Best there is.
Note: A lot could be written about Ted Breaux and Absinthe in this review (pages even with a lot of editing) so I will direct the reader to the following websites:http://www.vintageabsinthe.com and http://www.viridianspirits.com . Suffice to say Ted was and is one of the foremost scholars of absinthe in the United States and a recognized expert around the world. This absinthe is a personal effort on his part to faithfully (not to say lovingly and possibly obsessively) reproduce an authentic 19th-century absinthe.
This is a French absinthe distilled in Samur, a small city near the Loire Valley at the Combier Distillery (which was designed by Gustav Eiffel as in “Eiffel Tower”). This absinthe macerated and then distilled in beautiful antique absinthe specific copper pots stills under Ted’s personal supervision.
Appearance: Clear, bright, light green to it which is an indicator of the use of fresh wormwood – and no attempts to color or dope it with dyes like many of the others out there currently. On swirling, leaves a very thin coat on the glass with scalloping and almost no legs developing. Louche is interesting to watch – puddles,pools and swirls mightily followed by a very rapid change to that lovely light opalescent green that signals a first class absinthe.
First Impression: Intensely herbaceous and floral, with mint, anise (licorice smell), lemon balm, verbena and a host of others making for a heady bouquet. Even with the authentic (read high) proof the alcohol is quite mellow and subdued by all the herbal ingredients.
Taste: At full strength (we do it so you don’t have to) it is remarkably drinkable – the taste is much like the bouquet but with a pronounced wormwood bitterness but in a pleasant round herbal way – not just bitter. Intense tingling with mint and anise notes with floral and citrus providing a aromatic backdrop.
Finish is long and pleasant with a minimal burn for a 124 proof product. Rather complex and multifaceted- especially compared to some we have been trying lately. Interesting bitter (wormwood and gentian), played off with the mint, verbena and (some) sugar with star anise both in front and on its heel coating your tongue while the coriander, fennel, mint and rosemary dance around in different areas of the tongue blending and playing off each other.
Very pastis-like ending (think Pernod but infinitely better) with a pleasant bitter and complex herbal finish. Well made and complex .
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. There are a number of websites that show you how (check our Absinthe Links Section) and to get all your gear check at Rue Verte (lots of well priced accessories and 100’s of Absinthes) or La Maison d’ Absinthe of New Orleans (accessories only).
As a side note : DO NOT set fire to it ! That practice is gauche, stupid, and dangerous – not to mention a waste of absinthe. For other drinks such as a Death in the Afternoon, or a Sazerac, the Nouvelle Orleans works well and adds a many layers of complexity and subtlety over a absinthe substitute such as Herbsaint or Pernod.
Other: I recommend a 4 to 6-1 dilution – depending on you personal taste and a minimum of sugar (dumbs down the taste in my opinion).Use decent bottled or filtered ice water .
Bottle: Green/brown glass wine bottle shape – much in the style its forebears with a old style label. Real cork closure (use one of those cork pullers rather than a corkscrew to avoid trashing the cork or get a cork topper for later),silver neckwrap and dark green wax seal. Label is ivory background with silver and blue colored impressed printing – very Belle Époque style- with a paper diamond 68°on a fleur-de-lis to denote percentage of alcohol.
Final Thoughts: One of the best and most authentic Belle Époque type Absinthes on the mass-market now. Distillation is excellent: complex but balanced. Only downside is it is somewhat expensive- but if you do a price comparison (see Cocktail Math) you are paying about $2 more a drink or less over what you would pay for a mass produced imitation of inferior quality. Personally, I think that is a small price to pay to sample a piece of history brought to life.