste Combier invented triple sec at Combier in 1834, patents did not exist. So why is it we haven’t heard about this sooner? Well, the story lies in the honesty and humbleness of the truly unique Combier distillery. They don’t need to call it triple sec. They could call it anything, to be honest. The quality speaks for itself. The dehydrated oranges used for production are sourced in Haiti, as the original recipe called for. Upon arrival, the orange peels are re-hydrated and the piths are removed. Pith removal is painstaking, and a little fussy, but it is necessary to avoid too much bitterness during maceration. The peels are then steeped in high quality neutral grain spirit that is produced from beets prior to distillation, which captures the aromatics and essences of the raw materials. Next door, the quality is constantly checked in their micro lab to ensure consistency. Once perfection is reached, they can bottle on-sight. Through carefully protected proprietary recipes, from raw materials to packaging, Combier produces some of world’s finest liqueurs. Here is what we selected for Astor:
Combier, Crème de Pamplemousse France
Made with red grapefruit, this is a light, refreshing spirit with the flavor and character of perfectly ripe citrus.
Combier, Kummel France
Kummel is a sweet and colorless liqueur with intense flavors of caraway seed and cumin. It is an intriguing liqueur that can liven up some classic cocktail recipes. Combier’s Kummel is easily the best expression on the market.
Combier, Liqueur d’Orange France
This 100% all-natural orange liqueur will improve any cocktail that calls for triple sec. Serve this luscious, creamy spirit on the rocks and imagine yourself on the Riviera!
Combier, Liqueur Rose France
Add flavor and color to your next cocktail. This unique and very tasty liqueur is created by steeping hand-picked rose petals from the Loire Valley with grain spirit made from sugar beets. If this isn’t already on your back bar, it should be.
Elixir Combier France
This re-released recipe includes an exotic blend of herbs, plants, and other spices, including aloe, nutmeg, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron.
Roi Rene Rouge Cherry Liqueur France
Produced using guignes & morello cherries, this liqueur is produced much like it was nearly 400 years ago. 100% natural with no added sugar, the palate is very bright and tart. The cherry notes just go on and on.
Royal Combier Liqueur France
This bottle is an extraordinary example of why the folks at Combier are legends in the world of top-shelf liqueurs. Royal Combier is a rare spirit that masterfully combines fresh elements of bittersweet citrus fruit with lively, nuanced, distinctive spice notes such as saffron and cardamom.
All the items are on display in our store, so make sure to pay us a visit.
*Loire Valley Wines
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine “Selection,” Dom. des Cognettes
Sauvignon Blanc “Au Bout du Moulin,” Dom. des Cognettes
Anjou Blanc “Alexine,” Dom. Leduc-Frouin
Saumur-Champigny “La Folie,” Ch. Yvonne
Grolleau “Le Gué de Mûriers,” Dom. Mirebeau
Pineau d’Aunis “Garance,” Maisons Rouges
Sancerre Rouge “Croix du Roy”, Crochet
Anjou Villages “La Seigneurie,” Dom. Leduc-Frouin