In-depth blog about former slave and boxing legend Bill Richmond (1763-1829); subject of Luke G. Williams' biography, published by Amberley in August 2015.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Raise a glass to Bill Richmond: in search of noyaux

One of the qualities I have always admired about boxer Bill Richmond was his abstemious nature.

Unlike many of his pugilistic contemporaries, who fell victim to the charms of the bottle and died young, Richmond maintained a sense of self-control throughout his life, despite the rampant drinking culture which surrounded prize-fighting and despite the fact he spent several years as landlord of the Horse and Dolphin public house in St Martin's Street.

This is not to say, however, that Richmond was teetotal. The Morning Post newspaper, in its obituary of 'the Black Terror' in 1830, noted that he was "remarkably abstemious in the use of liquor, seldom taking more than a glass of sherry and water". Meanwhile, Pierce Egan, in Boxiana, noted that Richmond could be "rather facetious over a glass of noyeau, his favourite wet with a SWELL".

While researching Richmond Unchained, this quote of Egan's piqued my curiosity. Having never heard of 'noyeau' I decided to try and find out what it was and, if possible, get my hands on a bottle, so I could taste what Richmond's favourite drink was like.

I soon discovered that 'noyeau' was, in fact, an Egan spelling error, and that 'Crème de Noyaux' - to give it its correct appellation - was a once popular but now largely forgotten 19th century French liqueur, pink in colour, and made from the kernels of apricot, peach or cherry stones or - according to some sources - a combination of all three.

However, try as I might, I couldn't find anywhere in the UK that stocked noyaux, not even the legendary spirits store Gerry's in Soho, who told me they had been searching for it for "12 years, to no avail". I could find several vendors abroad who sold a liqueur named 'Noyau de Poissy', but none of them would import to the UK.

It was only when I came across a website for an American company named Tempus Fugit that I began to make some real progress.Tempus Fugit described themselves thus:

"Our goal is to source and recreate rare spirits and liqueurs from the pages of history to satisfy the demands of the most discerning connoisseur."

One such liqueur that they have 'recreated' was Crème de Noyaux, the process for which they described as follows:

"Tempus Fugit Spirits’ Crème de Noyaux is based on the historic 19th century French liqueur, traditionally made with apricot stone (pit) kernels, bitter almonds and other botanicals. Many years of research were required to finalize the production techniques for this rare and complex spirit, utilizing the natural ingredients specified in the original recipes. Tempus Fugit Spirits Crème de Noyaux represents the classic Crème de Noyaux. Prized by the most distinguished bartenders during the Golden Age of cocktails. Perfect in numerous classic cocktails, Crème de Noyaux is used as a primary ingredient or in dashes."

Eventually, I found a company in Germany named Alandia that were willing to export a bottle of Tempus Fugit's Crème de Noyaux to the UK and, after a wait of a few weeks, a bottle of Bill Richmond's favourite drink duly arrived at my house.

And what does it taste like? Well, I don't know because, like Bill Richmond, I'm pretty abstemious these days, and I'm saving it for a special occasion.

Perhaps I'll have a swig this Wednesday night before heading to the British Sports Book Awards, where Richmond Unchained has been shortlisted for Biography of the Year!

Noyaux ingredients, from's information sheet about Noyaux

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bill Richmond cartoon from the 1930s

Although I finished writing Richmond Unchained a while ago, I still habitually trawl the internet and other archival sources for any 'Richmond-abilia'.

Here's something interesting I found today on the Heritage Auctions website - a cartoon of Bill Richmond from the Baltimore American newspaper circa the 1930s by artist Tom Doerer. The 'likeness' of Richmond in the centre of the montage is clearly based on the Boxiana portrait, but Doerer has made his version of Richmond far too Rhett Butler / Jason King-esque for my liking! Not quite sure where the moustache came from ... Anyway, an interesting find nonetheless! Incidentally, Doerer was once an artist on the boxing comic Joe Palooka, a character who features extensively in my essay on boxing comic books for the anthology I edited, Boxiana.