The home of the Green Fairy can be identified in the small valley “Val de Travers” in the Swiss Jura, next to the French border. Here the Green Fairy was born as Dr. Pierre Ordinaire started to distrbute a special digestive – “Bon Extrait d’Absinthe” – in the 18th century, which soon should become famous under the name ABSINTHE. Now, more than 100 years later, the little town Boveresse in the Val de Travers organizes every year an absinthe festival – “La Fete de l’Absinthe”.
First stop: The Absinthe city Pontarlier
This year we decided to visit this very special place. June 18th 2004, at 8 o’clock in the morning a group of four Absintheurs hit the road, and thanks to the German Autobahn we reached our final destination after 7 hours of driving. As the Val de Travers is directly at the French Border our first stop was the French city Pontarlier. Here most of the Absinthe was produced during the Belle Epoque. For example the legendary Pernod Fils distillery had its major production here, and the old buildings can still be found, although they are now used by the Swiss nutrition company Nestlé. A visit of the Absinthe Museum was also part of our road trip and of course we stopped by at the Emile Pernot distillery and Mr. Francois Guy, the creator of the homonymous Absinthe for a little Heure Verte.
After we checked out some of the city attractions in Pontarlier we visited the distilleries Emile Pernot and Francois Guy. Emile Pernot still uses old alambics from 1948 and as a distillation was in process we could see how their Absinthe is produced after traditional methods. After a little chat and sampling of the house specialties we headed over to Mr. Francois Guy. Francois Guy is the biggest distillery in Pontarlier, and open for visitors. You can see (and smell) how their Absinthe is produced and will always find some time to talk with the owner. Francois Guy is known for his hospitality and therefore we didn’t have to wait long, until he invited us to a glass of Absinthe.
Next stop: Absinthe Festival in Boveresse
Well, to name it a festival is almost a bit exaggerated, moreover it is a fair for the locals of the Valley. You can find some antique sellers who present their absinthiana collections, such as antique Absinthe spoons, glasses and fountains. Also Absinthe candies such as Absinthe ice cream, Absinthe pudding and Absinthe chocolates are offered, and the only “legal” Absinthe Kübler with 45% alcohol is served. The Absinthe prohibition is still active in Switzerland, therefore the festival is more of a family reunion, which demonstrates the deep connections the valley has to its culture, the Green Fairy. Check out our photos of the road trip in the gallery.