Renaissance

~ The Absinthe Encyclopedia - CHAPTER X ~

Although absinthe continued to be made on a small scale in Spain, its modern revival really has its origins in the collapse of the Iron Curtain, with Czechoslovakia’s 1987 “Velvet Revolution” and the return of the free economy. When Radomill Hill, an entrepreneurial Czech distiller, inherited a small distillery dating from the 1920’s from his father, he decided, to start producing absinthe. Hill claimed that he based his new product on an old family recipe, and that the distillery had produced absinthe prior to the Communist occupation.

The Modern Absinthe Revival

The Modern Absinthe Revival

Although absinthe continued to be made on a small scale in Spain, its modern revival really has its origins in the collapse of the Iron Curtain, with Czechoslovakia’s 1987 “Velvet Revolution” and the return of the free economy. When Radomill Hill, an entrepreneurial Czech distiller, inherited a small distillery dating from the 1920’s from his father, he decided, to start producing absinthe. Hill claimed that he based his new product on an old family recipe, and that the distillery had produced absinthe prior to the Communist occupation. Hill’s “absinth” was aggressively marketed in the UK in conjunction with the so-called Bohemian absinthe ritual, which involves soaking the sugar cube with absinthe, and then setting it alight, before plunging the caramelised sugar into the glass – a necessity with Hills and many other Czech absinthes, which, since they contain little if any anise, don’t louche. Initially this was claimed –...

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Pontarlier Today

Pontarlier Today

Pontarlier is situated at an altitude of 830m in the Haut-Doubs region near the Swiss border, and has a population of around 18 500 (in 1910 it was 9500). Until 1915 it was the centre of French absinthe production, and home to many of the largest distillers, including Junod, Terminus and Pernod Fils. Central Pontarlier is dominated by its famous arch – Porte St. Pierre – at the top of the Rue de la République. It was built in 1771 to celebrate the rebuilding of the town and to commemorate the French conquest of the Franche-Comté in 1678. Views of the old Pernod Fils distillery buildings (now part of a huge Nestlé production facility) from the Chapelle de l’Espérance high above the...

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Inside the old Maison Pernod Fils Factory

Inside the old Maison Pernod Fils Factory

After the banning of absinthe and the demise of Pernod Fils, the huge Pernod factory, once the pride of industrial France, was used as a field hospital during the First World War. In 1919 the premises were bought by a chocolate manufacturer whose business was subsequently taken over by the Swiss food giant Nestlé. The factory has been used continuously by Nestlé ever since, originally for the manufacture of chocolates, but now primarily for the production of Strawberry and Banana Nesquik for export to the UK market. Around 350 Nestlé employees, mainly locals from Pontarlier, work there – some are the great-great-grandchildren of ancestors who worked for Pernod Fils. Much of the older part of the factory is shuttered and unused, as the Nestlé production lines are concentrated in new purpose-built facilities behind the original buildings. The entire factory is generally off-limits to visitors, and these are the first...

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The Val de Travers Today

The Val de Travers Today

The Val de Travers is in the canton of Neuchâtel, legendary home of La Feé Verte. Pernod Fils had a factory in Couvet, and dozens of other distillers were based in Fleurier, Travers and Môtiers, while Boveresse was the centre for the cultivation and drying of the wormwood plant. Today, production of the artisanal clear absinthe La Bleue continues in the...

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America – Absinthe Legalization

In 2007, after 95 years of prohibition, absinthe with less than 10ppm of thujone was finally authorised for sale in the United States. This remarkable development was largely thanks to the efforts of two companies, working independently of each other: the small family owned Kübler distillery in Switzerland (the same distillery, that two years earlier, had been instrumental in the re-legalization of absinthe in Switzerland itself) and Viridian Spirits, a new startup headed by Jared Gurfein, a New York attorney. There is some dispute as to which of the two companies deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Kübler undeniably were involved in the legalization process far early than Viridian were, equally undeniably though it was Viridian’s Lucid absinthe which was first to market in the US, a few months ahead of Kübler. It appears that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (usually abbreviated to just TTB...

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