„The same procedure as every year“ would be something that described our annual trip the beautiful Val-de-Travers in the Swiss Jura Mountains quite right. We’ve been sharing our experiences and photos from each “Fête de l’absinthe” with you regularly, for the past ten years (at least this is where we think we started attending this annual gathering of absinthe friends). This year was new. This year was intriguing. This year, a lot had changed.
Same area, new concept
There was an announcement last year at the 20th Swiss Absinthe Festival, that this was the last time this festival would be held, but that the committee organizing the event had come up with a new, different type of absinthe festival for this year. Before, local makers were exhibiting their absinthes on a stall at sort of fair, alongside the other distillers. This way visitors could browse, taste, purchase, and most importantly: meet the makers. During the day there was music, some food stalls and even a disco tent in the evening.
There was nothing like that this year (at least not at a central location), instead all absinthe makers in the Val-de-Travers opened their doors for visitors to come by, take a look at their distillery, taste absinthe samples or check out their shops.
A day ticket gave you access to all the distilleries, public transport between the villages Fleurier, Môtiers, Boveresse and Couvet to travel about, and vouchers for six glasses of absinthe.
Everyone purchasing the day ticket got handed an absinthe glass to take along for the day which we think is a nice souvenir to take home! The Absinthe Museum in Môtiers was also open and had prepared special exhibits, and a few restaurants and cafés prepared meals with absinthe that day. Hikers on the other hand could participate in a 17km walk through the Jura woods and visit the secret absinthe fountains, so there was quite a bit of a program going on!
Absinthe fans and enthusiasts had the chance to discover a lot that day. Especially the fact that one could pop into all the distilleries was a great opportunity for the owners to show how they work, which kinds of stills they use, and present themselves completely authentic and unique as oppose to just decorating a stall. And to us, every distillery is worth a visit! It’s exciting to see where and by whom all these absinthes are made.
However, what we felt was missing was a central location to meet up and chat, maybe listen to some music and share a drink. Since the distilleries are spread across four villages, everyone did their own thing in their little groups. We managed to get together in the evening, but that’s just with our group of absinthe friends, there was not that much chance to meet other visitors and get to know each other. We loved this part of the previous “Fête de l‘absinthe”.
Also, not all local distilleries participated in the event, so we didn’t get to see all of them – we believe a combination of both event types would be perfect: Go round the distilleries during the day, and meet up somewhere to eat and mingle at night.
A weekend of mixed feelings due to one sad goodbye
Devastating news reached us just a couple of days before we drove to Switzerland. Willy Bovet, beloved and most importantly, incredibly talented absinthe distiller had passed away at 80. He leaves behind family, friends, and a large crowd of fans of his absinthes. Willy Bovet used to be a watchmaker before he found his real passion in making absinthe. Throughout the many years of distilling, local ingredients and the cultivation of his own herbs was very important to him. His absinthes are renowned around the globe, and he never stopped trying out new things, and coming up with amazing recipes. A great example for that was his latest absinthe, a green absinthe at 77% with a strong wormwood profile. Last weekend, we stopped by at the family distillery to express our sincere condolences.
We’re glad to be able to tell you that the Bovet distillery will continue with Willy’s daughter in charge – he taught her all of his secrets and passed on his talent and eye for detail. Willy Bovet will be missed by many, and we’re part of that. We feel honored to have met him.
The plan for 2019
We’re curious to see what the Val-de-Travers has to offer for us in 2019, one thing is sure though: we will be there to see you all!
And in the meantime, we’ll keep planning the second German Absinthe Festival in Freiburg next April! Save the date!