It is a strong local tradition in Provence to combine the abundance of wild herbs and fruits with alcohol to create interesting liquors. One of the most famous is ABSINTHE which was banned in France for 84 years. The mystery of the drink known as the “green fairy” linked to artists in the 19th century sparked our curiosity.
Originally in the village of Venelles an old Provencal family ran the local Liquoriste . The family worked to secret recipes , their small factory hidden behind a high hedge. The elderly owner was seen in the village wearing a large Provencal hat and often driving a pony and trap. As family fortunes declined the factory was sold. The new owner, Pascal Rolland renovated and revived the production and in 1999 , when the ban was lifted, reintroduced absinthe.
The interior is bright and colourful . A range of products on display.We started our tour with a short film to explain the history of the factory and the origins of Absinthe.
This is the plant called absinthe that grows wid in our region above 300 meters. The leaves have a bitter taste and along with sagebrush, genepi and tarragon give Versinthe its finesse and bitterness.
Other plants are added, twenty in all according to a recipe found in a 19th century book discovered on the sight. Here is the list; anis ,coriander,fennel, dill,to offset the bitterness;basil, rosemary,angelica,to enhance the flavours ;peppermint and verbena to add a fresh note.
It is in the balance of the herbs judged with the help of the expert liquoriste Marc Villaceque which makes Versinthe a prize winning Absinthe. The factory produces a whole range of drinks by the same method of macerating herbs in pure alcohol.
The tour then continued through the heating and distillation processes.I dutifully took photos of the equipment and was surprised to hear that they had acquired vacuum distillation from GRASSE allegedly once used for CHANEL NUMBER 5.
We were then presented with a beautifully prepared apero to accompany our tasting of some of the range of liquors.
There are drinks made from every herb.From flavours given by figs and lavender.
The decision had to be made as to who was tasting and who was driving us home.
Finally we watched the performance , serving absinthe correctly adds to its mystic.A centimetre of the clear liquid ” La Blanche” is poured into the small etched tumbler .A sugar cube is placed on the slotted Versinthe spoon and placed over the glass.The glass is placed under the nozzle of an antique silver and cut glass water fountain.Slowly drizzle 10 parts of cold water, drop by drop, over the sugar cube.The drizzle of water “beats” the versinthe releasing its subtle flavours.The liquid transforms into a mysterious cloud. Entranced we headed for the shop to buy the necessary equipment!
For more information and recipes for making Versinthe cocktails look at http://www.versinthe.net