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Beech Leaf Noyau

VegetarianVeganDairy FreeGluten Free

This sweet, nutty, gin-based liqueur can be drunk just three weeks after preparation – though if you can manage to leave it for longer you will be rewarded with an even deeper, more rounded flavour. You’ll need a wide-necked jar with an airtight lid of at least 750ml capacity (or use several smaller ones) and two empty 700ml bottles (one of which could be the bottle the gin comes in).

The name ‘noyau’ comes from the French word for the stones of fruits such as peaches or apricots, which were used to make almond-flavoured liqueurs known as ‘crème de noyau’. This version, using newly emerged beech leaves, is said to originate with the bodgers (forest woodworkers) of the Chiltern hills in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Serve the chilled noyau neat or over ice.

Makes : 1.4 litres
Prep : 20 minutes plus 3 weeks steeping
Cook :
  • Young, tender, translucent beech leaves, enough to fill your jars
  • 1 × 700ml bottle gin
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 350ml brandy


  1. Loosely pack beech leaves into your jar(s), and pour in the gin. Ensure all of the leaves are immersed – use the handle of a clean wooden spoon to push them down if necessary, and remove any that don’t stay submerged. Put the lids on the jars, make a note of the date of bottling, and store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks.
  2. Strain the infused gin through a sieve into a jug or bowl, allowing the leaves to drip as much gin as possible before you discard them.
  3. In a separate jug, mix the caster sugar with 350ml warm water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Leave to cool. Add the brandy and cooled sugar water to the gin, mix well and pour into two sterilised 700ml bottles.
  4. You can either drink the noyau immediately, or leave it to mature for another month or so.


Recipe by Wild Food UK; development and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK


43 comments for Beech Leaf Noyau

  1. Chas says:

    You don’t put the sugar in with the leaves?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      no we add it after the infusion.

    2. Tim Travers-Lake says:

      This recipe came from the ground breaking ‘ Food for Free’ written by Way ahead of his time.. Richard Mabey first published in 1972

  2. Rod Wheatley says:

    I made this last year for the first time and it was wonderful. Everyone says how the taste has a herby flavour reminiscent of Benedictine. I have today gathered a new crop of Beech leaves for this year’s batch.

  3. George McKnight says:

    Could you do it in a plastic bucket or larger container, as I’m thinking how do you get all the leaves out of the bottles once finished if you want to reuse the bottles?

    1. Poppy Ives says:

      There’s nothing wrong with using a bucket, not only is it easier to remove the leaves but you will be making larger quantities of Noyau!

    2. Catharine says:

      I use large coffee jars, that works well

  4. Ian Braidwood says:

    I’m thinking of making this, but it doesn’t say how much gin to use. (A 1ltr, 70cl or .5cl?)

    Also, I thought I’d try whisky instead of brandy.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I usually use a 70cl bottle but it’s always good to experiment with recipes. Good luck with the whisky, let me know if it works.

    2. Tim Travers-Lake says:

      I made this from Richard Mabey’s book “Food for Free” . Twenty years ago.. I didnt bother with adding brandy or water (although you could add a reduced amount of water if you want) I kept it for a few months and it came out a nutty brown colour and was very pleasant… People kept asking for it… It was a little like one of those very expensive liqueurs

  5. Jenn says:

    do you remove the leaves and discard after 3 weeks?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The leaves can be left in the bottle or the bottle drained to separate the leaves, it’s personal choice.

  6. helen murphy says:

    Are the leaves in july too tough to make the gin?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The leaves need to be used when soft and almost translucent for about the first three to four weeks of being out so I would think it is too late now but I have never tried at this time of year and if you have any young beech hedges nearby they may still have some new soft leaves growing.

  7. John says:

    When the recipe says loosely pack the leaves, I take it you mean loose enough to let the gin circulate round them but still get a good load of them in?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      We all make it differently, I jam pack an empty gin bottle with leaves and still manage to fit nearly all the gin back in.

  8. George says:

    I don’t often comment on sites like this, its a great and informative place to visit and I do several times a year. However, occasionally I feel the need to say something, so here goes:- I’ve made this drink for 5-6 years, I never make enough….and I go easy on the sugar. So, I picked my leaves the last few days, 21 and 23 April this year, (no rain so they’re slow to start 2021) I’ve packed 4 x 2 litre mason jars to the lid with leaves, poured over 7 litre’s of “Aldi” Gin, because its really good quality. In a month or so, 4-5 weeks normally, I’ll then add 150g sugar with 250ml of Water per Litre of Gin and (a bottle) 700ml of a good VSOP or better Brandy. This should give me 14.5 to 15 litre’s of the finest drink known to man. Pour over ice, top up with tonic and a slice of lemon or lime , and you’ll soon find out why I never ever make enough.
    WildFoodUK, one of the great sites. Keep it up.

    1. Mike says:

      Hi George am trying this does it make a huge difference if the leaves turn brown ?

      1. George says:

        Hi Mike, not at all, if they’re young when picked, the browning is natural. Sorry for the delay, wasn’t notified there was a message.

      2. George says:

        Mike, replied without checking mine….just checked and the first inch is browning, the rest still green, also noticed a mistake in my recipe, 150g sugar and 75ml water to 1L gin, don’t know what was on my mind, but knew there was an error, that’s why I revisited today. always half the sugar to water for syrup. Plus, I tasted Aldi’s Napoleon Brandy and bought 6 bottles today as it so smooth and I’m getting ready for my first batch in a weeks time.
        If anyone is wondering, No I don’t work for Aldi but I recognise quality when I find it; regardless of price.

    2. Annie says:

      Hi, thanks for the info posted.
      Today I have packed one 2 litre kilner jar with leaves and approx 1.5 litres gin.
      In a months time I plan to mix in 400g sugar, 200ml water plus 1 x 70cl bottle Brandy.
      Do these quantities sound correct please? Would just appreciate clarification. Thanks

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Sounds good to me, it’s difficult to go wrong with this recipe. The only downside is that it supposedly tastes better after two years maturing, I’ve never waited that long to find out so I can’t back that up!

  9. Pammie says:

    I absolutely love this. Made it for the first time about 12 years ago for a couple of years and have now revisited it. Have just started soaking the leaves today – 2nd May. So looking forward to drinking and sharing this with friends whom I have extolled the virtues of and have never tried it.

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the earlier advice on filling the jars. The leaves around us in central Scotland are only just now filling out and I managed to get a good load into the jars and just fit in all the gin. 2 Litres safely tucked away for a “wee snooze”. Fingers crossed, I will let you know how it goes.

  11. John says:

    Hi, the leaves have been steeping for just over 4 weeks now. There is definitely a flavour developing but the colour is still quite light. Will it spoil if its left alone for another 4 weeks (or longer)? The leaves were very young and tender when bottled.

  12. Kate Harwood says:

    I’ve just bottled this up. I have to say it tastes mainly of brandy. I tasted it as gin and the sugar syrup and then I could taste something very interesting and herby. Other recipes put far less brandy in than you have. Will it soften if I leave it a few weeks?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is best to leave it for more than six months, the flavour mellows a lot. I can be quite hard to wait that long though!

  13. John says:

    Hi, thats the leaves been in for 6 weeks now. Colour (light green) developing and it looks ok so i am tempted to leave it for a while yet. Anyone leave them for longer??

    1. Simon Daley says:

      I left mine for 3 months, and the flavour was great: really nutty.

  14. John says:

    Thanks for the comment Simon, I will keep them going for a while yet, it all still looks fine.

  15. K says:

    Noyau must mean infusion, then.
    Interesting to read that the forest workers made this. What did they call it?

  16. K says:

    I would like to try this but can I omit the sugar, please?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’ve never tried without sugar but it can’t hurt. Maybe use some sweet cicely or lime flowers to sweeten it.

  17. Jane Liston says:

    Any suggestions for a nice mixer to go with it?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Fizzy water and a slice of lemon is my choice as the Noyau has quite a strong flavour which will be ruined by sweet mixers.

  18. Peter George says:

    Hi, we added too many leaves to the jar and the top layer turned brown (a couple were sticking a bit out of the gin but were still damp). There was no mould and we removed the top layer after a week, will the noyau still be good to drink if we prepare it correctly from here on in?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It will be fine, the gin will stop any mould or bacteria. I just tried some of mine that was at least three years old and although it is difficult to wait, it is better after maturing for a few years. It wasn’t will power for me, I lost the bottle at the back of a cupboard!

      1. Peter George says:

        Thanks for the advice! We’ll try to wait

      2. Daniel Clay says:

        Hi, I just made a batch this past April and came across your helpful advice. I have a couple more questions if you don’t mind!

        Does aging / maturing refer to the time spent as just (gin + beech leaves) or the filtered, finished product with sugar and brandy?

        Also, for each of those stages, is it possible to over-age, or does more time generally lead to a better product?

        1. Eric Biggane says:

          Beech Leaf Noyau is matured as the finished product with the sugar and brandy. I am often impatient and drink it straight away but aging it does improve the taste. I had somebody write to me saying they had found 10 year old Noyau in their parents loft and it was delicious so I don’t think you can over mature it.

  19. Gaynor says:

    I’’m not keen on gin as a drink and was wondering if I could use vodka instead?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’ve done it with vodka and it came out fine, I prefer it with gin but there isn’t much between the two. I imagine adding a few juniper berries would be a nice addition with vodka.

  20. MP Andreoni says:

    I have been making it for a couple of years now with rum as I cannot drink gin and hate vodka, and it is really rather nice

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