Passing through the pretty town of Saumur? Visit Combier Distillery!
This 19th-century distillery is an institution in the region's gastronomy and "bien boire ". A repository of exceptional know-how, the establishment takes us to the heart of liqueur-making and its history. Read our article and dive into the secrets of Maison Combier.
Here are some useful tips to help you prepare for your visit and have a wonderful time!
BEFORE ALL OUR TIPS, OUR favorites
Our favorite car rental platform: DiscoverCars
Our unforgettable outdoor activity: Hot-air ballooning in the Loire Valley
This guide is completely independent, based on our experiences. We visited the region anonymously, making our own choices and paying our bills in full.
Why visit the Distillerie Combier in Saumur?
Is the distillery worth it? Our opinion:
Yes, Combier Distillery is well worth a visit. Didactic and dynamic, the tour of the site is rich in information and anecdotes. We learned some fascinating things about the history of Maison Combier, as well as about distillation techniques. A final tasting of the distillery's signature products rounds off the experience in style! It's one of the best things to do in Saumur.
What's the distillery famous for?
Distillerie Combier is renowned for its long history and innovation. It's one of the oldest in the Loire region. Recognized for the excellence of its elixirs, it was awarded the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant label in 2016. It's a mark of recognition from the French state, distinguishing companies with exceptional know-how.
Linked to a famous character, the distillery is also known for its 10-still room. The room's metal structure was designed by the engineers of Gustave Eiffel, the famous architect who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris!
Our favorite moments
We had a great time at the distillery. Here's what we particularly liked:
- the art of distillation: the visit is a plunge into the technique of distillation and alcohol production. A real initiation!
- tasting: we enjoyed savouring the elixirs whose secrets we now knew.
WHERE TO STAY IN Saumur
In the countryside around
Looking for a bit of peace and quiet, without straying too far from the city of Angers? Here's our suggestion:
See our reviews of the best hotels in Saumur (coming soon)
History in brief
The history of Distillerie Combier is punctuated by innovation and tradition!
- 1834: In Saumur, Jean-Baptiste Combier opened a confectionery and created the famous "Triple Sec" in his back room to candy chocolates and bonbons. This orange liqueur is still sold today by the distillery under the name of Original Combier.
- 1848: the distillery is built next to the town's Cavalry School.
- 1852: Jean-Baptiste Combier enters political life. A Republican at heart, he opposed the regime of Emperor Napoleon III. He paid the price and spent 3 years in prison. But there he met Dr. Raspail, a famous chemist and botanist, who inspired him to create the Combier Elixir.
- 1866: James Combier joins forces with his father. This is the creation of Combier Père et Fils.
- 1876: James Combier meets Gustave Eiffel while visiting the United States. The engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower draws up plans for the distillery.
- 1879: James Combier is the first mayor of Saumur to be elected by universal suffrage.
- 1920: Royal Combier is invented, a delicious blend of spices, orange and cognac.
- 2000: Combier Distillery is bought by Franck Choisne, who breathes new life into the factory, notably by developing the American market.
- 2010: Franck Choisne brings absinthe back into fashion. He succeeded in changing the 1988 decree and reintroducing fennel into the composition of this alcohol.
- 2016: the distillery is awarded the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) label.
- 2022: Manège Bossut is bought by Distillerie Combier. This early 20th century architectural masterpiece now houses raw product stocks, a bottling line and Combier elixirs awaiting shipment.
How to get there: Distillerie Combier, Saumur
Where is the distillery?
- Near downtown Saumur
- 48 rue Beaurepaire
- 3min walk from Musée de la Cavalerie and 20min from Château de Saumur
OUR TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN Loire
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars - one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a fairly compact car (many villages have narrowed the road).
- Think aboutfull insurance (parking in big cities is really tight).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
How to get there?
The distillery is mainly accessible by car. Take the A85 and then the D347 to reach the town and then the site. If you're arriving by train, it's a 30-minute walk from the station. Make it a walk! Take the opportunity to admire Millocheau Island and the Loire River. You can also cycle to the distillery and park in front of the store in the spaces provided.
Want to explore the Loire by bike? Read our article on the subject!
Distillerie Combier does not have its own parking lot. We recommend parking on the other side of Rue Beaurepaire, opposite the site. The first hour and a half is free with a parking disc. Parking on the same sidewalk is subject to a charge. Payment can be made online here.
If there are no spaces, go to the Chardonnet parking lot. Free of charge, it's a 2-minute walk from the distillery.
Useful tips: duration, schedules, eating...
Best time to visit
The Loire is a popular destination all year round, but particularly in summer and during school vacations. We recommend visiting the distillery in the morning, a time slot that often allows you to avoid the crowds.
Length of visit and main difficulties
It will take you between 30min and 1h to discover the distillery, its history, stills and elixirs. The site is accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Advice on how to visit
A visit to the Distillerie Combier begins at the front. The House's large red letters above the stone portal are a real eye-catcher!
After a visit to the boutique and an introduction to the history of the site, we were invited to follow the guide into the famous still room. The smells, colors and sounds transported us into the making of Combier elixirs. The guide complemented this sensory discovery with interesting explanations and anecdotes about the factory's past. We learned a lot!
Back at the boutique, a double tasting awaited us: with and without alcohol. We were lucky enough to taste some of the liqueurs we'd just discovered, as well as some tasty syrups. A treat for the taste buds!
A LITTLE MORE patience
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Schedules and rates
Here are the distillery opening hours:
- open Tuesday to Saturday
- closed on Sundays and Mondays
- access to the boutique from 10am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 7pm
- tour departures: 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The visit costs €6 and is free for under-18s.
It is only possible to visit the distillery via a guided tour (booking required). There are 3 per opening day, 1 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Click here for reservations and access to the amazing still room!
Discovering a distillery can make you thirsty, but also hungry! It's a good thing Saumur has a great selection of restaurants.
- In the city center, the bistronomic restaurant Masama will seduce you with its creative cuisine. Fresh, colorful dishes will surprise your taste buds!
- Just a few blocks away, we recommend Restaurant La Tonnelle for its warm atmosphere, sharing planks and wine list.
- Venture a little further afield to try Restaurant L'Essentiel. This convivial restaurant offers refined seasonal cuisine.
Are you travelling to the Loire Valley and looking for a treat? Let yourself be tempted by our tasty selection by reading our tips on the best restaurants in the region!
The art of distillation
The still room
The still room is the heart of the distillery. Its history will amaze you! In 1876, while James Combier was sailing to the United States to attend the Philadelphia World's Fair, he met Gustave Eiffel on the liner. The two men struck up a friendship, and the famous industrialist, who created the Tower that bears his name, drew up plans for the still room at Distillerie Combier. His engineers created the superb metal structure we have just seen!
Standing majestically in a large hall, you'll be impressed by the distillery's 10 stills. 8 of them date from 1848 and can hold up to 500l. Dating from 1901, the 2 other 1000l units are larger. Made entirely of copper, they do not retain odors and do not seem to be affected by the passage of time. We loved hearing their purring, but also smelling the delicious odors of this working distillery. The color of the materials, the reds of the copper and the impressive metal structure of the distillation system, blend harmoniously with the orange peels we were able to handle.
The alcohol manufacturing process
The production of elixirs, liqueurs or syrups requires above all a careful selection of raw materials. When we visited the site, we noticed that Distillerie Combier makes a point of it! She selects the best exotic products, such as green anise from Spain and bitter oranges from Haiti. It also sources local produce, cultivating the fruits and plants essential to its elixirs. The team also takes part in the harvesting of local rose petals and elderflowers. We smelled the fragrance of some of these exceptional products!
Next comes distillation. In the stills, the pre-prepared fruits and spices are macerated for 24 hours in a mixture of water and alcohol. The mixture then rises in temperature, creating steam. It rises in the goosenecks, the large, bird-neck-thin pipes we were able to admire, and then condenses, returning to its liquid form. The first 88-degree alcohol was then created. This heating core returns several times to the circuit and drops back down to 45 degrees. This highly concentrated liqueur is then blended with melted sugar to enhance the taste and reach the desired 40° alcohol content. Now it's time to enjoy!
A true benchmark in the world of French gastronomy, Distillerie Combier offers exceptional beverages. We discovered some of them during our visit. The original Combier triple sec is the company's flagship liqueur. Produced without interruption since 1834, this famous orange liqueur is the fruit of a unique know-how: triple distillation. The mixture of sweet and bitter oranges, water and sugar passes through the stills several times, 3 times to be exact. We found the result delicious! Royal Combier is another of the distillery's signature spirits. Combining sweet and bitter orange with spices, botanicals and cognac, the liqueur embodies the gentle madness of the 1920s and still contributes to the House's reputation.
The distillery also stands out for the refinement of its other compositions. Inspired by a meeting between Jean-Baptiste Combier and the famous Dr. Raspail, Élixir Combier is an excellent digestive, a blend of spices and aromatic plants. L'Entêté, an authentic absinthe, Meridor gin, the traditional Guignolet d'Anjou and delicious fruit syrups complete the list of the company's exceptional recipes.
A discovery tasting
The icing on the cake is a tasting to round off the visit and enhance theimmersive experience. Surrounded by products of excellence in the boutique, we tasted a selection of elixirs. A real discovery for the taste buds, this gustatory exploration allowed us to put flavors to what we had just learned. The Original Combier, both sweet and bitter, particularly seduced our palate. We also enjoyed Giffard's flowery, fruity syrups. Discover our products here.
Presented with the tasting, a recipe booklet for cocktails and cooking enriches the discovery. We immersed ourselves in the culinary possibilities offered by Combier products. Norwegian omelette with Original Combier, absinthe macaroons, Anis Colada and Amboka Espresso: plenty of ideas to inspire you!
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Frequently asked questions
What tourist attractions are close to Combier Distillery?
In the heart of the Pays de la Loire region and the town of Saumur, the distillery is close to many tourist attractions.
- The Cavalry Museum: 2 minutes from the distillery, the museum takes you behind the scenes of the battles in which the French Cavalry distinguished itself.
- The Château de Saumur: enjoy the magnificent panoramic view from the castle's heights, as well as its remarkable architecture.
- The Mushroom Museum: go underground and learn all there is to know about mushrooms in this troglodyte site!
- Château d'Ussé: you'll be amazed by this castle, which looks like something out of a fairy tale.
Are there any interesting anecdotes about Distillerie Combier?
Invented in 1920, Royal Combier has become the preferred spirit of the officers of the Cadre Noir, the Cavalry School just a stone's throw from the distillery. That's why the bottle's label features a squire riding a black horse, a tribute to these riders. This liqueur, particularly modern for its time, contributed to the great renown of the Distillerie Combier.
We were surprised to learn that the distillery was no slouch when it came to rights and equal pay in the 19th century. In 1896, the avant-garde company is said to have instituted equal pay for the men and women it employed. She also began granting them paid vacations.