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Wambrechies Gin Distillery, nr. Lille

The product is aged and blended before bottling in traditional pottery jars.

19th century tasting room
Wambrechies Distillery on R.Deule
19th century postcard shows Wambrechies Distillery on the banks of the River Deûle.

Nearby: vintage trams run along the river bank.

Business opportunities and the Napoleonic Wars...
In 1789, echoing the French Revolution, what is now Belgium rose up against Austrian rule. Businessman Guillaume-François Claeyssens fled to Lille, bought an old watermill on the River Deûle, and converted it to crush oil-seeds.

After Napoleon's defeat, foreign troops occupied the North for 3 years, and the emigré aristocrats returned. The Claeyssens family saw there would be more profit in alcohol., and turned their oil-mill into a distillery to make the local "genever" gin.

Pure water and canal transport
At Wambrechies they had the River Deûle canal to bring in grain supplies cheaply; the mill's machinery to crush the rye and barley grain mix; and (most important for gin) sweet-tasting pure water from a 30 metre deep well.

Unique machinery from 1817
A German engineer friend of Claeyssens, Henri LENSSEN, designed a largely automatic system of machines to prepare the ingredients, distill the gin, and pour it into oak casks for storage. The waste left-overs were sold to local farms for cattle-feed. The distillery opened in 1817, and you can still see this 200-year-old process at work today - now preserved as an historic monument.

Little has changed, apart from the conversion to steam power which was part of a big expansion in 1850.

More about genever gin and its place in the life of the North in "Gin".

The distillery bought a steam engine in 1850 to help meet the booming demand for gin from the new industrial and mining towns of the North.

Wambrechies Distillery

Tours of the distillery, with explanations of how the gin is distilled, aged in oak barrels and then bottled - are followed by the opportunity to taste a sample the appealing unique flavour of the heady 49% proof spirit (by volume).
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Riverside Trams

"Genever" gin

Background information

...A must for the spirit lovers.... Send in a review
Reviewer - Carl Mathys
Location: Distillerie Claeyssens, 1 rue de la Distillerie, 59118 WAMBRECHIES
Directions: From A25 Dunquerque-Lille autoroute, take exit 28 to Lille.
At Lomme-Englos, follow RN352 (exit 7) to Tourcoing-Gand.
Take exit 10 Wambrechies-Vent de Bise, to the town centre (via rue de Marquette).
Turn left at the traffic lights (rue du Pont-Levis).
Turn right down the bridge across the River Deûle, and into the visitors' car park.
Rough guide to opening: Tours on Tues, Wed, Thurs: 11.00 and 15.00; Sat: 16.30; Sun: 15.00 and 16.30. For group visits, other times on request. Booking essential for 15+ people.
Warehouse open Mon-Fri 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00; also at weekends as above.
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 20 14 91 91 - fax : 00 33
E-mail : [email protected]  

Web link
See the distillery's website for more details, and for information about tour packages. The possibilities include:

  • - cruises by barge on the River Deûle,
  • - "discovering the smugglers' path" with a visit to the tobacco museum in Wervik across the border in Belgium;
  • - combined visits to the Heineken brewery in Mons;
  • - also lunch, snacks, or dinner, and evening entertainments.

See the Distillery's web site:




River Trips to the distillery © Copyright 2000 Invicta Media. Last updated 3rd February 2000