|- Absinthe - The Green Fairy - La Fée Verte -
Vintage Absinthe from the Pre-ban Era
Banned for almost a century until its recent revival, absinthe is something of a “living fossil”, a
coelecanth amongst drinks, able to magically transport us back to the glittering world of Paris
and the Belle Epoque, a world of bohemian musicians and writers, of the Moulin Rouge and the
cafés of Montmartre, a world of starving struggling artists and glittering courtesans.
Absinthe is made from alcohol and distilled herbs or herbal extracts, chief amongst them grand
wormwood (artemesia absinthium) and green anise, but also almost always including 3 other
herbs: petite wormwood (artemesia pontica, aka Roman wormwood), fennel, and hyssop.
Well made absinthes are generally pale green, but louche, or turn milky, when water is added.
This is caused by the essential oils precipitating out of the solution, as the alcohol is diluted.
Clear absinthes - often called La Bleue or La Blanche, and historically popular in Switzerland -
are made without the final colouring step, and may also differ slightly in herbal composition.
Legend has it, that the inventor of the drink was Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, who in 1792, shortly after
the French revolution, travelled around the Val de Travers near the French-Swiss border on his
faithfull horse Rocket, and produced the first commercial absinthe, initially as an all-purpose
remedy or cure-all. It was nicknamed "La Fée Verte" - "The Green Fairy" - and this name stuck
throughout absinthe's heyday. Dr. Ordinaire's invention aroused the interest of a gentleman
named Major Dubied, who saw its possibilities not just as a patent medicine, but as an aperitif.
Dubied purchased what was reputed to be Ordinaire’s original formula from two sisters called
Henriod at the beginning of the 19th century and began large scale production.
By 1805, the Pernod Fils absinthe company was set up in Pontarlier in the Doubs region, run by
Dubied's son-in-law, Henri-Louis Pernod. Pernod Fils went from strength to strength. Henri-
Louis's dynamic younger son Louis purchased 36 000 square meters of land on the outskirts of
Pontarlier alongside the Doubs River, and built a factory with a daily production exceeding 400
litres. By 1850, when Louis died, the factory had 26 stills producing 20 000 liters a day. The popularity of absinthe spread
further as it was used as a fever preventative by French troops fighting in Algeria from 1844 to 1847. When the troops of the
Bataillon d'Afrique returned to France, they brought with them their taste for the refreshingly bitter drink, and absinthe
became a hit in bars and bistros all over France. Licensing laws were relaxed during the 1860's, which resulted in a
proliferation of new cabarets and cafés - more than 30,000 existed in Paris by 1869, and 5 p.m. signified l'Heure Verte - the
Green Hour - in almost every one.
In the 1860's, there was for the first time concern about the results of chronic abuse of absinthe. Chronic use of absinthe
was claimed to produce a syndrome, called absinthism, which was characterized by addiction, hyperexcitability, epileptic fits
and hallucinations. By the 1890’s, absinthe had become the primary target for the French temperance movement.
Absinthe was finally banned in Belgium in 1905, in Switzerland in 1910, in the USA in 1912 and finally in France in 1915. Most
of the great absinthe-producing firms went bankrupt, or amalgamated, or switched to producing pastis. Some firms
transferred their production to Spain, where absinthe was never banned, and where it continues to be made on a small
scale. A remnant of the Pernod company made absinthe in Tarragona from 1912 until the late 60's.
To drink a pre-ban absinthe from 1910, from the era of Toulouse Lautrec and Van Gogh, of Verlaine and Rimbaud is an
extraordinary and life enhancing experience - this is truly, in Barnaby Conrad's words, history in a bottle - one has the feeling
of reaching back like a time traveller into the distant past, and feeling for just a moment a flicker of the warmth of a summer's
day on a Parisian boulevard a century ago. Vintage absinthe is far rarer than ancient cognac, pre-prohibition bourbon, or any
other vintage spirit. Every surviving bottle is a precious relic. No more than a few hundred people on earth have tasted
vintage absinthe (most of them via this website). Many purchasers extract a small sample to taste via a hypodermic syringe
through the cork, but leave the bottle otherwise intact for future generations.
We continually search throughout France, Switzerland and Spain for sealed bottles of vintage absinthe, in fine original
condition. When we do find pre-1915 bottles, they tend to sell very quickly, often to buyers already on our waiting list,
although occasionally we are able to offer them here.
Please email us to put your name on the waiting list if you're a serious potential purchaser for vintage absinthe bottles.
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Absinthe Suisse "Grande Distillerie Lyonnaise" circa 1890-1895
This is an exceptional bottle - a circa 1890-95 Absinthe Suisse,
marked "Grande Distillerie Lyonnaise". Lyon was a noticable centre
for absinthe production, and an "absinthe Lyonnaise" was a specific
regional recipe (a high percentage of angelica root in the distillation,
and veronica added to the colouring step).
The bottle has a capacity of around 600ml and is crudely blown,
maybe dating from even earlier than 1890-1895.
This is the first example of an absinthe Lyonnaise we have found.
It's an absolutely superb tasting absinthe, read the review by a
well-known French absintheur.
"Absinthe Suisse" was the highest quality designation possible in
the era, indicating a naturally coloured absinthe of the finest
quality. The wording "Grande Distillerie Lyonnaise" almost certainly
indicates that this was manufactured by the Ferrand Freres distillery
Absinthe J.V.& Ca Neufchatel
(Doubs) circa 1880
This fascinating bottle was found
alongside the Edouard Pernod bottle shown below in the same cellar bin. The distiller, J.V.&Ca
were based in the canton of Neuchatel (here rendered in the archaic spelling "Neufchatel"), just
inside the Swiss border in the area where it is demarcated by the river Doubs.
Very early and crudely hand-blown bottle of great character, with an exceptionally deep punt
(around 8cm) and many irregularities in the glass. The bottle has a non-standard capacity of
0.65 - 0.7 litre. Intact label, and the remainder of the original red wax seal, on which the Swiss
Cross can just be made out. Good level, and no moisture or seepage round the cork. The
contents are amber coloured, bright and clear.
Absinthe Edouard Pernod - Lunel (Herault) - circa 1870-1880
This is an exceptional bottle. The branch of Edouard Pernod in Lunel was sold off and changed
it's name to Gempp Pernod in 1880, so this bottle can be dated with confidence to prior to that
date. It's the earliest intact sealed absinthe bottle yet unearthed.
Handblown one-litre bottle with many small bubbles and irregularities in the glass, as one would
expect from a bottle of this era. Crudely applied glass neck seal, and perfect fully intact branded
wax seal on the cork. Not a trace of seepage, and an excellent level. Beautiful label, in overall
very good condition. The contents appear in excellent condition, amber coloured, bright and
clear. A highly important survival from one of the greatest marques.
The Barcelona Cache - 30 intact Absinthe Pernod Fils
This is the most important cache of Spanish-made Pernod ever
found - 30 bottles dating from the late 1950's, all with excellent
levels and sound corks, the absinthe perfectly preserved. The
damp storage conditions mean the original labels are all
damaged to some degree, and in some cases are missing
entirely, but it's precisely these conditions that have preserved
the corks (and the absinthe inside) so perfectly. All the bottles
have the famous embossed "Pernod" glass seal on the
shoulder, and all have most of their original neck foil. Each
contains about 900ml of absinthe.
Early circa 1895 Absinthe Pernod fils 68%
A fine intact Absinthe Pernod Fils, good
colour, aged but intact label, good level,
intact neck foil, grey green branded wax
seal near perfect. A lovely bottle.
Absinthe Pernod Fils "Green"
labelled for the US market
This is a rare find, very few
US-labelled Pernod Fils bottles
have survived in this sort of
condition. Marvellous near mint
label, really excellent level,
substantial remains of original
green wax seal on the cork (which
protrudes about a millimetre
above the lip of the bottle but
which is original, untouched and in
excellent condition). The staining
visible on the neck foil is not
seepage from this bottle - another
liquor bottle stacked above this
one must have leaked on it at
some stage. US-labelled Pernod
Fils like this is rare and very
Absinthe Dornier - Tuller circa 1890-1900
A very important find: a circa 1890 - 1900 "Vieille Absinthe Dornier", missing the label but otherwise
in quite outstanding condition. Remarkably good level, three-quarters of the way up the glass seal
on the shoulder. Crisply struck original green wax seal. Largely intact neck foiling. This bottle comes
from cellar well known to us from previous finds, it has lain undisturbed since - at least - the 1930's.
The one litre capacity bottle measures 31 cm tall and has a deep punt with inverted tip. The glass is
heavy and handblown, with some crudity, especially around the base. The bottle likely dates from the
The Dornier Tuller distillery was established in Fleurier in 1878 by
Narcisse Dornier-Tuller. His son Albert established the Pontarlier arm
of the firm in 1886. Dornier-Tuller was a high-end brand whose
products commanded a premium price. The "Vieille Absinthe Dornier"
was the distillery's flagship product, aged in casks before release, and
distilled exclusively from wine alcohol.
Absenta 65% circa 1935-40 - A rare bottle of RED absinthe from Spain!
Red absinthes have a long tradition in Spain, one brand, called Serpis, is still made today.
This pre-war red absenta bottle had a very fragile cork - accordingly we transferred the
contents into a clear sample bottle, so that it can be safely shipped. This is the only
surviving bottle of vintage red absinthe we have found in the last decade.
Absinthe Jules Pernod, circa 1890-1895
This is an extremely rare bottle, only the forth Jules
Pernod bottle we have handled in 15 years. Even more
interestingly, this is a particularly early bottling, as can
be seen from the crude hand-blown bottle and
irregularly applied glass neck seal. Jules Pernod was an
entirely independent firm, based in Avignon, which
fought bitter trademark battles with Pernod Fils over
the use of the generic term "Un Pernod" - and ultimately
prevailed in the courts, winning the right to call its
product "Un Pernod" in the same way Pernod Fils did.
Circa 1910 Absinthe Pernod Fils
Another superb bottle of Absinthe Pernod Fils in
excellent condition, with a very good level, a
neck-foil largely intact, and showing slight crudity
(some bubbles in the glass). Likely dates from
Circa 1905 Absinthe Pernod Fils
A superb bottle of Absinthe Pernod Fils
in excellent condition - very good level,
neck-foil largely intact, branded wax
seal, label complete with only very
minor scuffing. The contents are bright
and clear. The bottle still shows slight
crudity - bubbles in the glass - and
likely dates from around 1905. This is
the classic absinthe of the Belle
Epoque, the benchmark by which all
others are judged. Bottles in such
pristine condition are extremely rare. A
very desirable bottle.
Absinthe Verte J.L.T. circa 1880
This extremely rare and unusual absinthe dates from - at least - the early 1880's. The hand-blown bottle
is extremely crudely made, with an exceptionally deep punt, extending nearly 4 inches into the bottle.
There are many irregularities and bubbles in the glass. The label - printed in green only - is typical of
French and Swiss examples recorded from the 1850's to 1880's. It's possible this bottle is considerably
older than 1880, we have erred on the cautious side in dating it. The distillery or producer name "J.L.T." is
not recorded in the literature, but is likely to be a small manufacturer, probably of Swiss origin.
Some previously sold vintage absinthe bottles (for vintage absinthe currently for sale, see Absinthe Originals):
Absinthe Pernod Fils "Garanti Fabriqué en 1913"
This is the classic "benchmark" Pernod Fils with the labels overprinted "Fabriqué en 1913" (made in
1913). This is a very rare bottling - these bottles were the very last stock produced by Pernod before
the ban in 1914. They were sent to Holland for safekeeping and a small quantity were released 25
years later for export in 1938 with this special overprinted label. The balance of the stocks was
unfortunately destroyed by bombing during the war. Photos show the bottle still covered in the
original cellar dust!
Absinthe Premier Fils 65%
An exceptional absinthe bottle: an
intact ABSINTHE PREMIER FILS,
one of the greatest brands of the
Belle Epoque era.
As you’ll see in the photos, it has
the complete original branded
capsule, quite wonderful!
Comoz "Absinthe des Alpes"
Established in 1870 in Chambery
in the Savoie region, C. Comoz
specialized in a unique vermouth
blanc (white vermouth) and an
equally remarkable absinthe,
"Absinthe des Alpes", based on
a local recipe, and using
The absinthe is extremely pale
amber in colour, and louches
almost white. My belief is that
this absinthe was originally a
blanche, and the slight colour
now is simply a result of a
century of ageing. It's not
possible to say this with
absolute certainty, it may
instead have been an
exceptionally pale verte. The
aroma and flavour of this
absinthe are quite wonderful,
Pictures taken from a twin of the bottle offered for sale,
discovered lying alongside it in the original cellar, and
subsequently opened for tasting.
Absinthe La Constantine 65 - Distillerie Constant Farcat, circa 1910
Constant Farcat was a prominent Burgundy-based distiller specializing primarily in absinthe, but also
making a well known kirsch. Established in 1896, they remained in business up until the ban in 1914.
Their beautifully named absinthe "La Constantine" was a regional favorite, and was, unusually, sold
in a clear glass bottle. This Constant Farcat was a prominent Burgundy-based distiller specializing
primarily in absinthe, but also making a bottle likely dates from around 1910, and was found lying
alongside in the same cellar as the Cusenier bottle Constant Farcat was a prominent
Burgundy-based distiller specializing primarily in absinthe, but also making a shown above.
This is the first intact bottle of this marque to be discovered.
After the absinthe ban
in France in 1915, a
small part of the
original Pernod Fils
very floral, licorice root and green anise of the very finest quality are both noticeable, the louche is
thick and rich, and yet the absinthe has an extraordinarily refined feel in the mouth, very feminine
and perfumed in character. Really quite remarkable!
company decamped to Tarragona in Spain, and continued making absinthe according
to the original recipes and protocols. Production continued in a small way until the
1960's. This is the absinthe Hemingway wrote about in "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
and elsewhere, and is the closest thing available to pre-ban absinthe.