Rumor has it that one day in the 1860s, successful wine dealer Alexandre Le Grand was lounging in his library when a slip of paper fell out of the book he was reading.
This simple slip of paper held the recipe that would ultimately change the course of his life. It was said to be from the pen of Dom Bernardo Vincelli, 15thC Alchemist/Mixologist, intent on finding the elixir of eternal life.
Through trying and testing, Dom Vincelli developed the perfect combination of twenty-seven herbs and spices. The world came to hear of its restorative properties and everyone wanted a sip. That was until the nasty French Revolution ruined it for everyone and production was cancelled.
Fast-forward 100 years and Alexandre Le Grand picked up the baton Bernardo dropped and grew Béneédictine to what it is today.
He had the foresight to understand that people would one day journey from far and wide to discover how this magical elixir was made. Thus, he built the Palais Benedictine with the intent to house its distillery, showroom, museum, and, now, tasting room and café.
Visits to the Palais are a must when in Normandy. Alexandre Le Grand’s brilliance as a marketer shines through every artifact in the museum. He even kept the first still that produced the first drop.
Having had the smarts to copyright not only the recipe, but also the logo and bottle, Le Grand spent a lifetime successfully suing anyone who attempted to steal a bit of the brand’s glory. An entire wall of the museum is filled with Benedictine copies from all over the world.
Alexandre Le Grand also worked with the most popular artists of the time to create promotional material to further the Benedictine success.
Ads appeared in the paper extolling its virtues! The cartoon above shows one gentleman who has imbibed a bit too much absinthe juxtaposed with one who has sipped Benedictine. From the looks of the two of them, Benedictine is the only way to go!
After the tour, we enjoyed a masterclass given by Marc Jean, the most famous mixologist of Normandy and bartender at the famed Hôtel Normandy Barrière. He helped conceive the entire mixology program and still teaches anyone who books a class.
Not only do you taste, but you have a few Benedictine recipes under your belt to take home and serve to your guests when at home.
Rumors or none, the fact is that Alexandre Le Grand built himself an empire on the twenty –seven herbs and spices that might have been in the recipe, that he may or may not have found on that day in the 1860s.