Citadelle Gin

Emperor of Austria

Emperor or thief?
Joseph the second of Austria
visits the distillery in 1780


Smuggling, espionage and thievery seemed to surround the Citadelle genever distillery in the fort city named Dunkirk. When English ships were not sailing away from the distillery with smuggled casks of genever, heads of state were coming to visit under the guise of seeing the beautiful port town. In reality, they were there on an espionage mission.

In 1780, records show that Joseph the Second, the emperor of Austria (and Marie Antoinette’s brother – small world, even back then), was one such visitor. He had heard of the success of the distillery at Dunkirk and wanted to introduce genever-distilling in Austria. He came to the distillery incognito, or so he thought, to study the distillery and its operation.

But Carpeau and Stival, the distillery owners, were alerted to his visit and instead of refusing him at the front door, invited him in and gave him all the deference and respect due a man of his rank. And they gave him a full VIP tour to boot!

In the 18th century, at the time of Joseph the Second’s visit, knowledge of distillation was very proprietary and Carpeau and Stival had the King of France’s warrant to operate their distillery and to distill genever in a manner exclusive to them. And unlike today, where visitors are encouraged and Visitor’s Centers and tours are common at distilleries around the world, in 1780 Joseph’s visit was pure espionage. Records do not indicate that Emperor Joseph created a distillery in Austria after his visit. Carpeau and Stival did not give him the full VIP tour after all…

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