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Waters of Life Flow at Manguin Distillery

It’s not apparent at first what’s taking place in the lush, green orchard. As far as you can see, glass bottles hang from the trees. But once you see the sign for Manguin Distillery, it all makes a bit more sense. It’s spring, and this is the home of Poire Williams Eau de Vie.

In the middle of the Rhone River just beyond the walls of Avignon, France’s Palace of the Popes is the Île de la Barthelasse, home to Manguin Distillery. Centuries ago, the island was connected to the mainland by Avignon’s famous bridge, which now extends only part-way across the water.

Now, the island is a popular respite from all the activity of Avignon thanks to its open spaces and bike trails. On one of these plots of land in the 1940s, Claude Manguin (son of Fauvist painter Henri Manguin) started an orchard full of Poire William (Bartlett) pears and peaches – some of the very fruits that are now imprisoned on the branches.

Brandy fermentation tanks
Fermentation tanks

Every spring, Manguin Distillery puts over 1000 of their famous pears in “jail” – the bottles and magnums in which they sell their famous pear brandy – allowing the fruits to mature directly in the bottle. While the imprisonment is certainly the most visually interesting part of the process, it’s only one step in producing the brandy that the distillery is most known for.

Stills for eau de vie and liqueurs
The stills where most of the products start out

A brief tour around the distillery gives visitors a glimpse into where the alcohol is made. The fermentation tanks, stills, and even the bottling process are all on display.

Holding tanks for spirits and liqueurs
Holding tanks

Visitors can get insight into the production of not only Poire Williams but the range of other brandies and liqueurs the distillery is known for. In fact, the owners are working with master distiller Philippe Manguin (Claude’s grandson) on expanding the product line with 11 new libations, including a delicious clementine-flavored liqueur, a Caraxès amber rum infused with pear brandy, and the “pure heart” of the Poire Williams distillation n°47. I walked away with a bottle of La Perine, a liqueur similar to Poire Williams but sweeter and with a slightly lower alcohol content (and price tag).

Crate of glass bottles for cherry brandy
Cherry brandy waiting to be shipped

The tour is followed by an opportunity to taste a selection of the products and time to browse the bright showcases of products. Since Manguin Distillery is only a five-person operation, it’s highly likely that you’ll also have time to chat with one of the English-speaking owners about their passion for the products and artistry between these walls.

Bottled Poire Williams Eau de Vie at Manguin Distillery
The finished Poire Williams Eau de Vie

Visiting Manguin Distillery

Location: 784 Chemin des Poiriers, Avignon, France (Note: My GPS sent me straight through the heart of Avignon, which I was happy to survive. You may want to research ahead of time whether there is an alternate route)

Shop hours: The shop at Manguin Distillery is open Monday through Friday 10am-12pm and 2pm-5pm and on Saturdays 10am-12pm and 3pm-6pm

Tours take place every Saturday at 11am. Though the tour is in French, there is an English pamphlet available that describes the particulars of the distillation and production process. My guide, one of the owners, spoke perfect English and was happy to answer questions.

Bottles of liqueurs on shelves at Manguin Distillery in Avignon, France
The shop at Manguin Distillery

Have you visited a distillery while traveling? Would you?

A visit to Manguin Distillery in Avignon, France

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Mary Farrior

Saturday 11th of April 2020

We have visited this place, were given a personal tour by the distiller and sampled the pear brandy. We bought several bottles and brought them home. Now, we would like to purchase more. Do you have information on how we could buy it online?

Laura Longwell

Sunday 12th of April 2020

Depending on where you live and your state laws, you might be able to order Manguin products online or your local liquor store might be able to help. I would suggest doing a search for the exact product you're looking for and hopefully you can find something that will ship to you.


Monday 14th of September 2015

So interesting. I love the opportunity to chat with the real-deal folks, as you mention here. A small & passionate staff makes for a wonderful tour/tasting experience.

Pears in Jail!


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