Gaetan Picon (1809-1882, born in Genoa then part of the Ligurian Republic annexed by France in 1805) formulated this legendary amer (bitter) after a bout with malaria during his time in the French army when his regiment was deployed in the Algerian colonies. Supposedly recreated from his grandmother’s recipe he accredited much of his recuperation from the disease to this tonic and it grew in popularity with his fellow servicemen afflicted by the same illness.
Essentially the amer was a distillate of macerated Algerian orange later infused with a proprietary blend of botanicals including gentian root and chincona bark. In 1840 he opened his first production facility in the French Algerian town of Philippeville, now the city of Skikda, and produced it under the name of Amer Africain. By 1862, even with the addition of three smaller distilleries, Gaetan was no where near meeting market demand especially after his amer won major awards at the Universal Exposition in London of the same year. Gaetan moved to Marseille in 1872 and opened a new and larger facility, rebranding his product as Amer Picon. While he died in 1882 the success of Amer Picon continued under the leadership of his son and even opened additional branches of production and management in the cities of Bordeaux, Rouen, Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt and Germany.
Amer Picon has undergone a myriad of iterations over its now 175 plus year history. Like many macerated spirits that saw worldwide popularity ABV and ingredients varied from market to market, being reduced in steps from 39% till 21% This bottle showcases how the spirit was originally conceived by Gaetan Picon and was manufactured at their first commercial distillery in Marseille under the control and supervision of his surviving family. During the 1970’s the product was more or less streamlined to a universal 25% ABV, although a small portion of 21% bottles remained available till 1989. That same year Diageo took over controll of the company and their first move was to further reduce Amer Picon to the 18% version we still know today.
In 1995 Amer Picon 18% was discontinued; production was limited to 18% versions of ‘Amer Club’, containing Amer mixed with white wine, and ‘Biere’, which first appeared on the market in 1967.