On our way through Angers, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tour the Cointreau distillery.
The Cointreau brand was started in 1849 by two brothers who needed an orange flavored liqueur for their family patisserie.
Now partnered with Rémy Martin, it is a one of the best know liqueurs in the world and is especially popular in the US for use in mixed drinks. I use it all the time at the shop, so it was definitely worth a stop.
We spent a little time in the very nicely air conditioned gift shop. The overall look was very chic.
The tour started at the entrance to the distillery building with a sensory experience using the dried peels of bitter and sweet oranges. These are the main flavoring agents of the distilate along with fresh sweet orange peel.
Next we entered the main distillery room where the orange peels are soaked overnight in neutral spirits in the vats on the right. The mixture is then heated and the vapor travels up and over into the condensing towers on the left. These stills date from the 1970s.
There’s a mezzanine area where you can get a good look at the other side of the distillation room. These stills are from the 1930s.
If only you could bottle the smell of this place! In fact, we learned that after the distillation of the infused spirits, they put it through a centrifuge to remove the essential orange oils and sell it to perfume manufacturers.
It was fun to see the low tech distillery process of such a well-known product. They really do make it the same way they have for generations.
The next part of the tour was all about brand development and marketing. It think they have “Cointreau orange” pretty much figured out!
We learned more about the founding fathers of the company.
And how to make a bunch of cocktails.
As it turns out, because of a law in France against advertising alcohol, we were not allowed to take photos of the most interesting part of the tour. After a little bit about the history of developing the brand, you enter a long hallway over looking the bottling lines. All along the back wall, they have every scrap of advertising they have every used on display. There’s everything from children’s toys to large format posters and labels dating back to the beginning of the company. They even had a wall displaying some of the thousands of knock-off Cointreau bottles they have found over the years.
The mosaic above of their mascot, the mime character Pierrot, is the only advertising image you are allowed to photograph. It’s really too bad, because it was fascinating to see the development of Cointreau advertising and brand identity over the last 170 years.
My disappointment was soon overcome by the drinking part of the program. Nice tasting room!
I tried my hand at making a Cointreau fizz.
Mark made a Side Car. Yum!
This might be my new favorite. Here’s the recipe. And by the way, drink responsibly!
We had a great time at the Cointreau distillery tour and tasting. By the way, I did the tasting and Mark did the driving to our next stop!