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Making Moonshine is Illegal in France but…
Making moonshine is illegal almost everywhere. However in France if you’ve a few orchards of unsold peaches or apricots and can find a licensed itinerant distiller you can still enjoy the spirit-warming fruits of your labour.
Alambic still in the Charente (Credit Wikipedia)But for how much longer? This was the question that prompted our Grumpy Gardener Mike Alexander
to set off recently to sample the production of one of a dying breed – all in the interests of journalism of course.André Jouclase is one of a dying breed.This writer first came across him in a tiny hameau on the banks of the Lot River where he was brewing eau de vie
from his mobile still. He’s been doing this for the past 35 years, towing this ancient wood burning still from village to village where he is eagerly awaited by local farmers with barrels, drums and dustbins filled with apples or pears they have carefully hoarded for weeks in anticipation of the terroir-flavoured alcoholic nectar it is his arts et métier
to create. For a fee André Jouclase turns the fermenting fruit into that infamous breath-taking alcohol that the French and many of us relocated foreigners are so fond of. It takes approximately six hundred litres of fruit and a cubic metre of firewood to produce twenty litres of “gnôle
” (booze or hooch) as the eau de vie
is known around France. The spirit will have an average alcohol content of 50% although André can turn up the heat, as it were, to percentages as high as 55% if the client so desires.
In the Good Old Days
Back in the good old days he would often produce a heart-warming, liver-shaking concoction 80% proof but these days 55% is as high as he is allowed to go, he tells me, with a shake of his head, suggesting government medical advisors have got the upper hand.
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