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Discussion on the Origins and Meaning of "La Bleue"

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I think I got it right.

 

La bleue refers specifically to Swiss blanche that was produced illegally during the ban (the word blue references not so much color, but something illicit), correct? But would you say that the term could accurately describe the style of absinthes made in this timeframe and region?

 

And of course, there are several clear/white absinthes I can think of that are definitely not "la bleue" style.

 

Then there's the confusion about "Swiss style" which could refer to "la bleue" style OR in pre-ban times, the method of manufacture.

 

Stop me if I'm wrong.

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I've seen the PF Green bottles before. Hell, David just had a bunch for sale, if I'm not mistaken. The "Green" label, as I understood it, was solely meant for the American market. So likewise, I agree that the "White" was meant for the American market as well.

 

Ron, I'm glad to see you agree with Ted, since I might have doubted him otherwise. :harhar:

 

Snarkousity aside, I do hear ya. Not too long ago I was also interested to learn that blanches were around pre-ban. I thought is was intriguing that even C.F. Berger made a blanche. There are also recipes for blanches in the Duplais & Brevans texts.

 

The info isn't new news for the serious scholars, but it's a cool learning journey to go on. I really need to get the Absinthe Encyclopedia one of these days. Too bad Reading Rainbow is canceled, I'd like to see Levar to do an episode on it.

 

Herb bill from Duplais 1871 white absinthe recipe-

Greater absinthe

Lesser absinthe

Hyssop flowers

Veronica

Genepi

Roman chamomile

Green anise

Fennel

Coriander

Angelica seeds

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Ron, I'm glad to see you agree with Ted, since I might have doubted him otherwise.

Sweet! GB's approval!

 

The info isn't new news for the serious scholars

:worshippy:

 

I'll have to go through my copy of the Encyclopedia again. I clearly missed it!

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It's interesting that a lot of the pre-ban blanches I'm seeing referenced have the same ABV as their verte counterparts. Maybe I'm just used to all the modern La Bleue style booze in the 50% range.

 

The info isn't new news for the serious scholars

:worshippy:

 

I'll have to go through my copy of the Encyclopedia again. I clearly missed it!

 

To clarify just in case-

 

1.)aint sayin' I'm a serious absinthe scholar, just on the same learning journey as you!

 

2.)didn't mean to indicate that I got the blanche info from the Absinthe Encyclopedia (though I hope there is blanche info in there)- I really do need to buy it one of these days! And yes, if the world behaved according to my whim, there really would be a Reading Rainbow episode on it.

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Pernod Fils and Oxygénée Cusenier blanches prices

I do remember seeing that now! I paid no mind to it when I read it. I was just looking at all the prices. Doh!

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From Vichet:

 

Picture_15.png

 

I think I got it right.

 

La bleue refers specifically to Swiss blanche that was produced illegally during the ban (the word blue references not so much color, but something illicit), correct? But would you say that the term could accurately describe the style of absinthes made in this timeframe and region?

 

And of course, there are several clear/white absinthes I can think of that are definitely not "la bleue" style.

 

Then there's the confusion about "Swiss style" which could refer to "la bleue" style OR in pre-ban times, the method of manufacture.

 

Stop me if I'm wrong.

 

Pretty close.

 

La bleue generally refers specifically to white absinthe produced illegally in Switzerland during the ban. The term references the color when louched, and was used the way we use the term "moonshine." Although there were undoubtedly French bootleggers, it's my understanding that the use of the term was of Swiss origin.

 

The manuals and other contemporary sources refer to "absinthe suisse" regardless of provenance. According to Duplais and the other derivative authors such as De Brevans and Fritsch, there is "Swiss Absinthe" of Pontarlier, of Besançon, Lyon, etc. all of which are in France. Upon examining the protocols for all of these, the distinguishing features of absinthes suisse are a lack of essences, higher proofs, and the process of recycling tails.

 

would you say that the term could accurately describe the style of absinthes made in this timeframe and region?

I don't think that's knowable; I doubt it. It's likely that a century of illicit distilling by hundreds of distillers would evolve a variety of styles and levels of quality within the genre.

 

I don't think we can refer to a "la bleue style", unless you want to use the work of the modern Swiss producers who were producing illicitly as a standard. And there's not any one specific thing about them that sets them apart from whites produced elsewhere. I've only tasted a few vintage la bleues, but each was different. These were from the 60s and 70s so they're relatively late; who knows what they were doing in the 20s and 30s?

 

Then there's the confusion about "Swiss style" which could refer to "la bleue" style OR in pre-ban times, the method of manufacture.

Today many people use "Swiss style" erroneously to refer to white absinthe, and sometimes use Swiss, blanche and la bleue interchangeably.

 

I don't think there's much hope at this point of preserving the original meanings of these terms in common use, because "la bleue" is more fun to say, and easier to guess at the pronunciation of, than "blanche."*

 

To sum up:

 

All white absinthes are blanches.

Illicit white absinthe was/is called "la bleue" in Switzerland.

"Absinthe Suisse" was used to refer to absinthes produced in both Switzerland and France.

Both Switzerland and France produced both green and white absinthe.

 

 

*Edit: I've heard it pronounced "blon-shay."

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La bleue generally refers specifically to white absinthe produced illegally in Switzerland during the ban. The term references the color when louched, and was used the way we use the term "moonshine." Although there were undoubtedly French bootleggers, it's my understanding that the use of the term was of Swiss origin.

In Marie-Claude Delahaye's "L'Absinthe: Son histoire", there is a French cartoon from before the ban about how various people use various nicknames for absinthe - among them 'une bleue' (used by a soldier, as far as I remember). There, it seems to be a term that is interchangeable with any other nickname (such as 'perroquet') which would mean that it originally didn't have anything to do with moonshine and could be used about a verte as well.

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Mmmm, 50 liter cases!

 

Who wouldn't love a bulk discount (price per liter) for buying a 50 liter case?

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Hahaha. That wouldn't even be enough to fill one shelf in a booze closet, I would imagine.

 

It would be a fun evening though.

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In Marie-Claude Delahaye's "L'Absinthe: Son histoire", there is a French cartoon from before the ban about how various people use various nicknames for absinthe - among them 'une bleue' (used by a soldier, as far as I remember). There, it seems to be a term that is interchangeable with any other nickname (such as 'perroquet') which would mean that it originally didn't have anything to do with moonshine and could be used about a verte as well.

Good to know. Got an image of it? It sounds familiar, but I may be thinking of an advertisement.

 

Could be that the term became popular in post-ban Switzerland then because that's primarily what they were making. I don't think that indicates that it would be used for vertes though, which to me seems unlikely.

 

I did turn up some interesting things from a pre-ban French slang dictionary, but no "bleue" for absinthe.

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I have a couple extra unopened copies of that MCD book (L'Absinthe: Son Histoire) from a previous life. I'll post something in the appropriate section of the forum in the next few days in case anyone is interested in taking one off my hands. The text is in French.

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Good to know. Got an image of it? It sounds familiar, but I may be thinking of an advertisement.

 

Unfortunately, I can't find my copy of the book. I think it got lost once I had to mail a bunch of books to myself from France. :3869-sadbanana:

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thanks Marc !

translated

Le Perroquet (the parrot) can become, according to Louis Rigaud, author of a dictionnary of the French slang (langue verte in French slang), a parakeet (une perruche)

And, to keep with a colorful language, la verte, or verdoyante, becomes in Swiss "la bleue"

 

Captions :

When TP drinks with his poet cousin, he calls his absinthe a purée (mashed potatoes)

With his nephew, the young soldier, une bleue

With his little niece, a mominette (tiny young girl...?)

And with his uncle, naturalist, a parrot

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I had always assumed "bleue" referred to the color, but a little bit of research reveals that a "bleu" can be a solider, in particular a young inexperienced solider - the cartoon with the young soldier would seem to validate that - note that there it's "une" (a) rather than "la" (the) which is the feminine "the". It was also slang for blind drunk. The text above the cartoon seems to say that any absinthe, even green, was called "la bleue" in Switzerland.

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