Autumn has arrived, the first weekend in October has passed, and this was again the opportunity for many of the who's who of the absinthe world to gather in Pontarlier, France's historic absinthe capital. 2009 saw the ninth Absinthiades, the annual absinthe festival. And this culminated in the awards for the best absinthes as judged blind by a big tasting panel. This is actually made of up of three separate tasting panels (professional, public and VIP), with many of the better known absinthe distillers and vendors making up the professional jury.
When I wrote about last year's event, I talked about other spirits competitions which have often been criticised on the absinthe forums. The Absinthiades have also previously been discussed in some detail but to me the consistency of their results really stands out, with the same absinthes doing well each year, and quite consistent scores from the three tasting panels.
The 2009 results were first published on the Les Amis du Musée de Pontarlier website) and are shown here for my readers' convenience (click on the image to see the results more clearly):
This was the first time that macerates were not included in the event, and also the first time that blanches and vertes were judged separately. I have always queried putting the blanches and vertes together, so it is good to see the longest-standing absinthe awards splitting the results this way. This will hopefully show a lead to other events and maybe even to bars and retailers who could also consider splitting their lists or sites between these categories.
Notably, in both categories, the highest scores went to absinthes produced by Claude-Alain Bugnon's Artemisia Distillerie at Couvet, Switzerland.
His La Clandestine 55%, otherwise known as Recette Marianne, had won the Golden Spoon for the last four years. This recipe is only very slightly different from the original La Clandestine and is made specifically for the French market where the regulations on fenchone content are more restrictive than elsewhere. It was agreed that this absinthe (which achieved the highest score from all jury sectors and across both blanches and vertes) would not be included in the official competition because it had won for four consecutive years. This meant that the Blanche Golden Spoon went to La Fée X.S. Suisse, itself now a triple Golden Spoon winner, and also made at a certain small distillery in Couvet!
Among the nine blanches tasted were Kübler, Blanche de Fougerolles and Un Emile.
Eleven vertes were tasted, including Brevans, Roquette 1797, and Francois Guy. The Golden Spoon went to Claude-Alain's Angélique.
Grande Absente was second in this category, with Claude-Alain Bugnon's Opaline third.
Further coverage of the awards from Switzerland.
I know Claude-Alain was very pleasantly surprised to win gold with Angélique at only the second attempt. With just a little fine tuning since its 2007 launch, Angélique has become an excellent, truly "best in class" absinthe.
It seems that the celebrations may have continued late into the night in the area around Couvet and Pontarlier: Claude-Alain emailed me the results the morning after the event with the commentary "Suis rentré un peu tard" ("I got home a bit late ..."). I think the celebrations were probably well deserved!
FOOTNOTE: Absinthes produced by Claude-Alain Bugnon have now won a record 8 Golden Spoons at the Absinthiades. Maybe it's time to allow the others to win one or two ...