Absinthe Study Session 5 – Pernod Fils Absinthe

Probably the most famous Absinthe company in history was Pernod Fils. The firm was established in 1805 in Pontarlier (France) by Henri-Louis Pernod. In the beginning, there were just two stills in the factory, producing not more than 16 litres of Absinthe per day.  But this should change dramatically….

Henri-Louis´s son Louis bought 36,000 square meters of land on the outskirts of Pontarlier alongside the Doubs river. An Absinthe factory was built with a daily production exceeding already 400 litres. But this was just the beginning of the Pernod success story.  In 1850 the production capacity was already 20,000 litres per day. Absinthe consumption expanded even further when the French Army, which had been fighting in Algeria, returned home: During the war, French soldiers received a daily dose of Absinthe against stomach diseases. As they returned, they brought back their newly acquired taste for Absinthe and the demand for Absinthe sky rocketed. By 1896 the output was already 125,000 litres per day! This success story could only be stopped by Absinthe prohibition in 1914. But Pernod reacted and developed an Absinthe substitute, the drink Pastis. You can say Pastis is basically an Absinthe without wormwood and of course a lower alcohol degree. The ritual, drinking it with water and sugar, is derived from the Absinthe ritual.

Nowadays you can once again find an Absinthe in the Pernod product portfolio. But as Absinthe is a substitute of their main product Pastis, Absinthe is just a tiny little niche product which never got big marketing budgets. In a way you can say this is positive for the market, as it allowed small Absinthe distillers to revive the drink in an authentic way!

(Source: Absinthe Encyclopedia by D. Nathan-Maister)