The Another

    L’Elixir d’Or, a treasure hunt for lovers of riddles and wine



    From now on, wine can expand your mind without you having to go through a hangover. And the best part is that everyone loves it. The puzzle is called The Golden Elixir (“The Golden Elixir”) and it’s a treasure hunt, a real one, with a scroll full of riddles and a chest buried somewhere in France.

    I wanted to know if the fantasy of becoming a treasure-seeking explorer only speaks to an immature and dreamy category of people, of which I am an incorrigible member. So, I chose a panel of serious – and vaguely grumpy – adults with unmistakable wisdom: Le Monde’s newsroom. The effect was quite comical: As soon as I unrolled the scroll, my audience, whose eyes suddenly lit up like flashlights, announced a six-month unpaid leave of absence to devote themselves to solving these riddles. It took a reminder from management that the print deadline was in one hour to bring this rowdy crowd back to reality. Actually, journalists are hopelessly curious. But we must admit that the prize, 3,500 bottles worth an estimated €100,000, is good bait. I will come back to this.

    Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this wine-based treasure hunt lies in its roots. The Golden Elixir was directly inspired by the book On the Trail of the Golden Owl, a treasure hunt launched in 1993 and still unsolved to this day. It has obsessed some 200,000 “owl-hunters”. A few months after its launch, French journalist Florence Aubenas – now working at The world – accompanied some explorers on their hunt and wrote about them in an article for French newspaper Release. The game was designed by Max Valentin (who died in 2009) and illustrated by Michel Becker. Eighteen months ago, Becker – who also sculpted the reward, a solid silver owl statuette covered with gold and diamonds – went to check that the treasure had not been found yet. This mythical quest, turning 30 this year, continues to drive theories, forums, and sales of shovels and compasses.

    Bottles kept cool at Vaux-le-Vicomte

    Etienne Picand, 25, continues his search. He shares his progress and the different possibilities he explores on a YouTube channel. It’s in his blood. Besides, as he announced right away, he is the son and grandson of treasure hunters and is keeping the family passion alive. He is the one who, with his brother Guillaume, created the six riddles that make up The Golden Elixir. He spent a year working on them and estimates that it will take at least six months to solve them, or even maybe a year or two. It’s impossible to know in advance. But he thinks that if no one has found the buried chest by 2029, he will drop some hints.

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