Still life: On-the-road with a trade of France past

Travelling distiller Sylvie Bergougnoux, with her apprentice Romain Du Four, in front of the portable alembic still that she has taken round the Puy-de-Dôme department every winter since taking over the travelling business from her father at the age of 16

We meet one of a rare, dying breed of travelling distillers – or bouilleur de cru – who are licensed to make moonshine from other people’s garden produce

There are few traditions in France that have passed totally under the tourist radar – especially those that involve food or alcohol.

The roving alembic still, one of the great travelling traditions of France for centuries, has managed it.

The still itself is hard to miss. It is a huge contraption sitting precariously on a trailer, like Heath Robinson’s version of a steam engine.

Long before Napoleonic times, peripatetic stills were common all over France.

These days, with supermarket aisles full of every spirit imaginable, there is little interest in DIY moonshine.

Add in concern over alcohol consumption, mixed with pressure from commercial distillers and the days of the mobile roadside distiller appear to be numbered.

Mrs Bergougnoux spends six months of the year on the road

Yet, early on a chilly morning, ...

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