From French cognac to Hungarian unicum, you’ll find Europe’s best distilleries here.
Everyone knows that France is full of vineyards, that Portugal is the place to try port and that Madeira is the birthplace of its namesake fortified wine.
But the abundance of local spirits deserves the same attention. From French cognac to Swiss absinthe, there’s no shortage of iconic spirits to sample, and spirits tourism is on the rise.
If you’re looking for a different getaway, here are some of the best distilleries on the continent.
Drink rum at Arehucas Distilleries, Gran Canaria
Rum may have closer ties to Caribbean islands like Barbados and Jamaica, but you don’t have to travel that far to taste it at its source.
Go to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islandswhere Destilerías Arehucas has been growing its own sugar cane since 1884. Now, the distillery offers guided tours and tastings that will teach you how the spirit is made.
Stop for a moment at Europe’s oldest rum-making cellar to see the signatures of famous actors, singers and sports stars scrawled on thousands of barrels.
Visits last about 50 minutes and cost 7 euros.
Cycle the absinthe route in Switzerland
This menacing green alcohol-proof liquor has spread throughout Europe, but there is no better place to try absinthe than in its birthplace: Swiss.
The Absinthe Route is dotted with distilleries, restaurants and museums dedicated to this absinthe-based alcoholic beverage. The best way to travel this 40km route is by train from Neuchâtel, or by bicycle if you are a moderate drinker.
The route passes through Couvet, where the spirit originated, which can be tasted at the Artemisia-Bugnon distillery. Next, cross the border to the historic town of Pontarlier, France, where you can visit the Pierre Guy family distillery, among many others.
Notes of anise and fennel seeds will pepper your route of intrigue or nausea, depending on your past experiences with the potent drink.
Try “Dutch Gin” in Holland
Do you like gin? Then you’ll love jenever, the spirit that inspired the British juniper-based drink.
It’s also based on botanicals and citrus berries, but adds malt to the mix for whiskey-like results.
You will find jenever distilleries all over Hollandwhere it originated, as well as in Belgium and some parts of Germany and France.
Try it at De Drie Fleschjes, which claims to be the oldest gin tasting house in Amsterdamor head to Dordrecht in western Holland to visit the Rutte distillery.
Ditch wine for cognac in western France
From armagnac to calvados, passing through pastis, France brimming with iconic spirits that rival its renowned wine scene.
Cognac is one of the most popular distilleries. After visiting big names like Hennessy and Rémy Martin (tours from 25 euros), take a historical tour of the royal Chateau de Cognac.
Next, leave the commune of Cognac and enter the undulating vineyards from the Charente region. Between November and March, you can see distilleries like Cognac Frapin and Maison Boinaud in action.
Learn the history of Hungarian herbal liqueur
The Hungarian national drink is ubiquitous in the dilapidated bars from Budapest, where you can also delve into its history at the Unicum House.
Part museum, part distillery, it tells the story of the Zwack family, who have been making the drink since 1790 using a secret formula of 40 herbs.
After viewing family photos, vintage posters and memorabilia, take a look behind the curtains of the distillery and winery. Here you can taste Unicum straight from the barrel.
Taken as an aperitif or digestif, the drink acquired its name after the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II tasted it in 1790 and declared: “Das ist ein Unikum” (this is unique, in German).
Guided tours with two tastings last approximately one hour and cost 3,000 HUF (8 euros) per person.
Enjoy après-ski schnapps in the Austrian Alps
The Austrian mountainsTirol They are known above all for skiing, but their brandy is one of the favorite drinks. Tyrol produces unusual varieties such as Meisterwurz, made from a herbaceous plant known for its healing properties, and Krautinger, made from turnip, which is only distilled in Wildschönau.
Along the brandy route Tyrolean you can also try more traditional varieties such as plum at JP-Feindestillerie Kössler in Stanz bei Landeck, or from apple to rowan at the Rochelt distillery in Fritzens.