Madame Denoix describes her job as being a little like a perfumier. Listening to her talk about the Distillery Denoix it is clear she is also in the business of preserving a part of French history, and that she is possibly even a frustrated doctor!
Wandering through the heart of the medieval city of Brive la Gaillarde in the Correze region of France, I walked into the Distillery Denoix, where the family of Sylvie Denoix has been producing its famous walnut liqueur for over 150 years.
“Come taste my medicine,” she said with an inviting smile.
A free tasting? What could be better? This distillery is like a cathedral to liqueur, the air rich with the aromas of wood and herbs and alcohol.
The very name Denoix means walnut and Madame explains that over 11 tons of locally-grown green walnuts are crushed each summer, although they do not use the millstones her grandfather and great-grandfather would have employed.
This walnut liqueur is lovingly created and supposedly an excellent digestif. After the maceration process the juice is mixed with a bitter spirit and aged for five years in oak barrels.
I watched (and smelt) the sugar syrup being cooked up in a big shiny copper cauldron over a wood fire. You can see from the photos on the wall they are using the same Still to produce the goods. The photos tell the story of a family, and of a labour of love.
They proudly use the fruit of the land and preserve the recipes handed down through the family. These are not chemically-produced aromas and Sylvie is passionate about preserving this treasure of her family and of France.
Other liqueurs are also produced here from different plants such as juniper, verbena, fennel and orange peel. I also tried a divine chocolate, coriander and quince mix combined with Armagnac!
I had to go and have a substantial lunch and a sit in the sun before continuing on my driving way through the Correze region of France, with a bottle of the utterly special Denoix lying on the seat beside me.
Natasha von Geldern
This visit in Brive was part of a driving tour around the Correze and Dordogne regions, with other highlights including some of France’s most beautiful villages: Sarlat, Turennes and Collognes la Rouge.