Salamandre Plum & Pear Brandies Swell de Spirits

These fruit-based eaux-de-vie, whilst less prevalent than grape-based brandies, were once popular but have since fallen out of favour. It’s unfortunate as they offer unique and flavourful spirits. In France, fruit eaux-de-vie represented only 0.3% of the total alcohol value in large retailers and a mere 0.2% in the trade network (bars, hotels, and restaurants) in 2022, with these numbers declining compared to previous years. Three to four decades ago, a 70 cl bottle of fruit brandy was primarily consumed directly after meals, but today, it’s more commonly used in gastronomy, accounting for 70% of its consumption, while direct tasting comprises the remaining 30%. There has been a significant decline in fruit brandy consumption during the 1990s and the 2010s, a product once associated with our great-grandparents. The rise of whisky in the market has shifted preferences and emphasised a desire to explore alternative spirits. This change reflects a generational shift. Nevertheless, there are still distilleries producing these fruit brandies. We will be tasting a plum brandy and a pear brandy from the Salamandre distillery, both bottled by Swell de Spirits, from which we recently reviewed two whiskies.

La Salamandre Eau-de-vie de Prune 1999 Swell de Spirits Review

Distilled in 1999 at La Salamandre Distillery located in Sarlat, nestled within the Périgord region, this unique eau-de-vie was then aged for 25 years in French oak barrels. It was bottled in December 2023 by Swell de Spirits in their Field Trip series, and just 100 bottles were produced. A few of them are still available at about €168 for a 50 cl bottle.

Salamandre Eau-de-vie de Prune (Plum brandy) 1999 Swell de Spirits




Neat: The aroma is dominated by notes of dried plum, with an emphasis on its rich, concentrated essence. But it’s more complex than just that, with the contribution of herbaceous tones of dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano. There’s also a subtle hint of acridity reminiscent of grape must, accompanied by undertones of sandalwood and cedar essence.


Neat: The palate opens with a blend of plum juice and woody undertones, followed by elusive sweet notes that are challenging to pinpoint. Menthol and aniseed flavours emerge, accompanied by hints of liquorice root and earthy nuances reminiscent of undergrowth. There’s an intriguing hint of pastis-like character, evoking notions of fennel. Despite its 43% ABV, it offers a satisfying mouthfeel.


The finish begins with prominent pastis-like notes that linger briefly before transitioning to a blend of dried plums and herbaceous tones, accompanied by subtle woody undertones. It’s a medium-short finish overall.


I find myself pleasantly surprised by this eau-de-vie; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. While I can’t say I love it, there’s something intriguing and captivating about its uniqueness. I’m particularly drawn to its unexpected and amusing pastis notes. However, without sufficient points of comparison, I hesitate to give it a rating. Nevertheless, I believe I quite enjoyed it!

Rating: – /10

La Salamandre Eau-de-vie de Poire Swell de Spirits Review

La Salamandre Distillery also distilled this Pear William eau-de-vie in 2023. Bottled at 49% ABV in December of the same year by Swell de Spirits in their Wild Nature Series, the production yielded a limited quantity of 300 bottles, with some still available at some retailers between €51 and €58 for a 50 cl bottle.

Salamandre Eau-de-vie de Poire (pear brandy) Swell de Spirits




Neat: Undoubtedly, it exudes the unmistakeable aroma of pear brandy, with an abundance of slightly sour pear notes and hints of pear skin dominating the bouquet, leaving little room for other scents to emerge.

With water: Adding 3 and 6 drops of water to 1.5 cl of pear eau-de-vie yields a similar aroma profile, with the sour pear notes still prevailing and masking (at least for me) any additional nuances.


Neat: Once again, the palate unmistakeably identifies this as a pear brandy. It presents sour and sweet pear flavours, accompanied by the texture of crushed pear skin and subtle hints of menthol. In the background, there’s a faint note reminiscent of dentist moulding paste, alongside delicate hints of nasturtium petals.

With water: Adding 3 drops of water to 1.5 cl of pear eau-de-vie maintains the pear-centric flavour profile. However, after three additional drops, a peppery quality becomes more pronounced.


Notes of pear and nasturtium petals extend for a considerable duration.


I’m feeling a bit embarrassed about the simplicity of my tasting notes. It seems I lack sufficient experience with non-grape brandies. However, what you can gather from this admittedly unhelpful review is that whilst I can’t confidently assess whether this pear eau-de-vie is exceptional or not, I did thoroughly enjoy it nonetheless.

Rating: -/10

Samples of these Salamandre Plum & Pear Brandies were provided by Swell de Spirits, but that does not prevent me from saying what I think. Thanks a lot Mika & Alric!

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