The picturesque Fort de Joux just outside Pontarlier

Pontarlier is a town in the Doubs department of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France near to the border with Switzerland. It lies at the foot of the Jura Mountains and is said to be the second highest town in France with an average elevation of 1,000 metres. Its population was recorded in 2004 as being just below 20,000. Nearby stands the Fort de Joux and the 1,328 metre Le Grand Taureau which offers views over the Jura Massif and the Swiss Alps.

Pontarlier holds an important place in the history of aviation within France and is seen as a pioneering town in this regard. On the 29th of October 1910 Auguste Junot successfully flew his Farman biplane in front of a large crowd of the townspeople of Pontarlier. The following year on the 2nd of July to further planes were added to the proceedings helping to create the first ever air meeting of Franche-Comté for which a crowd of around 10,000 is reported to have attended. The Aero Club of Pontarlier was founded twenty years later by the many impassioned aviation fans resident in the town and has flourished up to the present day. Unfortunately all this was brought to an end when the production of absinthe was banned by the French government in 1914 after a number of the social ills affecting France at the time were erroneously linked to the drink.

The historic Pernod Fils distillery in Pontarlier

However, most importantly Pontarlier was home to the France’s first absinthe distillery. The Pernod distillery was established in the town in 1805 in order to avoid the higher taxes in Couvet, Switzerland where the company had been set up. The Pontarlier distillery ran at a small level of production for a number of years. Eventually Louis Pernod expanded the scale of production by purchasing 36,000 square metres of land on the banks of the Doubs River. In 1906, of a population of 8,776, around 500 townspeople worked in the absinthe trade.

As its ties with absinthe are so strong, Pontarlier is also home to the Absinthiade awards which have been held annually there since 2001 allowing the leading figures in the world of absinthe to get together and critique the best products on the market. On the back of its great success in leading the Absinthe Renaissance, La Fée Absinthe started distillation of its super-premium absinthe La Fée X•S Francáise in Pontarlier in 2004/5 helping to continue the town’s tradition in producing the finest absinthe. In recognition of its excellence the La Fée X•S range – which also includes the X•S Suisse distilled in Couvet, Switzerland – has one a large number of awards at the Absinthiades. The X•S Francaise won the silver spoon award in 2007 and 2008 while the X•S Suisse won the top golden spoon award an outstanding three years in succession between 2007 and 2009.

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