An absinthe for people who don’t like anise.
Note: This is a French absinthe that does use Artemesia Absinthium and has recently been cleared for import and sale into the United States. Made from a Sugar Beet alcohol base, and using high quality botanicals, it is pot distilled in antique alembic copper pot stills and macerated at the Combier Distillery in Samur in the Loire Valley which also makes a number of other outstanding products, sadly none of which are imported to the U.S.
The ‘Father’ of this absinthe as it were is Ted Breaux, a noted chemist from New Orleans who did thin-layer gas chromatography analysis of sealed bottles of 19th-century absinthe bottles to reverse engineer the recipes and create Lucid and a host of other absinthes after much research.
First Impression: Anise and mint, alcohol in background rather than foreground. Sweetish pastis/licorice, star anise smell overall, sweeter smell than most. Not as traditional an absinthe smell as some, but close and probably easier for most people.
There are also so many variations (I know of a shop in Antibes that had about 400 different absinthes) that I defy anyone to come up with a standard – dominant brands maybe – but not one particular gold standard of what absinthe should be.
Appearance: Clear, bright, ever so green cast – kind of a algae pond water looks -and no attempts to color or dope it with dyes, which to me is a good thing. On swirling, leaves a thin coat on the glass with scalloping turning to droplets and lots of thin legs developing. Louche is properly opalescent and color is good.
Taste: Wow, the anis and wormwood almost nail your tongue to the bottom of your mouth with the burst of flavor, it hits you in a very specific spot, and does not cover your entire mouth with a coating of anis/licorice like most pastis (which is very much a love it or hate it aspect of most Pastis and why most Americans won’t touch the stuff) hefty dose of fennel too.
Interesting interplay of botanicals – star anise hits you first, with mint, fennel and licorice on its heel, very aromatic ending with the vapors evaporating in a icy ,minty intake of breath. It is the Altoids of absinthe. Hmm. . .theres a thought . . .nevermind, better not speculate on those ideas in print. . .
Drinks: The French absinthe ritual involves water fountains, sugar, spoons, and you pour the absinthe in the glass then put the spoon over the glass put a sugar cube on it and drip water from a purpose built fountain over until it louches (opalesces, turns cloudy, etc.) and the right amount of dilution (to personal taste-variable) is reached.
The Czech method is more fraught with danger (especially if you have had a few already) as it involves fire and highly combustible liquids. You put the spoon over an empty glass then place the sugar cube on the spoon, then pour the absinthe over the sugar, soaking it thoroughly and then torch the sugar cube, letting it burn down and caramelize the sugar, you then pour the water over the remains of the sugar cube and stir it in. Photos of this particular method are available on www.absintheium.com .
Caution must be exercised to avoid spilling the flaming liquid or having the glass shatter from the heat. Frankly I find the Czech method showy, dangerous, and tedious, all at once.
Other: Due to the relatively high proof I recommend a 5 or 6-1 dilution) – if you must add water.
Bottle: Green/brown glass wine bottle shape – much in the style its forebears with a old style label,cork closure and wood cap. Dark with two spooky cat eyes checking you out – definitely a gothic label!
Final Thoughts: Pleasant enough, a trifle different taste, that being said it will probably appeal to more Americans than the old style types. Distillation is outstanding. Mid range price (for absinthe, especially if you factor in shipping from Europe) and American taste profile makes it an attractive starter absinthe for the novice or something different for the absintheur.