Founded in 1898 at Forcalquier in the Haute Provence, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence have been making aperitifs and Provencal liqueurs for over 100 years.
It is here that gatherers of medicinal herbs first became tradesmen in the middle ages by distilling these precious plants.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, these traders settled in many towns in the region as suppliers of medicines or apothecaries.
In the 19th century some became pharmacists, others distillers, and some combined both trades. Wine and alcohol, maceration and distillation were the means by which the plants’ aromas and active ingredients could be extracted and conserved. The specialities that they created from the plants of the Lure region were often concoctions with purgative qualities, or tonics, digestives and aperitifs. It was only at the end of the century that distillers began to specialise in the production of liqueurs and aperitif drinks.
Today these skills have been preserved and maintained by Distilleries et Domaines de Provence for over 100 years, to be diffused throughout the world for the greater pleasure of all lovers of fine spirits.
Enter our STORY....
From apothecaries of Lure to distillers at Forcalquier…
In this region of southern France, knowledge of the curative properties of certain herbs and the skills of picking them for medicinal purposes go back to prehistoric times, and more specifically to Neolithic times, some eight thousand years ago. (The word phyto-therapy is derived from the Greek phyto, phuton – plants, and therapeuien - to treat). This science and practice developed at the time of the Greeks and the Romans who already valued the plants of the Lure mountains for their therapeutic and magical qualities.
“There is no doubt that many phyto-therapy recipes used today originated at this period” (J.Zammit, Neolithic Man and Disease, in Dossiers de l’Archéologie – June 1980)
The propensity to healing of the area of Forcalquier was already recognized in the 11th century, as witnessed by the village names of Lardiers (Larderii : leprous) where lepers were treated, and later l’Hospitalet (hospital). Certainly, the medicinal plants that grew on the Lure mountains played a part in the siting of these settlements.
Alongside this healing vocation, an important business linked to the gathering and treatment of these medicinal plants sprang up. Merchants picked plants growing on the slopes of the Lure mountains and sold them all around the region, setting off towards the end of October with pack mules heavily loaded with aromatic and medicinal herbs for their trade of travelling apothecaries.
Towards the end of the 17th century, some three-quarters of the population of this region lived off herbalism. By the 18th century, these travelling salesmen from the Alpes de Haute Provence were to be found across the whole of the south of France, in Lyon, in Burgundy, and in the Italian Piedmont. A family of apothecaries even settled in Constantinople.
But the pharmacologists of the Lure did not stop at selling plants. From the end of the 18th century onwards they also distilled them to obtain essential essences or blends for export. And thus, elixirs were created. The distillers, both pharmacists and producers of spirits, began to specialize at the end of the 19th century, when a whole series of “medicines” became “syrups” and then evolved into liqueurs drunk for pleasure. (e.g. the lithotriptic syrup, made by Etienne Gabriel Graimy of the Seminary of Lurs, was sold as a product to dissolve kidney stones, increase appetite, aid digestion and facilitate sleep)
In the country around the Lure mountains, and towards Manosque, there were more than 15 distilleries making spirits and absinthe liqueur at that time. And it is this tradition that we have inherited and perpetuated.
But the Great War and the prohibition of the sale of absinthe in 1915 led to the disappearance of practically all of the distilleries.…
From the Distillerie de Lure to the Distilleries et Domaines de Provence
Creation of the Distillerie de Lure.
It is known that it was founded in 1898 thanks to a poster from 1935 that mentioned that the “Distillerie de Lure” was 37 years old, although the name of the original founder is not recorded. The Distillery occupies modest premises in the center of Forcalquier.
Paul Ferréoux, originally a painter who specialized in trompe-l’œil (he notably restored the paintings of the Château de Sauvan, in Mane), was a wine and spirits trader during the 14-18 war. He bought the Distillerie de Lure in 1920. He was making syrups, soft drinks and still trading wines. He is the creator of Pastis Paulanis (ancestor of Henri Bardouin pastis) in 1924.
Jean Nalin and Marcel Pascal bought the distillery from Paul Ferréoux. The war led to the disappearance of almost all the distilleries in the region, but this one resisted.
Marcel Pascal was arrested and shot in the middle of fighting amongst Germans and the resistance fighters, on the Place du Bourget in Forcalquier, driving the distillery van.
Later, Henri Bardouin, originally from that region, coachbuilder-wheelwright, started to work at the distillery as a worker. He was a nature lover: he roamed this territory in search of mushrooms or hunting game. But he discovered a new passion for the wild plants and he could often be seen with a sprig of herb between his lips. His passion for aromatic plants and his natural curiosity allowed him to acquire solid knowledge of local lore and the region’s culture. He also mastered the art of communication, passing on his skills and sharing his passion with those that worked with him to ensure that this tradition of plant-based aperitifs and liqueurs would carry on. In 1946, he bought the shares of the company from Marcel Pascal’s widow.
Henri Bardouin became the sole owner of the Distillerie de Lure. Until the end of the 1960s, he kept expanding the range of liqueurs (Génépi, Amandine, etc.)
A team of young people, including Alain Robert, succeeded Henri Bardouin. From that time, the real expansion of the company started with new products. Several ranges of products have been developed: aperitifs, fruits in alcohol and Marc Cordelier’s eau-de-vie. The marketing became regional, then national and finally even international.
The Distillerie de Lure became Distillerie de Haute Provence.
Creation of Carlton, the first sparkling peach flavored wine that met a huge success, is a trendy product in France and around the world.
This success led the Pernod-Ricard group to buy the Distillery de Haute Provence to produce and market more than 3,500,000 bottles.
Alain Robert bought the company leaving the Carlton brand to Pernod-Ricard. He renamed it Distilleries et Domaines de Provence. At that time, the company experienced a new start with the creation of Pastis Henri Bardouin. That same year, the distillery then had 14 employees.
1990 à nos jours :
The company experienced steady growth and refreshed its ranges of aperitifs and liqueurs. In these dynamic, new products emerged, most of which were created from local recipes.
- Pastis Henri Bardouin made up of more than 65 plants and spices became the reference in its category obtaining the first gold medal at the Concours Général Agricole (CGA) in 2008. It was quickly copied but not matched because of its specificity and remained the benchmark of high-end pastis. To this day, it is regularly rewarded by numerous French and international competitions, and was recently rewarded with the gold medal at the CGA 2020.
- The Absente and the Grande Absente. Absinthe has a long and fascinating history between 1797 and 1915, the date of its banning. Distilleries et Domaines de Provence was the first French company to re-manufacture absinthe in 1999. Its manufacture was authorized in 1988 under certain conditions, by following rigorous regulations. The latest in the range of absinthe products is Vermouth de Forcalquier, a wine-based aperitif.
- The range of liqueurs expanded with the Douce, a half-pear half-cognac liqueur.
- The very latest, Gin XII, totally hand-distilled from 12 plants and spices.
Since 2017, distillation has been carried out in custom copper and stainless-steel stills. These new stills offer much more freedom in the development of new recipes and a better regularity and consistency in terms of quality.
To this day, the company has 38 employees and has a turnover of €9,443,000, of which 44% is from export. The products are sold in 80 countries around the world.
A “Family” business in every sense of the word, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence has successfully managed to build a serious image with its customers and consumers.