La Fée is unique in its distilling absinthe in France (Pontarlier, Bourgoin-Jallieu and Paris) and Switzerland (Couvet). These four distilleries were chosen due to their provenance, traditional distillation and quality, and between them produce the five very different La Fée absinthes.
Quality absinthe is made in a very similar way to gin – botanicals are distilled in a base spirit to extract their flavours. The vapour from the still is collected and condensed to produce a flavoured spirit to which water is added to reduce to bottling strength. Like gin the botanicals may be distilled together, or distilled separately and then blended. Also similarly to gin, further botanicals may be infused in the distillate to further flavour or colour the absinthe prior to bottling.
Cheap absinthe is made in the same way as cheap gin – it is compounded rather than distilled. Infusions and flavour extracts are simply blended with a neutral spirit. All five La Fée absinthes are distilled.
Cherry Rocher Distillery
La Fée Parisienne Absinthe and La Fée Ansinthe Blanche are both made at Cherry Rocher Distillery in the Rhône-Alpes using stills dating from 1833.
Cherry Rocher Distillery
At the heart of La Fée Parisienne absinthe lies the holy trinity of Artemisia plants: Grande Absinthe, Petite Absinthe and Génépi. Génépi is not as widely used in modern day absinthes but historically is a key botanical. Around these heavy base flavours are layers of complexity provided by Green and Star anise, Hyssop, Coriander Seeds and Fennel Seeds. All these eight botanicals are distilled with French beet neutral spirit to release their flavours and the distillates blended together.
The only other addition to these eight botanicals is natural plant chlorophyll which gives La Fée Parisienne its subtle green colour and adds to its flavour. This is made by macerating a secret combination of plants in neutral beet alcohol for six to eight weeks. This infusion is then blended into the absinthe. Being natural, this colouring is very delicate and the absinthe will eventually turn clear if exposed to ultraviolet light. Hence La Fée Parisienne is packed in a painted bottle to protect its contents.
La Fée Ansinthe Blanche is made in exactly the same way but with three additional botanicals. Obviously, being a blanche absinthe it is not infused with plant chlorophyll.
The two stills dedicated to the distillation of Green and Star Anise
The Green and Star anise are both distilled together, the Anethole in both plants so strong that dedicated stills are used. The three Artemisia plants are also distilled together. The distillery and methods used are virtually unchanged from those used to make French absinthe before the 1915 ban.