Dear absinthe lovers,
We’re back from an eventful weekend.
For the 15th year, the Absinthiades were held in Pontarlier last weekend. And this year was quite special: it was the 100th anniversary of the absinthe ban in France. From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, absinthe distillers, sellers, historians, authors, collectors and absinthe freaks (we include ourselves among them) were reunited in Pontarlier.
It was the best Absinthiades for a long time. A long and exciting weekend, I prefer to talk about each day separately.
We stopped working earlier than usual and around 1:00 pm we headed towards Pontarlier.
Rather than stay in our usual hotel, we thought it was high time for change. And we found the perfect place, absolutely appropriate for an absinthe-tinged weekend: A turn of the century apartment complete with beautiful wooden and glass panelling inside. A belle-epoque treat! After we arrived, we dropped our bags and rushed over to where the action happens: the Théâtre Bernard Blier. And inside awaiting us, the facade of the Grand Café Georges: re-erected to resurrect the green hour, for just one weekend each year.
We were all looking forward to discovering which absinthes would judged in the competition. So, after arriving and greeting some friends and acquaintances, we took a peek at the display of bottles taking part. There were in all 26 different Blanches and Vertes, including some brand new absinthe produced especially for the 100th anniversary of the absinthe ban.
As in previous years, the wine merchant Philippe Chapon made a formal opening speech and, for the first time, awarded the title “Absinth Ambassador” to several figures of the absinthe world. Scott Macdonald (for his book Absinthe Antiques: A collection from la Belle Epoque), Marie-Claude Delahaye (world renowned collector and authority on absinthe – writer of many books on the subject) and François Guy (from the Guy distillery, operated by his family for generations) were awarded with this special distinction acknowledging their achievements regarding the Green Fairy.
The centre piece in the theatre this year was a grand antique wooden stand, used to present the Guy Distillery’s produdcts back in the 1920s. Recently restored, they kindly lent this unique piece of furniture for use at the Absinthiades this year.
The Pernod company basically invented modern absinthe, way back in the late 1700s, so it is appropriate that they took part this year. In the 20th century Pernod merged with the masters of Pastis to form Pernod-Ricard, and in recent years they’ve been working on promoting the revival of absinthe. So this year they were marking 100 years of the absinthe ban with style, and their mixology team was brimming with imagination this year. Bartenders were serving guests three delicious absinthe cocktails, including ‘the Green Beast’. Scary stuff, but decidably drinkable.
After several cocktails and absinthes, stomachs started rumbling. It was now Fondue time! And this year again, we savoured a meat Fondue and fries at the restaurant La Poste. For dessert, we enjoyed a slice of cake, and a couple of absinthes, of course!
For some of us (naming no names), Friday night lasted longer (possibly after respectable establishments had closed) so much so that it was quite hard to wake up on Saturday morning. After a copious breakfast (with croissants of course), we went back to the Théâtre Bernard Blier. There admired the antiques: vintage glasses, spoons and fountains. It was impossible to resist the temptation to buy something.
As well as the antiques, the gourmets among us were able to enjoy delectable absinthe-flavoured chocolate and cakes.
In the early afternoon, we visited the Pontarlier Museum, where a department was entirely devoted to absinthe and its history. Afterwards, we went to the Chapel of Annonciades to see the exhibition on the “Prohibition”: absinthe prohibition, but also other types of bans covered in famous films.
This year we spent quite a bit of time at the Guy Distillery for the launch of Absinthe Renaissance, the brand new absinthe aged in oak, made to celebrate the Absinthiades 2015.
The distillery very kindly let us get our hands on a few bottles of the Absinthe Renaissance to share with you, so it’s now available in our online shop.
The traditional cheese Fondue took place on Saturday night at the restaurant on top of the ‘Chapeau de Napoléon’, a hill named after the fact it looks like the hat of famous historical figure.
Since a lot of people were taking part in the Absinthiades this year, Marc Thuillier – who had very kindly taken his own time and gone to a lot of effort to organise dinner for everyone – had to book two buses to drive us to the restaurant.
Arriving on the ‘peak of the chapeau’, we enjoyed the idyllic night view of the Val de Travers before heading to the tables set on the restaurant terrace and pour ourselves a couple of absinthes. Later, we devoured the delicious fondue while tasting several absinthes (generously brought along by the evening’s guests), including a rare absinthe from the prohibition. Even a vintage Japanese absinthe bottle found its way to our table! As for us, we had brought our own Absinthe Blanche Neige, as well as the Barrel-Aged Roquette.
Already our last day at the Absinthiades. This year again, the weekend went by way too fast.
At the Théâtre Bernard Blier, the last VIP jury tasting was taking place, composed of regional figures. Just as the first two juries did, they tasted each of the 26 competing absinthes. When they finished, we all eagerly awaited the results. Then, shortly before 2:00 pm, we were eventually told the names of the winners in the categories Verte and Blanche. There was a change in the structure this year, in that the single highest scoring absinthe from both blanche and verte categories would be awarded the ‘double gold’ medal.
See below the three winners of each category, with the scores obtained at each jury tasting.
The Absinthe Fleurier won the Gold Medal in the Blanche category, followed closely by the Absinthe Kübler. In the category Verte, the winner is the Absinthe François Guy, that overtook the Absinthe Renaissance with only 0.05 points.
After saying goodbye to all our friends, we headed back to Freiburg, our arms full of vintage posters, chocolates… and absinthe bottles!
We are already looking forward to go to the Absinthiades next year! This annual celebration has become a tradition for our team. The best of it is that we always meet amazing people from all over the world, taking part in this event only for a weekend.
We would be delighted to meet you at the Absinthiades someday, sip a cloudy drink, and have a chat. The Green Fairy certainly has a way of bringing people together.
Santé from Stefanie, Andrew, Hélène, and the whole team!