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By Harriet Leigh, Head of Hospitality

What is an Eau de Vie?

On the auspicious occasion of the release of our Eau De Bee Honey Spirit, a question has arisen from a few corners: what is an Eau de Vie?

One of the few things commonly known about Eau de Vie is that it translates to “water of life”, which is similar to Russia's vodka “little water”, or the Scottish Gaelic’s version of whisky: Uisge Beatha, again meaning “water of life”. Even old Latin used 'aqua vitae' for distilled spirits. Essentially, as countries around the world took to distillation, the one thing they all agreed on is that this weird, spicy water was fundamental to a good life.

An Eau de Vie is traditionally an unaged, fruit-based spirit. If it is grape-based and spends a couple of years in oak, it comes out as a fully-fledged, permitted-to-vote brandy, Cognac being the most famous example. Some common unaged grape-based spirits around the world that you may have encountered are Pisco, Grappa, and even a few vodkas!

Within the non-grape fruit world, there are many different varieties. Because the historical roots are deep and wide, there is a complex nomenclature in this category of spirits. For example, throughout Alsace and Germany, Morello cherries produce Kirsch Vieux or Kirschwasser (cherry water). The Europeans are particularly proud of fruit-specific eau de vie regions, boasting spirits such as Poire Williams (made from pears), Calvados (apples), Framboise d’Alsace from raspberries - the list is extensive. For centuries people have been delighting in their local fruit abundance and preserving their flavours via distillation. Many of these are then often converted into liqueurs via the addition of sugar and the lowering of ABV. There is even a style of Eau de Vie de biere or Bierbrand, made from beer.

When Dave, our Master Distiller, first suggested Eau De Bee we hadn’t yet coined the name - he was literally describing a honey eau de vie. A fermented honey distilled spirit. The name came thanks to our brilliant Victorian Brand Ambassador, Paul Slater. And once the pun had been uttered it was impossible to get it back in the bottle. It did the job of describing the spirit perfectly. This isn’t a sweet honeyed gin, as some of our regulars might first assume, this is a bright and assertive spirit distilled from a single origin raw ingredient. Truly a water of life. A very appropriately titled, Eau de Bee.