Fougerolles (70 Saone, Rhone-Alpes) is situated at the north of the Haute-Saône, at the foot of the “balloon” of the Vosges southwest of Alsace, reserves for itself the title of Pays de la Cerise – mainly for the production of Kirsch, which is a clear pure brandy made from cherries – not to be confused with Cherry Brandy which is a sweetened, flavoured version of simple grape brandy.
Kirsch is made from pressing the fruit, adding the ground cherry stones and allowing it all to ferment. The stones add a characteristically bitter note to the spirit, and also contain minute quantities of cyanide! The liquid is then heated in a still to distill the alcoholic spirit and then aged for a short time in glass “bonbons” or steel or earthenware vats so that the spirit remains colourless.
Often used as to provide an additional punch to desserts, it can also be taken lightly chilled as a refreshing after-dinner tipple – but preferably in small quantities.
This is one of those lesser-known parts of France – not really on any of the main routes to anywhere, and the proximity of the Vosges mountains limits a speedy transit of the region. But it may well be worth visiting in early July for the annual Fete des Cerises which celebrates the beginning of the harvest – or in September there is an annual fair of Cherry Dougnuts (Foire aux Beignets de Cerises) and Kirsch tastings which sounds like fun. (held on 21 September in 2008)
For more info see http://www.otsi-fougerolles.net