Every year, in June, the small village of Boveresse, Switzerland wakes up from its year-long slumber and shows its colors for a day. For one day the main street is filled with stalls where merchandise, absinthe related as well as anything else, is sold and where distillers of Val de Travers are showing off their products and offer tastings. This is the Fête de l'Absinthe in Boveresse. Simply put - the absinthe festival. Most links in the text will pop-up photos from the trip and some will lead you to reviews of absinthes here on the site.
Arrived at the airport at noon and headed to Sixt to pick up my rental. Made very sure this time that they wouldn't max out my credit card by reserving everything on it as Budget did the last time. Morons.
So, first stop - Kallnach. I headed out on the road from Geneva to find my way to the little town of Kallnach about an hour and a half away. Getting there I met up with Peter and Ian of Liqueurs de France, David Nathan-Maister (Oxygenee.com) and Ted Breaux (Jade Liqueurs). We all headed for the Matter-Luginbühl distillery... We were greeted by the owners and got a tour of their very nice distillery. They produce a lot of various eau-de-vie's and liqueurs as well as a range of absinthes. When it comes to absinthes they produce their own blanche and also a couple of others in co-operation with Liqueurs de France and Markus Lion at Absinthe.de.
After sampling anything from absinthes to pure 96% base alcohol and not to forget - the Asparagus eau-de-vie - we headed for Couvet. Not empty handed though - got myself a bottle of very nice Strawberry eau-de-vie. Not much left of that one now...
We got into our cars again and drove off to Couvet and our hotel.
After about an hour drive we arrived at the hotel and checked into our rooms. A very nice hotel which apparently is situated at the very spot where the infamous Henriod sisters once lived. I had a quick bite in the restaurant since I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast and it was now 4pm. I ordered a sandwich with cheese and ham. Got a full plate with half a loaf of bread and an entire pig. It was good.
Satisfied after getting something to eat we all went to visit the distillery where La Ptite is made. Warmly greeted by Gaudentia Persoz and her husband Jean-Michel Persoz we had a look around the distillery and of course tasted some of her absinthes and a pretty nice liqueur. Interesting to see the little still she used in comparison to the larger sized stills most others use.
With their daughters running around dressed up like little green fairies we enjoyed the La Ptite and also the Absinth'Love 69 while Gaudentia tried explaining the somewhat unorthodox label of the "love". We invited them to join us for dinner that evening at Le Soliat, a fondue restaurant up at Creux-du-van. One of the most beautiful places around those parts for sure. With stunning views, the best cheese fondue you can think of, home-made Calvados and plenty of beer and wine there is nothing to top it off better than the best damn Swiss sausage on earth.
After dinner we all got back into the Persoz' car and was invited for coffee and drinks at their house. After a late night cup of coffee in their garden along with some weird rum and other liquors while listening to an odd-ball of a neighbour playing the accordion we all pretty much longed for some sleep.
Getting up, having breakfast and all ready to go I dropped David off at the Boveresse festival in time for some antiques browsing and the rest of us went to the nearby village of Môtiers where we visited the Blackmint distillery, makers of Kübler absinthe. They were very nice people and of course we had another sampling session with absinthe as well as Gentiane eau-de-vie - something I hadn't bothered trying before but definitely liked. I curse myself for not bringing back a bottle of that as well. A look at their nice and shiny still and we were off for dinner.
We coordinated with David to meet at a restaurant in Môtier (which is situated only 10 minutes walking from Boveresse) and we all met up there along with a huge gang of people that David had met at the festival. Markus Lion and his girlfriend, Paolo & Margarita from Italy, Christopher "Gertz" Bech from Denmark, Andrew T ("Standard Deviant ") from England and his brother, a nice American couple who just happened to be in town and also Oliver Matter and and his wife Nicole from the Matter-Luginbühl distillery. If I'm forgetting someone I guess they'll hate me forever.
We had a great lunch with what just might be the finest piece of lamb I've had in a very long time. Not to mention the outstanding dessert - the absinthe soaked ice-cream...oh yeah. After lunch it was time to take on the festival, or what was left of it since there had been a huge thunder storm and plenty of rain while we were at the restaurant.
Once there we pretty much just wandered around, visited the old wormwood drying shed, sampled absinthes and checked what the various distillers had to offer. The Persoz' were there of course as well as Bugnon with his range of the Clandestine absinthes. DistAB promoted their rather ok Absinthe 55 and so on and so forth. During the day I also got to sample something very interesting coming from Ted and Jade Liqueurs soon. Both a liqueur and an eau-de-vie named Perique. Made from a unique type of tobacco grown in Louisiana, USA. Sounds strange? Trust me - it was very tasty.
The day passed without any horrible incidents other than some lamas being dragged around the festival and a marching band who deserved to be kicked off the cliffs of Creux-du-van. Seriously - they played 1980's rock classics. In a marching band! What the... I didn't enjoy "Eye of the Tiger" before - I really hate it now.
Leaving the festival with a couple of bottles of absinthe and the official 2006 Fête de l'Absinthe spoon decorated with an artsy fartsy penis, oh - sorry - it's the Boveresse church tower - we headed back to the hotel for drinks, drinks, dinner and drinks.
Seating ourselves in David's room we started sampling some very very nice wines that Peter and Ted brought. Just as we were getting started, Steve Rosat joined us for the evening. We had a mystery champagne which no one could pinpoint what it was. Turns out it was a "champanoise" from...New Mexico! It wasn't bad at all though. But the one wine that sticks to memory, and I can still taste it, was a 1990 Quarts des Chaume from Domaine de Baumard in the Loire valley. That was without a doubt the fruitiest most lovely white wine I've ever had. A perfect sweetness just enough to let the fruitiness through in perfect harmony. Damn that was good. Now I'm hunting it down here in Sweden. Turns out no one imports it. Note to self - import fine wine.
As if that wasn't it, Ted treated me to a sandwich with Foie Gras and Fig Chutney to go with the wine. It just got better and better. It is those moments that reminds you that life actually is pretty damn good after all.
We tracked down Paolo and Margarita in order to invite them for dinner knowing they had some wines they wanted us to try and also a prototype for an Italian absinthe - Farom Old Blanche. We got them there and headed to the restaurant for dinner. And what a dinner it was. Meat from locally "grown" buffalos and plenty of wine and beer weren't the only pleasures. I got the wonderful opportunity to try a circa 1890 Jamaican Rum which was interesting to say the least. Also got to try a circa 1930-1940 Cuban absinthe as well as some other goodies. Dinner lasted long and good and we were kindly but firmly asked to leave eventually, as the staff really needed to get home. Back up to David's room for more wine and absinthe.
A couple of glasses later most of us figured it was time for bed whilst others just had to get down to Boveresse again for the evening festivities. Let's just say they shouldn't have done that and leave it at that.
Bright and early some of us got up for breakfast and chatted about the evening before. Eventually when all was up we went just across the street to visit Bugnon in his distillery for a morning sample of absinthe and some talking about all things absinthe. Also had a sample of his Clandestine Barrique. Absinthe - aged in an oak cask. An odd flavour of wood and absinthe mixed together, but separated somehow to present two tastes at once. Not intentionally, that was just the way it was. Weird. Bugnon also got to try the Jade Verte Suisse 65. Something he seemed to enjoy quite a lot. Those Swiss folks just ain't used to color in absinthes...
So, a while later it was time for me to head back to Geneva and catch my flight home. Found my way across the mountains and got some fine views of the surroundings and villages on my way to Geneva. Got a full liter of Kübler at the airport tax free store and got on my flight. The weekend had come to an end and once again the company of very good people and lots of fun and great tasting food and drinks will be stuck in memory. With any luck we'll all meet again in Pontarlier in September/October.
Many writers "of old" wrote poems or passages about absinthe. Some drank it, some didn't. Find some of them here as well as reviews and notes on modern books about absinthe.
The Absinthe Poetry section has seen several updates the past days. Poems and information about more authors; Antonin Artaud, Arthur Symons, Francis Saltus Saltus, Florence Folsom and Robert Loveman. Open your mind and have a drink while you enjoy their lyrics.
It's the new bistro, the new bar in town. A good place to meet when meeting in real life isn't always an option. Meet me on facebook for more updates from the absinthe world.