Butterfly : a Belle Epoque american absinthe resurected in the Val de Travers
Brian Fernald, a very dedicated American absintheur and a very famours Swiss distiller cooperated to bring back to life an absinthe Brand that was produced in the US before the prohibition
Absinthe in the US before 1900 ?
Absolutely. Three countries are known for having forbidden absinthe : France, Switzerland, and the United States. There are numerous documents demonstrating that absinthe used to be exported to, produced and consumed in the States.
For example, there are extremely scarce examples of american absinthe spoons, Pernod Fils “White” (and not Blanche) etc.
Besides, the climate on this side of the Atlantic ocean allows the culture of wormwood along with a vast majority of the plants needed in the elaboration of absinthe, and to obtain such a quality that some of the local production was exported to Europe at the begining of the 20th century. Still nowadays, Kirk Burkett, who is reknow for his magnificent sterling silver spoons, is making business by growing and selling absinthe herbs he cultivates on the American soil.
Therefore it is no surprise that absinthe would be consumed and produced in the United States at La Belle Epoque. You will find further information on the Virtual Absinthe Musuem
Buttefly used to be produced in Boston in the early 1900 by P.Dempsey & Co. It is one of the only american brands a bottle of which has been found, even if, sadly, it was empty. Consequently, there is nothing left to be known about the actual taste of this absinthe.
Still, dedicated absintheur Brian Fernald from Boston achieved the feat of gathering many documents about the Dempsey family and their history, working with historians from Boston. And that includes anotated recipe books.
Oh, and Brian is by no mean a newcommer in the world of absinthe : he is the owner of Absinthe Devil, a company selling absinthe paraphenalia for the US market.
Some contreversies on this new life
Our sources indicate that M. Fernald contacted different distilleries to try to bring back to life the Butterfly, some being American. His final choice was Claude Alain Bugnon’s Artemisia Distillery.
Artemisia indicate on their website that M. Bugnon went into this adventure out of curiosity, and produced a Distiller’s Proof (a “beta version”) for M. Fernald, who already was a lover of some other products from Artemisia. And that led to the final version.
American absinthe produced in the Val de Travers ?
At a time when the distillers from the Val de Travers want do obtain an IGP protecting the name “absinthe” for a product created in the Val de Travers only, arguing that absinthe is a Swiss product only, it happens that one of them brings back to light a part of absinthe’s history that would have been better left forgotten.
Obviously, in some communities arose discussions about the irony of the situation, sometimes livelier than the discussion about the product itself. More so because, while the Butterfly could initially be sold in Switzerland, the Tax and Trades Bureau has not yet validated the label fomr the American Market.
Is the new Butterlfy similar to the original ?
Not likely. We will say it again, if necessary : on cannot reproduce a vintage absinthe only from notes or recipes, even if they contain a whole lot of details. Some tried to, and have often been the target of many biting comments.
Truth be told, while the recipe was probably instrumental in recreating the overal profile, and while the conception of the Butterfly was left to the expertise of M. Bugnon, it is almost certain that the new Butterfly does not taste like its ancestor. M. Bugnon himself puts it like this “With the same recipe, if you change the still, the taste has changed”.
Let’s talk about the product
Let us forget all that for the time being, and concentrate on what is important : what is Butterfly worth ?
We did not have the chance at the present time to have a go at the Butterfly, but the first feedbacks are promising.
With a very good louche, Butterfly is said to be intense and powerful, be it strong or diluted (with a different behaviour) with clear notes of mint and citrus.
Website : Absinthe Butterfly
Distiller’s websinte : Absinthe Butterfly chez Artemisia