Almost everybody of Absinthes.com went on a trip to Switzerland last weekend. We went to the annual absinthe festival in the Val-de-Travers in in the Swiss Jura mountains where absinthe was invented in 1792. The festival is originally called “Fête de l’Absinthe” as the Val-de-Travers is located in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Every year, local absinthe distillers offer their absinthe brands on stalls in the street and explain how to drink absinthe or what absinthe is to curios visitors. Many absintheurs from all over the world use this opportunity to meet, mingle, and discuss our most beloved spirit.
The Fête de l’Absinthe 2017 – home of the green Fairy
2017 was a significant date for the absinthe festival, as that year marked the 20th anniversary of this small village event. Since the absinthe community is fairly small, as are the villages in the Val-de-Travers, you could say these festivals usually always go the same way, much like our report from 2016. But it’s a routine we love and that we wouldn’t want to change.
Every year we kick off the festival by meeting up with fellow absintheurs or vendors just like us to enjoy a traditional cheese fondue in Swiss manner. The place mostly changes, sometimes it’s high up on a mountain or takes place at a very historic place, this year we went to this amazing historic restaurant “La Truite” in the very small village of Champ-du-Moulin. Before we make our way to the fondue place, we always meet up at Claude-Alain-Bugnon‘s distillery. His distillery moved about 20 feet in 2017, so we got the chance to check out his new place which is much bigger than his old one!
Absintheurs and enthusiasts chat and sit together during the cheese fondue, and many absinthe distillers and hobby distillers bring along their samples and we all taste them together (for example, we were able to get an exclusive taste of the new batch of Absinthe Vivide, which recipe has changed significantly). After dinner, some of our friends carried on partying with Belgian beer, some of us went home.
The actual absinthe festival takes place the whole Saturday. This year, we were very disappointed. All of the distillers’ stalls, food stalls and the party tent were moved to a meadow just outside of the village. Usually, the festival is held at the heart of the village, close to a few absinthe distilleries, an historic drying room and a barn sale. There may have been reasons to move the festival outside of the village, but to us and the local distillers, it really didn’t make much sense. Distilleries usually packed with visitors remained empty the whole day. In addition to holding the festival somewhere else, the hosts decided to charge an entry fee for the first time in the history of this absinthe festival. For 7CHF (roughly $7) you qualified to carry a neon-orange bracelet which allowed you to taste absinthe on distiller’s stalls for free. Before, visitors did not have to pay an entrance fee, which enabled to let the distillers decide to determine their absinthe price, or whether they wanted to charge their guests at all.
As a result, we didn’t spend much time on the actual festival but went to visit two fairly new distilleries instead, Maison des Chats in Boveresse and La Semilla – Aymonier across the border in France.
Absinthe, lovely people & a unique area
Overall we had a lovely time. The weather was amazing and sunny and the company was divine. The Val-de-Travers is too gorgeous and this small absinthe community too lovely to get into a bad mood because of how this festival is changing. However, we’re slightly worried about one of our most beloved traditions. Why don’t the absinthe distillers get more say in organizing this festival? After all, they’re the main attraction. How can someone think more visitors are attracted by charging them entry? How are the distillers supposed to offer their absinthe for sale if those responsible for this event cause new barriers for visitors each year? Obviously, there are differences between the local distillers and the people organizing this event. We don’t know more about it, but we know we’d shed not just one tear should this have been the last absinthe festival.
Plans are coming into shape however: We’ve decided to host the first German Absinthe Festival in the Black Forest in April 2018. Sign up here to stay tuned for updates.
More photos on Facebook.