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This is a critical moment in the ritual. The water trickles through the cube and into the liquid, creating the la louche, the opalescent conjunction of water, distillate and herbs, from which initiates conjure the Green Fairy. The bouquet drifts up and time seems to stand still. It was necessary out of politeness to sample two of the Guy family’s products before moving on to other parts of the Festival which I did with some difficulty. The Distillerie Pierre Guy sits down a residential street nestled incongruously between suburban villas. No Health and Safety issues here, with thousands of litres of explosive alcohol bubbling away! I was welcomed by father and son François and Pierre Guy who proudly showed me their copper stills, shop and museum. Then, at 9.30 in the morning, they initiated me into the ritual of la Fée Verte. Much of the allure is in the preparation, the slowing down of time, the anticipation, the various accoutrements. The comparison with opium smoking cannot be discounted. The emerald liquid is poured into a Pontarlier glass, with its bubble reserve at the base indicating an exact measure. The intense aroma should be sampled. Next an absinthe spoon, flat with decorative perforations, is placed across the top of the glass. A sugar cube is rested on the spoon upon which a delicate drip-drip of iced water is directed from an absinthe fountain (a tall glass bowl with small taps, often styled in correct period fashion). Absintheurs are, in the main, a jolly lot, ready to chat and share. Serious collectionneurs bought and sold glasses, labels, spoons, and other ephemera. Then, behind a table full of books on absinthe, I spotted a diminutive auburn-haired lady who turned out to be Marie-Claude Delahaye, founder and director of le Musée de l'Absinthe, probably the world authority on the Green Fairy! We chatted and she invited me to the museum in Auvers-sur- Oise, Picardy. I arranged to meet her there in two days. Round the corner from the main hall was a tiny shop, housing a small copper still tended by Patrick Grand, producer of Absinthe Grand. He’s a bit rock n’roll and, in the true spirit of le demi-monde, makes a cannabis-infused absinthe. “I have another distillery over the Swiss border. It helps to have a ‘fluid’ arrangement with border patrols, if you understand me” he said with a wink. “You can do anything in Switzerland if you pay the right people”. During the illegal years moonshiners proliferated but stills were hard to procure. Legendary coppersmith Georges-Edouard Matthey-Claudet was the go-to man for a still, which he duly invoiced as ‘a new coffee-maker’. Green dreams filled my sleep all the way to Paris…
Bonjour! Welcome to the winter issu
contents Features 8 A tale of two c
P 88 88 give aways Win a row of gor
The Medieval City of Carcassonne Th
The inside track The Medieval city