As you might already know, we are featuring one of our distilleries each month. We’ll give you some information on their background, their history and their products. We’ll also offer you a chance to explore their products.
Today, we continue this series with a distillery from Couvet, located in the Val-de-Travers, Switzerland, also known as the birthplace for absinthe: Gaudentia Persoz.
Gaudentia (left) dressed up as the Green Fairy at the Absinthe Festival.
The owner of this distillery, Gaudentia, is one of very few female distillers with a passion for making absinthe.
The history of the Gaudentia Persoz distillery
Unlike your imagination of what a typical swiss clandestine distiller should look like (perhaps male and a little older), Gaudentia is no typical distiller. First of all, she’s a woman of course, second she is very young. However, she probably knows just as much about absinthe and absinthe distillation than an experienced clandestine distiller from the Val-de-Travers. Gaudentia says that the tradition for distilling absinthe dates back into her husband’s family until about 1850. Until 1969, his grandmother used to illegally distill absinthe at his home – until she got caught by the authorities.
The visitor room is connected to the distillery.
After being charged a hefty fine, Jean-Michel’s grandmother stopped making absinthe. Until Gaudentia and her husband started distilling after his grandmother’s recipe again, the tradition for absinthe had died in this family. Gaudentia is proud of her small distillery, and said that there will probably be a bigger expansion next year, since they are now moving into a bigger building. All the photos we will show you know, are still of her old distillery.
Absinthe distillation at Gaudentia Persoz
Gaudentia distils with a vintage 1898, 12-plant recipe that was found, along with a small alambic, when she and her husband purchased their house in Couvet.
Gaudentia’s 50l stills, made by her husband.
Today, she uses a 50 liter alembic that was made exclusively for her and her distillery by her husband, Jean-Michel. It is heated by a direct flame, as oppose to bain-marie, which is a factor that contributes to the clandestine la Bleue style of her products. But let’s take a closer look at what they are:
Absinthe La P’tite: La P’tite absinthe is mellow and beautifully well-balanced. A high quality “Bleue”.
Absinthe La Valdetra Verte: La Valdetra Verte is powerful, full of character and a very well-balanced absinthe. It bears witness to the quality of Swiss absinthes.
Absinthe Absinth’ Love: Absinth’Love is an absinthe with character. It has a high potency level for a Swiss absinthe, and its design is… “love”.
Absinthe L’Adorée: The latest absinthe made at this distillery. It comes with a small tube of gold flakes that can be added to the drink. This promises a truly luxurios experince!
Absinthe La P’tite Douce: Made from 12 different plants from the Val-de-Travers, this absinthe proofs the same quality than the other absinthes made by Gaudentia.
Take a look at all Gaudentia absinthes on our website.
Interview with Gaudentia Persoz
Gaudentia is a very open and easy to talk to woman, who knows a lot about absinthe. She doesn’t just distill her own absinthes, but has contracts for different brands all across Switzerland.
Absinthes.com: When and how did you first discover the aperitif “absinthe”?
Gaudentia: Well, I grew up in the German part of Switzerland, but in order to learn French, I started working at a restaurant which lead to me attending a professional school for hotel trade in Lucerne. My boss there used to serve absinthe, although it was banned, to trustworthy guests. This is how I got to know absinthe.
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?
Gaudentia: To me, a good absinthe contains anise (of course!), and has a rather mellow level of wormwood, which means it is not too bitter. It’s important that it gives a nice, round mouth feel and that the finish has a good length without specific herbs being more dominant than others. I think that making absinthe according to traditional methods, and through distillation, already gives it something special. Of course, cultivation of the plants used is an extremely important factor, but having a passion for your job is just as influential for the result.
Absinthes.com: Do you think the Swiss – 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”?
Gaudentia: I’m totally against products that are not distilled after the rules of tradition.
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?
Gaudentia: I think there is still a lot of work to do regarding the education and commercialisation of absinthe. It is a naturally obtained product that has a good reputation already, but we need to work hard on diminishing the prejudices and bad things people think about absinthe. Absinthe is a wobderful, natural product that should be enjoyed moderately. I for example always say that I don’t drink absinthe, I taste it! Anyway, I don’t think the consumption will reach a level as high as during the Belle Epoque again, but maybe this isn’t even a bad thing. Back then, there were lots of cheaply produced absinthes, that surely did the connaisseur no favour.
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.
Gaudentia: No, I don’t fear a new ban. However, I don’t think absinthe is for people that just want to get drunk as quick as possible. These young people would also just go for the strong, cheap absinthes, and would therefore not even know what real absinthe tastes like. I believe that my products are for absinthe lovers who can appreciate it.
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.
Gaudentia: Aah, the green Fairy, sure. It’s me, didn’t you see the photo? Only kidding. This is a tricky question I will not answer, as I don’t want to influence others with my own thoughts. Everyone needs to make their own experience. But what I can say is that too much absinthe can either make you crazy, or fall in love. Or maybe, crazy in love!