Absinthes.com introduces the Emile Pernot distillery

Every month, we’ll be featuring a distillery, whether famous or less well-known, sharing a few details on its history and what they make there, and personally interviewing the master distiller or owner of the distillery, giving you their take on absinthe.

For the featured distillery, we’ll also have a special offer, and a free gift for you.(scroll down to the last paragraph if you want to see the discount and the gift right now).

Today, we’re pleased to start our new series with a 120 year old distillery: Les Fils d’Emile Pernot (The Sons of Emile Pernot).

The emile Pernot distillery in Pontarlier

History repeats itself, quite by chance…

1889: the young Emile-Ferdinand Pernot, a native of the Fougerolles region, where he had trained as a distiller, joins the Parrot brothers and together they establish “Emile Pernot et Cie” located in Pontarlier.

Emile-Ferdinand’s son, Emile-Joseph (don’t worry, none of their sons were called Emile-Emile even though they loved this first name), a survivor of the World War I trenches, later registers the famous name “Emile Pernot”.

1908: Emile-Joseph, then 30 years old, joins the Cousin Jeune distillery, located at La Cluse et Mijoux, as a foreman and soon after a technical director.


2009: The distillery moves from the center of Pontarlier to the magnificent old Cousin Jeune building in La Cluse et Mijoux, at the foot of the Château de Joux, the very same building where the young Emile-Joseph Pernot learnt his trade a century earlier. And you know what? It was a pure coincidence – the building had been a post office and a fire station in the intervening years!


Absinthe distillation at Emile Pernot

The two century-old copper alembics used by Emile Pernot for their absinthe distillations were made by the famous firm of Egrot in the early 1900s. They were especially designed and built for absinthe distillation, and they are the only stills of their kind in operation anywhere in the world. These stills allow the Pernot distillery to produce absinthes of exceptional quality according to methods unchanged for a century.

alembics from a catalogueEmile Pernot alembics in use for over 100 years
Egrot catalogue on top, and Emile Pernot’s alembics on the bottom.

You can read and see more about absinthe distillation steps at Emile Pernot here.

Emile Pernot’s absinthes and liqueurs

The best-selling absinthe made at Pernot is, without a doubt, Roquette 1797, which has been out of stock for a long time due to the fact that its creator, David-Nathan Maister, wanted to come and supervise himself the latest distillation at Pernot, and let it age for several months.
2010 saw the birth of the world widely acclaimed Berthe de Joux and La Maison Fontaine, and then 2011 & 2012 saw the rising success of Absinthe Authentique.

absinthe roquette, absinthe la maison fontaine, absinthe authentique

But Emile Pernot is not only about absinthe, this would be too simplistic, especially if you’ve ever tasted their fir tree liqueur called Sapin, a complex product not produced anywhere else and which is loved at first sip!

And we could go on and on about their delicious fruit liqueurs, their distilled aperitif Vieux Pontarlier – way nicer than an essence-made pastis – their Genepi, etc.

Interview with Dominique Rousselet

Dominique Rousselet, 48, born in La Cluse et Mijoux, is Emile Pernot’s manager and master distiller.

Absinthes.com: When and how did you first discover the aperitif “absinthe”?Dominique: Being born in La Cluse et Mijoux, I grew up in the heart of the absinthe world. But I only really discovered absinthe in 2004, when I took over the distillery with my fellow partners. Thanks to Gérard Pernot – the very last distiller of the Pernot family – and his great knowledge, I learnt everything I needed to distill this exceptional liquor.Absinthes.com: According to you, what is the right definition of a “good absinthe” and what are the 3 fundamental elements critical to producing a fine absinthe in a distillery like yours?Dominique: In my opinion, a good absinthe must have the 3 following qualities:

  • A nice louche.
  • Not too much bitterness, according to our distillery criteria, so that you can taste the other herbs.
  • The colour, a beautiful and natural emerald green obtained solely from coloration with herbs, like the green you see in Absinthe Vieux Pontarlier.

The 3 fundamental elements critical to producing a fine absinthe are:

  • Working with high quality raw materials.
  • Be as close to the traditional methods as possible, just like the old days of absinthe.
  • Take great care of the distillation, but also the public image of absinthe.

Absinthes.com: Do you think the French – or even European – market should be locked to naturally distilled absinthes only, or on the contrary, macerated and essences-based absinthes have also the right to exist and to be called “absinthe”?

Dominique: I don’t think it’s neccessary to limit the French market in that way. Bad quality products will disappear naturally, they do not stand a chance against high quality absinthes, such as the ones distilled in the Pontarlier area.

Absinthes.com: How do you see the future and popularization of absinthe in France in the next years or decades? Will it become the favourite French aperitif again like it was a century ago?

Dominique: There definitely is a future for absinthe in France – no doubt. However, consumer habits and preferences have changed, and I believe it’s okay that absinthe is not only used like it was in the 19thcentury – nowadays you find it in cocktails and restaurants. I’m convinced that the gastronomy sector will help to make absinthe very popular again. Maybe, absinthe will become as popular as it once used to be, again.

Absinthes.com: Don’t you fear a new ban of absinthe if the European consumers, and especially the youngsters, get into the habit of drinking absinthe like vodka or whisky? The internet is full of videos showing young people drinking shots of absinthe or setting it on fire even though it’s 60-70% alcohol.

Dominique: It’s true that theses videos, showing badly drunk people, carry a very negative image of absinthe, the same negative image it had before its ban. The danger resides in the mystical and alienating side that some marketing campaigns try to deliver to consumers (such as high thujone levels,psychopharmaceutical effects). Click here to read more about absinthe and thujone. We should focus on reminding people of the more traditional values and benefits of absinthe, and try to eliminate the obsession about thujone and its high alcohol content. However, absinthe should always be consumed moderately anyway!

Absinthes.com: Last question. Green Fairy: myth or reality? Have you ever noticed effects other than those from alcohol – secondary effects – after absinthe consumption? Some talk about an enhanced view, dreams, mental clarity, or even intellectual improvement which it could be imagined might have somewhat helped artists and writers from the 19th century.

Dominique: Like I said before, I don’t think abusing absinthe is the way to meet the green fairy. I stand by my opinion, that only a moderate consumption of absinthe helps to better enjoy this fine liquor. The fact that some 19th century artists were highly stimulated while drinking absinthe – and thus created original artworks – is more a consequence of drunkenness rather than absinthe by itself.

Dominique the master distiller from Emile Pernot

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