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Claude-Alain Bugnon
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CH-2108 Couvet

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Home arrow Presentation arrow Absinth from Val-de-Travers
The Val-de-Travers, the birthplace of absinthe


pic_vdt_100x200.jpgBorn in the Val-de-Travers, absinthe has flourished in the region from the late 18th century until this day; legal at first, then banned, only to be legalised again in March 2005. Will the next step in its history include an AOC?


The Val-de-Travers is indeed the place where absinthe was born. It was in this valley that it was produced for the first time at the end of the 18th century. To this day, the plants of the region give the Swiss “la Bleue” its distinctive flavour, its richness in taste and its bitterness.

While the roots of absinthe go back three centuries, it was first distilled commercially in 1797. In that year Daniel-Henri Dubied bought the rights from the Henriod family to make and to sell their absinthe elixir. With the help of his son-in-law Henri-Louis Pernod, he founded his distillery in Couvet, followed by Berger, Kübler and others who helped spread the Fairy of the Val-de-Travers.


At the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 15 distilleries and more than 40 plantations in the region; secure jobs for hundreds of people. There was also a large number of warehouses to dry the plants; the one of Cines in Boveresse is now a historical monument.

The great success of the so-called "milk from Boveresse" proved, however, to be fatal. In 1908, due to the enormous pressure of the rival wine producers and the growing prohibition movement, absinthe was banned in Switzerland. The cantons of Neuchâtel and Geneva were the only ones to refuse to vote for the law banning the production, selling and importing of absinthe.

In 1910, the ban was established and the production of absinthe became clandestine, proving the immortality of the Fairy. A myth was born and throughout the 20th century, absinthe was solely produced by a handful of individuals, in the basements and kitchens of the Val-de-Travers. It is  said that Swiss absinthe was made clear at this time in order to fool the local Customs officers that the drink was in fact vodka or another clear spirit. Locals called their absinthes either "les blanches," in honour of the white "louche," or "les bleues," since the louched absinthe apparently reflected the blue skies of Switzerland.

On March 1st 2005, the ban was lifted and a number of clandestine distillers came out in the open. The myth might have lost its power but the quality of the Val-de-Travers absinthe has not. The first steps to protect this by an AOC have already been taken.

 
 
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