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Magical Benedictine Liqueur: Alchemy turned Alcohol + Our Visit to the Bénédictine Palace

It is no secret that monks and monasteries across Europe had a talent for creating some of the best alcoholic beverages since the Middle Ages, from beer and wine to brandy and liqueur. Elixirs or ‘holy spirits’ were initially based on medicinal plants and spices.

The monks kept impeccable records of their recipes and worked systematically to improve the quality of their spirits. They believed that since they worked for God, a sub-par quality beverage would be a grave offense. (You and me both, brother!)

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Fecamp France Benedictine Palace
Benedictine Palace / Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp

One of those distilled beverages is Bénédictine Liqueur, an ancestral secret recipe hailing from the Abbey of The Trinity of Fécamp dating back to the 16th century. This old herbal liqueur with 27 herbs and spices (try not to say that with a Colonel Sanders voice, I dare you!) has a unique honey-sweetened spicy taste that is hard to recreate or substitute with another spirit.

Dom Benedictine Liqueur

The origins of Bénédictine liqueur are somewhat hazy. Some say the liqueur was distilled by a Bénédictine monk, herbal, and chemist, Dom Bernardo Vincelli back in 1510. In the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, the Benedictine monks created this liqueur with a secret recipe containing a blend of herbs, local medicinal plants, and oriental spices sweetened with honey.

The beverage was known as an elixir that was intended to revitalize old monks. The distillery ran smoothly until the French Revolution when it was shut down. During the chaos of the Revolution, the recipe went missing until it was found once again some 300 years later.

Fecamp France Benedictine Palace Tasting Herbal Liqueur

The recipe was discovered by a Norman wine merchant, Alexandre Le Grand in 1863 who revived the liqueur and started producing it in large quantities. He built a large distillery, Palais Bénédictine, where the liqueur is still made today.

While this seems to be the widely accepted origin story, some others believe that Le Grand developed the herbal liqueur with the help of a local chemist and ancient medicinal recipes passed down by his grandparents. For marketing purposes, he attached the story of monks brewing this liqueur in the Abbey of Fécamp until the French Revolution.

To introduce the liqueur, Le Grand ordered a special green glass bottle. He also obtained the right to use the name and the coat of arms of the Abbey of Fécamp from the Superior of the Benedictine Order in Rome. He added the letters “D.O.M” (Deo Optimo Maximo), the abbreviation used by the Benedictine Order in their documents. The words are a great way to remind the users of the liqueur’s origin.

The Benedictine Liqueur Recipe

The recipe for Bénédictine Liqueur is a closely guarded secret formula that is known to only three people at any given time. There are only three existing copies of the recipe kept safely in different locations. What we do know is that the technique uses 27 herbs and spices from around the world, carefully selected for the balance they strike in the elixir.

The secret chemistry of the ingredients is what gives the liqueur its unique taste and smell. To keep the formula under lock and key, only a select few ingredients are revealed to the public. Juniper, thyme, vanilla, coriander, myrrh, hyssop, saffron, mace, fir cones, aloe, arnica, lemon balm, and angelica roots are just some herbs used in the process.

During our tour of the Bénédictine Palace, we got to smell a lot of the herbs and spices individually and there are ones that I was completely unaware of, like myrrh, that smelled wonderful.


The 27 ingredients are divided into four groups where each group is combined with neutral spirits and slowly distilled in original copper pots. This process produces four distillates known as esprits which are left to age in oak barrels made by the best French coopers.

After eight months of aging, the esprits are combined with honey and saffron to give them a rich texture and a special taste that balances the ingredients. The blend is double-heated to seal the flavor, and the mixture is aged again for four months in oak tanks, after which it is filtered and bottled for sale.

What does D.O.M. Bénédictine Liqueur Taste like?

The best feature of the Bénédictine Liqueur is that it cannot be substituted with any other spirit, thanks to its herbal spicy-sweet taste. None of the 27 ingredients used in the recipe dominate the spirit and neither do they make it taste like a regular herbal liqueur. Rather, Bénédictine has a sweet-honey flavor with accents of holiday spices and herbal tones with nuances of stone fruits.

Types of Bénédictine Liqueur

The spirit started out as a single-bottle brand but over the years has started offering two more varieties.

B&B Bénédictine

The B&B Bénédictine was inspired by a popular cocktail. During US Prohibition, New York City’s Club 21 invented a cocktail that was a blend of brandy and Bénédictine, known as B&B. The cocktail became such a hit that the liqueur company decided to make a pre-mixed version with French brandy and Bénédictine. It is considered to be the first ready-to-drink cocktail that can also be mixed with other cocktails.

Bénédictine Single Cask

Bénédictine Single Cask was released in 1984 and is similar to B&B Bénédictine. It is a mix of French brandy and Bénédictine liqueur aged in Limousin oak casks for three months. The result is a very impressive liqueur but it is only found at the French distillery in Fécamp. I had the pleasure of sampling it, and it was my favorite!

Visiting the Bénédictine Palace

Le Grand needed a large place to brew his liqueur, so he decided to set up a palace with a built-in factory to house his production and to show off the grand spirit. The Palace is a gorgeous half-Gothic, half-Renaissance venue that illustrates the ancient collections of books and art pieces of Le Grand.

There is beautiful stained glass window throughout the palace. Even if you aren't interested in all the religious artifacts, the windows are worth a long gaze.

Fecamp France Benedictine Palace Inside

I love the part of the museum that displays all of the vintage advertisements. The marketer in me loves that. And the Palace also houses a Hall of Counterfeits where the brand showcases the fake bottles and labels that were reproduced by infringing on their intellectual property.

Visitors can take a tour of the cellars, the distillery, and the art rooms, and also enjoy a unique tasting experience in the Palace. Which is exactly what Mr. Misadventures and I did. The shortest tour lasts 45 minutes with other tours going up to 2 hours. It is the only way to do a tasting which takes place at the end of the tour.

Attached to the palace is a gorgeous bar and restaurant called the Bar La Verrière where you can also taste cocktails and food created to enhance the liqueur.

Using Bénédictine Liqueur

This cognac-based liqueur makes for a great companion for several cocktails. A single ice cube is enough to bring out the real taste of the liqueur. Bénédictine has a unique herbal taste and therefore should be used prudently, especially if you’re a newbie.

The sweetness can be quite overpowering, so it’s best to think of it as an aperitif watered down with other beverages. Its complex notes allow it to pair well with other dark spirits as well as old-fashioned citrus and tea beverages.

Fecamp France Benedictine Palace Andi Hug a Bottle of Benedictine

Where to Buy Bénédictine Liqueur in the U.S.

A few Bénédictine Liqueur cocktail recipes

The region of Normandy is full of wonder…and alcohol! If Bénédictine liqueur is not your style, consider French cider or Calvados, two additional golden liqueurs that are magical!

How about you? Have you ever heard of Bénédictine liqueur? Have you ever tried it? Do tell!

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  1. This place sounds amazing! I’m not a brandy or whiskey drinker AT ALL, but these recipes actually have me feeling curious to try a sip. Plus the museum looked stunning! I wish I could see it for myself! Thanks do much for sharing!

  2. I don’t drink a lot, but I’d still go to this because the area is absolutely gorgeous! I would take so many photos.

  3. The monks are great at making alcohol. These sounds delicious, I do love to try different spirits. It looks so beautiful there, it must have been lovely to walk around.

  4. Wow! This is a really amazing and cool place to visit! Can’t wait to go here thanks for sharing this with us