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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Losier

Artefact of the Week Series: Have a Glass of Pernod Anise at Anse à Bertrand!

Pictured below is the seal from a bottle of Pernod Anise, a modified version of Pernod Absinthe, that we found fragmented but almost complete in sector 10 of the site at Anse à Bertrand. Based on this seal, the bottle dates from the 1970s, corresponding with the site’s abandonment. Although the bottle is not the most meaningful artifact we’ve found at the site, the completeness of the bottle is notable and the product has an interesting significance.


The story goes that absinthe was invented as an elixir by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in 1792 in Switzerland. This absinthe was made from wormwood bark, star anise, licorice, fennel, hyssop, camomile, spinach, and coriander. The Pernod brand was founded by Henri-Louis Pernod in 1805, originally called Pernod Fils (son of Pernod) because he learned the art of distilling absinthe from his father, who began the first commercial distillation of Absinthe in 1794 in Switzerland. The first manufacturing plant for Pernod was across the border in the French town of Pontarlier, France to avoid paying taxes at the border. Absinthe became very popular among the French, as few other varieties of drinks were available because plagues from 1862 to the 1880s destroyed many vineyards (used for wine and brandy). Army doctors also prescribed it in the 1840s to prevent fevers, malaria, and dysentery. By the 1870s, 36 million litres of absinthe were produced a year.


Despite the drink’s popularity, in the late 19th century the French government questioned its effects. Absinthism became a diagnosis and included addiction, hallucinations, and volatile mood swings. At around 68%, the alcohol quantity in absinthe is no joke but these effects were more realistically caused by the questionable morals of some manufacturers who would add chemicals to their product to enhance the appearance. Laboratory experiments performed on animals in the 1870s perpetuated this myth and absinthe was blamed for many bouts of madness, like Van Gogh cutting off his ear, and murders committed by drunks. In 1915, the French government banned the sale of absinthe and wormwood products based on these occurrences. It wasn’t until 1926 that Pernod Fils became Pernod, removing the wormwood from but keeping its popular anise-flavour. It wasn’t until 2011 that France repealed this law and the original Pernod was recreated and can be seen on shelves today.

Author:

  • Hannah Wade

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