Launch of Fort La Tour brandy honours heroism at besieged Acadian post

New Brunswick distillery Fils du Roy has launched a brandy called Fort La Tour to honour an important part of the province's history.

French fort overlooked St. John River in Saint John from 1631 to 1645

Sébastien Roy, owner of Fils du Roy in Petit-Paquetville, is interested in Acadian history. (Fils du Roy)

The spirits of Charles de La Tour, who built Fort La Tour as a fur trading post at the mouth of the St. John River in 1631, and his wife, Françoise Marie Jacquelin, who fought valiantly to defend the post in 1645, are being honoured with a new spirit.

New Brunswick distillery Fils du Roy has launched Fort La Tour brandy.

"This part of New Brunswick's history is not very well known," Sébastien Roy, owner of the Petit-Paquetville company and the master distiller, said in a statement. "That's why Distillery Fils du Roy wanted to honour it by releasing a new product."

The bottle label of the Fort La Tour brandy is a painting by Cliff Turner representing Madame La Tour fighting to defend the fort. (Fils du Roy)
The brandy is made with local molasses from Crosby Molasses Co. Ltd., and the label on the bottle is a painting by local artist Cliff Turner, representing Madame La Tour defending the fort.

The music group Cy, based in Moncton, has also written a song called Fort La Tour to coincide with the launch of the brandy. A sticker on each bottle invites the buyer to download the song for free.

The Fort La Tour site, now an open grassy area located along Harbour Passage on Saint John's waterfront, has deep cultural and historic roots. It served as a trading and gathering place for First Nations, and was the location of the first Acadian settlement.

Jacquelin, commonly known as Madame La Tour, became the heroine of Acadia after she, along with 40 soldiers, held off the much larger attacking force of rival governor Charles de Menou d'Aulnay for three days in April 1645 before surrendering.

Madame La Tour, arguably the first heroine in Canadian history, died of unknown causes shortly after the battle and is buried somewhere on the site.

Saint John's Fort La Tour Development Authority has planned a $2 million development for the site, with construction slated for 2017-18.

The group envisions a few small buildings, including an interpretation centre, which would be surrounded by a palisade to resemble the original structures, pathways, and an amphitheatre, chair Beth Kelly Hatt has said. The large central mound and footprint of the fort — a conservation area — would remain untouched.

The Fort La Tour Development Authority has applied for funding from all three levels of government. It is seeking $950,000 from the federal government as part of the Canada 150 anniversary commemorations, $400,000 from the province, $200,000 from the city and $400,000 from the private sector and community groups.