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The theater in which they held the Absinthiades was decorated with an absinthe garden. Aromatic wormwood scent (distributed by spray bottles) filled the air.
If I remember right, in the previous years the place was always decorated with both the Swiss and French flags. This year of course, there was no Swiss flag to see.
But also the Swiss absintheurs stayed away. And the same did the Swiss absinthes! Last year, there were 20 absinthes in the competition. But this year, with the Swiss absinthes missing, they took in a few rather surprising names and they still only got 14. Among the participants were Hapsburg. Yes, you read right.
The organisators and helpers were friendly and professional as ever. While the jury was doing their duty I was hanging out at the bar, chatting with the French barkeeper and a Belgian group. Several times they had to tell us to keep quiet, but one of the Belgian fellows really loved his absinthes and the more he drunk, the more festive got his mood.
Meanwhile the jury members fought their battle against the green fairy.
And some fought against their neighbours. All in
good green spirits.
In 2012, Absinthe has been legal for just over a whole year in France, while Pontarlier was celebrating its Absinthiades for the 12th time in a row! You think this is reason for celebration across the borders, but alas, the recent events have distressed the once amicable Franco-Swiss relation. Even though I wanted to stay neutral in this matter, I think I might have to dedicate one of the next posts to this subject. But for now, I would like to share a few photos with those who couldn’t make it to the Absinthiades, or who chose to stay away for political reasons.
Each year I would have a look at this little antiques shop in Pontarlier. Last year, the shop displayed just a few absinthe spoons that they had borrowed from a collector. This year, they could show off a nice little collection. There were also some collectible spoons in a corner.
The local spirits shop had a nice collection of absinthes.
Later I noticed, they had many of the absinthes in the contest. How convenient. 🙂
These were the 14 contestants at the Absinthiades.
When people tell me that they have tried an absinthe and they didn’t like it all, chances are that they drank a Czech absinthe. One of the bad Czech absinthes, to be precise, because not all Czech absinthes are bad, and certainly not the ones made by Martin Zufanek. He founded his distillery in 2000. In addition to fruit liqueurs and all-natural spirits he also produces three green absinthes: La Grenouille, St. Antoine and L’Ancienne.
In this portrait I would like to focus on L’Ancienne. L’Ancienne was designed to evoke the flavors of pre-ban absinthes. To achieve this very ambitious goal Zufanek teamed up with the Italian distiller Stefano Rossoni, who himself produces the widely known and much loved L’Italienne. So the big question is, how close does L’Ancienne tastewise get to pre-ban absinthes?
Well, one has to keep in mind that we don’t know with certainty how absinthes tasted back in 1913. When we drink for example a Pernod Fils 1913 today, the absinthe has aged, which means that the flavours of the different herbs have changed and a good part of the alcohol has evaporated.
L’Ancienne is very harmonic and has a satisfying and round mouthfeel. The herbal flavor-profile of L’Ancienne does indeed remind of vintage absinthe, yet there is a distinguishable difference in the flavor and smell of the alcohol. At this point I feel that the alcohol dominates the fine flavors of this very promising absinthe, so I am curious to see, how the same bottle will taste in a year from now. I also plan to keep a bottle or two unopened for a few years.
For visual impressions, please check out the pictures of the louche. Martin Zufanek’s homepage is: www.zufanek.cz
These two carafes from the 1900s have tiny snouts for pouring ice-cold water into a glass of absinthe. The big has a capacity of 1 liter and the small one only 0.5 liter. The small guy is fairly rare today. Compared to the big carafe that cost 75 ct. it was with 60 ct. also rather expensive in the old days.
The picture above is from a sales catalogue, where the two sizes are listed. Both carafe were also sold with cuts.
Below is a bonus picture of the two water carafes together with an absinthe carafe with emaille label.
We just opened the bottle of pre-ban Pernod Fils! Everyone was sooo excited about it. There is always a risk for that the bottle wasn’t stored properly, that the cork has gone bad and that the absinthe has “died”, so we were also a bit nervous when we began to break the wax seal. The wax was extremely thick and hard. We were soon convinced that the bottle has been absolutely airtight sealed for the past hundred years. The chances that the absinthe was good increased tremendously. Finally the cork was visible. We pulled the cork out, and then … a wonderful fragrance was streaming from the bottle. We hurried to fill a dose into a glass. The color was similar to a brandy. Then we let ice water slowly drip into the absinthe. It swirled and louched nicely, the color turning first into a pale peach and then into a creamy white. We couldn’t wait any longer amd tasted it. The Pernod Fils was round and harmonic, its wormwood tingling our taste buds. It was very, very good. Probably the best vintage absinthe that I have tasted yet.
Edit: I bought this bottle at www.antiquespirits.com. The owner of the business is a friend of mine, and recently I started helping with the website and communication with international customers. I think it is a lot of fun, because I am learning each day something new about pre-ban absinthes. If you too are interested in pre-ban absinthes, please write to email@example.com, comment here or leave a message on my Facebook.
We fell in love with two antique oil paintings that we bought in Paris. The first one is a still-life with absinthe glass, saucer and pipe. The colors are very well-preserved and vibrant. Not only the pipe but also the Oeuf-glass and the plain gray saucer indicate that this is the green-hour of a simple man, rather a blue-collar worker than a wealthy gentleman. According to the signature the work is from a female artist: Yvonne Guiot (or maybe Guiol).
The second one shows a bearded man with hat, who is depicted in front of a table with a glass of absinthe. The man’s face, which we only see in profile, clearly and naturalistic, is the center of the focus. The further away from the center, the image gets gradually more blurred and perspectively distorted. The unknown artist might have been influenced by the Impressionist movement which originated in Paris during the 1870’s and 1880’s.
Both paintings portray absinthe scenes from the working class. There is nothing bourgeois or bohemian in those pictures. Absinthe is here not a symbol of a glamorous life-style. It rather looks like it is a break from work, kind of an everyday-escapism: Sitting down, smoking a pipe and sipping an absinthe. A little ritual in the increasingly hectic world in the era of the Second Industrial Revolution that culminated in mass production and the production line.