Captured Fragrance: G.E. Massenez Poire-Williams Prisonnière, An Unexpected Elegance from European Alchemical Traditions

I first encountered French Pear Brandy back in 1994.  It was served to me slipped into chamomile tea as someone’s grandmother’s secret vice. As I held this gently steaming cup of tea, the fragrance wisping up was a pure headiness of floral fruity perfection of a fresh-cut pear; ripe, warm, its pear blossom scent still discernible and filling my whole mind and mouth.

It was sublime.

This  first encounter was a Williams pear eau-de-vie from French distillers, G. E. Massenez. It was enchanting. The pear variety used is known as Williams’ bon chrétien in Europe and as the Bartlett pear in the US, Canada, and Australia.  

Eau-de-vie is French for “water for life.” Eau-de-vie is historically significant to European drinking culture and is the name for the category of distilled, clear, colorless fruit brandys.

Born from the European Middle Ages, distillation remains true to the art and science of alchemy.  This eau-de-vie, or “Water of Life” came into being for the single intent to discover, isolate and produce the concentrated essence—the pure heart, the soul—of one particular fruit. In this case, the Williams Pear.

For many years I kept a bottle of G.E. Massenez Poire-William Brandy, serving it after dinner as a palate cleanser or simply chilled for evenings. It also found its way into cake recipes, braising liquid for pork, deglazing pans of sauteed rosemary chicken, as well as various hot teas.

Now…G. E. Massenez has improved upon perfection with G.E. Massenez Poire-Williams Prisonnière.  This is a gift-worthy presentation. Empty bottles are hung on trees and the young fruit bud is then made to grow inside each bottle with a whole pear imprisoned inside. With this visual gift is the intensified flavor of fresh pear.  

There’s no loss of flavor over form. This dramatic and novel gift containing a most excellent spirit that does not disappoint with its showy presentation. Quality and drama are in alliance with this pear-shaped bottle from G.E. Massenez Poire-Williams Prisonnière.

This clear pear brandy has a bold, fresh-cut pear essence on the nose and palate, is slightly sweet, and finishes with a long, lingering pear flavor with just a flicker of alcohol heat. It’s juicy and mouthwatering with just a subtle hint of vanilla.  

Traditionally, Williams pear brandy would make a lovely dessert accompaniment or after-dinner sip.  I also recommend it slipped into chamomile tea. It’s pricey, but oh so worth it!

For your library of spirits, and as you continue to educate your palate, G.E. Massenez Poire-Williams Prisonnière is definitely a must try.


Appellation: France

Rating: 98 (Wine Enthusiast)

Alcohol: 40%

Bottle Size: 750 ml

Category: Fruit Brandy

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