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The Legend

The Distiller

Star anise soap

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This story takes place in 1922, in the Township of Potton, along the US border. In those days, Émilien Vallée, a farmer by trade but mostly an inveterate drinker, found himself wrestling with prohibition. To serious drinkers, prohibition was quite a blow – alcohol was very hard to find on the shelves of local general stores. Émilien had run dry, so he decided to make his own moonshine. He called it his “stave juice,” and for good reason. His recipe called for ageing cheap alcohol in old oak whiskey barrels. The concoction sold like hotcakes on the black market. Émilien’s bootleg business flourished so rapidly that he sold his calves, cows and pigs to invest in it. Even Americans were crossing the border to buy the heady liquor made by the man they called Rednose.

Before long, he had run short of barrels. He rushed to the Port of Montreal to buy a shipment recently arrived from Europe. Upon his return, he worked feverishly to remove the bungs to add his 45% alcohol, but much to his surprise, the smell of liquorice wafted out of the bung holes. With orders backed up, Émilien had no choice but to use the new barrels, despite the fragrance of star anise. He called his new brew “Le pique-nez,” unaware that by using the liquorice barrels, he had invented an anise liqueur. Everyone who tried it revelled in its unique taste. And of course, when it came to swigging down his amber elixir, Émilien left no quarter – a taste-tester’s job was never done!

His reputation spread so far and wide that when prohibition was repealed, he proudly – and legally – bore the title of Liquorist.

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