“To God, Most Good, Most Great”: Benedictine Palace, Fecamp, France

Dear Mabel, 

I know that the only reason you’re interested in Fecamp is that Tony Parker played here.  But there’s so much more, Mabel, so much more.  This charming harbor town on the coast of Normandy has a rich medieval history and is home to the Benedictine Palace– one of the most extraordinary places I’ve visited.  Since Fecamp is so out-of-the-way, few Americans have touched soil here.  This made my train ride– terminating as it did at an ornate palace built in honor of God and liqueur– something of a pilgrimage.

The Benedictine story isn’t new.  Invented by monks in the  sixteenth century, secret recipe, resurrected after the French Revolution by Alexander Le Grand, 27 secret botanical ingredients.  Indispensable (Vieux Carre, Chrysanthemum).  I didn’t expect much from the visit to the palace… but when you’re standing inside the palace surrounded on all sides by the most ornate symbolic detail, you can’t help but think there’s something mystical and magical to Benedictine after all, and that shroud of secrecy doesn’t seem contrived– it seems like a tribute.

You can taste Benedictine anywhere, in any year, and it will taste the same (that 500 year-old recipe isn’t going anywhere).  I wasn’t expecting to taste anything new– I just wanted to see and feel the place.  But sometimes the best things come when you least expect them, and that’s exactly how I felt when I tasted Single-Cask Benedictine, only available at the disillery.

This stuff tastes how something secret and rare is supposed to taste; it’s the weathered ghost of the Benedictine I know and love.  There’s less honey, but more depth and spice.  Dark and deep, with toffee and dark fruit, and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.  Tasting the Single-Cask this way– deep inside the palace, where only a few could get at it– made me feel as though I were stealing some rare, precious antiquity. 


Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 5:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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