Naturally I had to go and see for myself the mobile still in Léran. The directions were straightforward enough: walk out of the village over the bridge towards the Chateau, then take the footpath along the left river bank, cross over the next bridge and you should be able to see it. I must confess I did not have a clear idea of what a mobile distillery actually looks like, but correctly guessed that it was the metal shack on wheels surrounded by logs and fermenting barrels of fruit that was belching out smoke. Évidemment! And what a curiousity it is.
Monsieur Maury is the third generation of Maury distillers. His father and grandfather before him supplied local villagers with rather strong hooch distilled from their own fruit.
Monsieur Maury popped the lid off a blue barrel to show us the fermenting plums which were almost ready to put into the wood-fired still. He explained that the sugar in the fruit starts to turn to alcohol during the fermentation process. The fermented fruit is then placed into the still above the wood burner and the distilling process cunningly concentrates the alcohol. The innocent looking clear liquid that was dripping very, very slowly into the white enamel bucket you can see above (just to the left of the large blue barrel) is usually in the region of 84 – 86 percent proof.
“Goutez un peu”, he suggested, proffering a tiny brass spoonful of today’s moonshine.
Obviously in the interests of research I agreed. And WOW was it strong.
“only 84 per cent proof?”, I spluttered, struggling for breath and wondering if my liver would ever forgive me for this latest atrocity.
“C’est pas si fort”, laughed Monsieur Maury
So this is all the kit you’ll need for the mother of all home-brew. I can see a possible alternative use for our old trailer, a couple of accro props and a bucket…
This mobile still was in Léran for nearly 2 weeks before moving on to another Ariege village. Maybe next year when Monsieur Maury’s still is in our locality I’ll have tired of making fruit jam and compote and will have sufficient left-over fruit to transform into firewater. Better start to rest my liver in preparation.