Is there something to drink?Älgbert Elgson
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Ever heard of a drink called „BYRRH“? We don’t either. So we immediately went there to get an answer to the pressing question: Is there something to drink there?
During the tour, however, we were quickly informed that the drink should definitely be known. At least according to the likeable young student who had led us through the halls.
The beverage manufacturer was the first in France to really take care of its employees, even before the socialist government in France in the 1930s. The factory also has a superlative. There is the world’s largest wooden tub for the production of beverages with a capacity of 1,000,200 liters. The total storage volume of the warehouse is also enormous.
The subsequent tasting also clarified to us what “BYRRH” is all about. It is an alcoholic drink made from wine mixed with all kinds of spices.
The trail of history
The brothers Simon and Pallade Violet from Corsavy traveled the Roussillon plains as traveling traders and sold clothes, fabrics and wine. After a long period of traveling, they settled in Thuir and opened a shop that was entered in the commercial register on September 14, 1866. They started making drinks from wine with a few small barrels. These were soon exchanged for larger used drums and the triumphal march of their idea could begin. The drink „BYRRH“ was registered as a brand on February 10, 1873 by the two company founders. Simon Violet used his good knowledge of wine, which he has acquired in the course of his trading career, to create the unique recipe from Roussillon wines, flavored plant extracts and cinchona bark.
In the following years the business flourished, so it was decided to enlarge the wine cellar. In 1910 the company had 750 employees and an annual production of about 30 million liters of Byrrh. Additional cellars and branches were founded across France.
The old and architecturally beautiful industrial building is located in the center of Thuir. The entrance is located in the corner building with the tourist information and souvenir shop. The admission price for adults is € 5.00 and for children under 12 years € 2.50 (as of 2019). For the exact prices and opening times, please see the official website.
If required, audio guides are also issued. The guides, mostly students, are almost all multilingual, so you can also take a tour in English.
The tour starts with a film showing the history of the founding family, as well as the beverage and the company „BYRRH“. The film, shown in a concrete container that can hold 6,800 hectoliters of wine, provides the key elements of an amazing story. A reproduction of a storage room from the early 20th century reveals a number of objects that were used in the production of flavored wines, such as wine presses, cork machines or old bottling plants. In the annex, where 70 oak barrels rise like columns in a cathedral, you can discover and smell the contents of the drink: coffee, cinnamon, cocoa and bitter orange peel. The total capacity of the barrels in this hall is over 15 million liters: the largest cellar in the world!
A little further is the largest and most impressive oak tub in the world. Construction took fifteen years and the finished vat was first filled in 1951 and holds up to 1,000,200 liters. In the golden years, Byrrh’s annual production was over 30 million liters and 350,000 customers, wholesalers and retailers were supplied worldwide.
At the end of the tour, everyone is served several samples of the drink from a tasting kiosk from 1891. This kiosk was used at all world exhibitions from Paris to Moscow to increase Byrrh’s popularity.
How to get there?
The small town of Thuir is about 15 kilometers from Perpignan. The beverage manufacturer’s factory is located in the middle of town, but has a free visitor parking lot nearby. From there it is only a few steps to the entrance. There is also a private caravan park right next to it.
We knew neither the drink nor the story behind it. The whole trip was not actually planned by us and was rather spontaneous. In retrospect, we would definitely have regretted not having visited „Caves Byrrh“, as it is a regional testimony to history and a certain part of the culture of the people. We also got to know a new drink that, with its sweet-tart taste, also appealed to our taste buds.
Anyone who is already close to Perpignan should take a side trip to Thuir and try this drink.