Join us on a discovery tour and get access to exclusive distilleries in France, home to Europe’s most renowned premium vodka brands.
Open up your taste buds to refined, charming and elegant vodkas on a Wine Paths distillery tour. We will take you the best distilleries found in sophisticated French regions, and combine history with tasting experiences to remember.
France may seem an unlikely destination being outside of the ‘Vodka Belt’, but great vodka doesn’t have to come from Eastern Europe. There are many distilleries in France focused on producing spirits to the highest quality, and in the most refined way.
Our distillery tours will unlock a whole new world of tastings that go far beyond just wine. Explore this famous wine nation, where the vodka is as beautiful and unique as the grape varietals, and where the distilleries date back centuries.
France is better known for its wineries, with its sun-soaked regions perfect for growing wine grapes and its cultivated gastronomy creating a necessary demand for good wine. For enthusiasts, it’s also a popular destination for whisky tasting and brandy tours.
The distilleries producing French whisky include Glann ar Mor and Warenghem in Brittany, Guillon in the Champagne region, and Grallet-Dupic in Lorraine. The Brittany region is also known for producing their unique buckwheat whisky, made primarily from buckwheat grown in the local areas.
If you are looking for brandy and Cognac distilleries, there are two main regions to explore. The Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France, is known for producing a very distinct style of French brandy. And for Cognac purists, the region of Cognac is a must. Brandy can be made in distilleries all over the world, but Cognac can only be made in France.
Over the years, more and more Cognac producers have turned their skills to vodka and there are now a number of vodka distilleries located within the Cognac region. Some of the premium labels to hail from this part include Grey Goose and Ciroc. But there are vodka distilleries located in numerous areas, including the Gard and Bordeaux regions.
In terms of distilleries, the country’s history is steeped in the production of whisky and brandy, particularly Cognac brandy in the region of Cognac. The origins of French brandy go back to the 16th Century when the Dutch came over to purchase salt, wood and wine. However, shipping the wine back became difficult due to the long distance, and so they had to find a way to preserve it for the journey. They did this by distilling the wine and turning it into alcohol, and from this they created brandy.
French wine can actually be traced back to the 6th Century, making France one of the longest running producers on the planet. And this could explain why the French are such sophisticated manufacturers, with more wine connoisseurs and enotourism destinations that anywhere else.
The wineries and distilleries here are also intrinsically linked. While French whisky distilleries use the same methods and raw materials (grains) as Scotch whisky, Cognac is made with a blend of white grapes (such as Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard varietals), meaning the industries are intertwined with one another rather than operating in silos.
With so many well-regarded distilleries for whisky, brandy and Cognac, it was inevitable for distillery owners to expand their skills into other spirits such as gin and vodka. However, the popularity of these spirits is much more recent. Grey Goose, for instance, was developed in 1997 by Sidney Frank Importing Co (SFIC) as new product to appeal to the luxury American market. The company partnered with one of the finest Cellar Masters and Cognac producers in the country, François Thibault, and they began transferring his skills from Cognac to vodka.
On a distillery visit in France, you will get to experience the some of the finest spirits in Europe. The French approach distillation in the same way they approach their wine, with the strictest quality standards and using the best raw materials.
With Wine Paths, a visit to a top distillery would include an introduction and some information about the brand and its products, a tour around the premises and a look around the distillation chambers and factory, and perhaps a tasting session at the end. All distilleries are different and some may provide a mixology masterclass, or even allow you to meet the Master Blenders and flavor experts.
For premium French vodka brands, there may be a quick lesson on how to drink your vodka too. Over the years, there have been many different debates regarding the use of ice or freezing your vodka. A distillery tour is an opportunity to clear these questions up and ask the brands themselves on the best ways to taste.
There are a number of fantastic vodka distilleries in France, although not all of these are officially open to the public. The Cognac region is a good place to begin your journey, as many Cognac producers have transferred their skills from Cognac to vodka in recent years. Whether you get to visit a distillery or not, there are many ways you can sample the local vodka.
Cities such as Paris are also great for vodka tasting experiences, as you can try a range of French brands from different regions side by side. The French capital is also home to one of the industry’s most forward-thinking micro-distilleries, Distillerie de Paris, specializing in flavored vodka, brandy, rum and gin.
La Rouget de Lisle in the Jura department in Franche-Comté is both a brewery and a distillery, making it the ideal place to visit if you are also a beer enthusiast. It’s known for producing French Żubrówka, a version of the Polish vodka made with buffalo grass. The distillery uses flavors such as sweet woodruff, pine and elderberry to add a French twist to a classically Eastern European spirit.
Whilst not a distillery, you can also discover Le Logis Grey Goose, the home of Grey Goose vodka. Stay at this 17th century manor house which is the spiritual home of the premium brand and a place you can get truly immersed in its vodka. From a tour including the manufacturing process to tasting and making classes, there is nowhere quite like it to immerse yourself in this spirit.
Find out more about vodka tasting in France or our wine and gastronomy tours with our local travel expert.
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