In the last week, I have seen two very different sides of the absinthe world.
- The world of real absinthe lovers assembled together in Couvet, Switzerland, for the 10th annual absinthe festival at Boveresse.
- The world of absinthe sellers (mainly French companies) assembled together at Vinexpo, Bordeaux, for the world's biggest wine and spirits exhibition.
The contrast between the two was remarkable, and probably indicative of the way the absinthe world will develop: from one of absinthe lovers to one in which professional companies will materially change the way the market operates. There will always be a place for both, but change will continue to be the name of the game.
I was in Couvet for two nights (the second was very short) and I was privileged to stay with the Bugnon family.
After a lot of work on a label for a new absinthe soon to be launched by Claude-Alain, we had the pleasure of meeting many of those who had travelled from overseas for the Festival, including Wild Bill Turkey (see below)
The Standard Deviant and Oxy,
Ted Breaux of Jade and Lucid fame,
and Mr. and Mrs. Pan Buh.
I met many other absinthe lovers for the first time (Salsa, Gertz, Sixela, Dom Lochet, Spoon, Kallisti, Head, mthuilli, and Toxic_Psychosis), and also met again with absinthe "professionals," Helfrich and Mike from Alandia.
Fate - and my early Saturday departure - prevented me meeting Hartsmar at last!
Here is Toxic_Psychosis's account of the visit to Couvet, as well as more details of the events of that evening and the following day.
The hour or so which the absinthe lovers spent at the La Clandestine distillery was over all too soon. It was great to meet up and to share a glass or so, and hopefully there will be many similar meetings in future.
BORDEAUX - VINEXPO
A different world. Mile upon mile of wines and spirits, with a few of the French absinthe distillers (and two others related to absinthe) exhibiting. I'd estimate that each of the absinthe companies present must have spent a minimum of $15,000 dollars to be present (including floor rental, stand costs, and all other expenses) and one or two may have spent $30,000 plus. It seems that there is money in absinthe!
Absinth(e) exhibitors were:-
1. Devoille, distiller of the Fougerolles, Libertine and La Charlotte absinthes.
2. Francois Guy.
3. Le Mercier.
4. Liquoristerie de Provence: Versinthe.
5. Henri Bardouin: Absente.
6. Wine and Spirit International: Hapsburg.
7. Frenchman (whose stand was too far away to visit in the time I had!).
The recent launch of Lucid didn't seem to be too much of an issue for most of the absinthe distillers I spoke to: some seemed unaware of it, but maybe they were just feigning a lack of interest!
In any case, most of these distillers sell most of their products in their local markets (except for Absente), and the French distillers use Vinexpo to put their brands in front of the French bar or supermarket trade: so their nonchalance towards Lucid was perhaps understandable.
In 2008, Vinexpo moves to Hong Kong and returns to Bordeaux in 2009. It will be interesting to see the numbers of absinthe distillers involved in those events: maybe more of those who were at Couvet and Boveresse for the absinthe festival will want to be at Vinexpo in future. As absinthe develops, I feel that the commercial absinthe companies will have to adapt and invest at events such as Vinexpo, but I hope that doesn't lead them to lose touch with their consumers at Couvet and Boveresse too.