Revisiting Absinthe: Seven Bottlings Re-Sampled

absinthe poster Revisiting Absinthe: Seven Bottlings Re SampledAbsinthe is the subject that keeps on keeping on — some of the forum battles over the intricacies of the subject here are legendary — and in honor of Vieux Carré‘s fine showing, I thought it would be personally instructive to revisit some of my most highly rated absinthes — and a few I didn’t like so much at first — in a side-by-side-by-side scenario.

This is an informal review, just a re-sampling of several of the more noteworthy bottles from prior reviews. But I thought it would be fun to see whether my opinions have changed since the early days of the blog, when some of these absinthes were initially reviewed. They appear below in my order of preference (with gut reaction ratings), based solely on this limited sampling.

To clarify: This is not a comprehensive sampling of EVERY absinthe on the market or even every absinthe I have on hand, just a ranking of seven I thought merited a re-taste. Some very good products are not included here.

On to the absinthe, starting with the best.

Obsello – 100 proof, gorgeous milky louche. Relatively subtle flavor; goes down incredibly easy. Interesting additional herbal notes but nothing overwhelming. The comparatively lower alcohol content is noticeable when compared directly to others in the group. Shockingly, also the cheapest real absinthe on the market. A

La Clandestine – 106 proof, clear/louches to a milky white. Sweetest absinthe of the bunch, and very mild. Anise is practically an afterthought, here. Extremely easygoing. A

Pernod – 136 proof, big and muddy green louche. Artificially colored. Huge, bittersweet flavor. Almost like licorice candy. Pleasant but different than lighter style spirits, and by a wide margin the strongest flavor in the group. A-

Koruna – 146 proof, pale color with no louche. Tart character, with clearly citrus overtones. Lighter in style and dominated by alcohol rather than anise/wormwood. I’m still a fan. A-

Kübler – 106 proof, clear/louches to milky white with yellow notes. Heavy lemon notes are love-it-or-leave-it, I think they clash with the anise here — which may be why this didn’t strike me as especially good on first review. I’d dismissed it as a bit boring originally, but it’s indeed unique when you put it side by side with the others. Still, though, not a favorite. B

Lucid – 124 proof, pale color with light yellow louche. Weirdly bitter and not altogether pleasant on first taste. Grows on you over time, but there’s much better stuff out there. C+

Le Tourment Vert - 100 proof, blue-green with (contrary to popular opinion) a slight louche. Artificially colored. Amazing how wrong I was, and I humbly have to give credit to the commenters on this one who told me I was nuts. (I plead youth: It was the first absinthe I formally reviewed, back in the day.) Really strong chemical flavor and psychedelic coloration combine in negative ways for me now. It’s got a huge mint character, which is probably why, in combo with the coloration, people make comparisons to mouthwash. I’d give this a much lower rating today, though it has some charms. C

Interesting that the lighter-flavored absinthes tended to do better in my ranking, with the exception of Pernod, whose strongness surprised me just as much as the backlash against it has. And in case you’re looking for more “top” absinthes out there, in addition to the top 3 on this roundup, add Vieux Carré, Nouvelle Orleans, and St. George to the list of “absinthe bests.”

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15 Responses to Revisiting Absinthe: Seven Bottlings Re-Sampled

  1. Pingback: Drinkhacker.com » Review: Lucid Absinthe

  2. Todd Jackson

    Le Tourment Vert is intended as a cocktail base I understand, perhaps give it a try with a classic cocktail for another post? I have just read the comments section below your original review! Oh my! This is one controversial absinthe! There’s a lot of hate about regarding this beverage and I wonder why…..

  3. Chris, I’d like to pat you on the back for revisiting these brands. It takes a real man to admit they may have been a little mislead at first, but I see you’ve observed, learned, and applied that knowledge very quickly. Well done!:)

    Todd, there is intense negativity against LTV because it is not genuine absinthe, yet advertises itself as one, and also has a documented history of deceitful marketing. Just ask Cocktail Nerd:

    http://cocktailnerd.com/?p=1734

    Genuine absinthe is a labourous drink to produce, and should generally be considered a FINE spirit. Can you imagine the reaction people would have if cognac producers started taking shortcuts and releasing sub-par brands in droves? If they tried to use the “it’s designed for cocktails” argument in their sector of the alcohol industry, they’d be laughed right out of business.

  4. I second Absinthe Review Network’s comments on re-visiting.

    I’m also interested to know how you tasted them all.

    With how much water? With sugar?

    Interesting comment about trying Green Torment again in a classic cocktail. I hope Chris has the budget to try ALL these absinthes again in cocktails. I’d suggest an absinthe frappé, and maybe a Death in the Afternoon.

  5. All prepared with sugar and roughly 4:1 water to absinthe; I use the line on the glass to know when it’s at the right/identical level.

  6. Christopher, you should consider trying absinthe brands at different ratios with/without sugar. I know it took a good deal of time to revisit all those brands just recently, but I would set one more night aside sometime just noting the differences when prepared at different ratios. You’ll be amazed what a WORLD of difference it is with some brands. For instance, the flavour tasted very subtle with Obsello because even half a part water from 3:1 to 3.5:1 loses quite a bit of flavour for this particular brand. Other absinthes will behave differently. I find Marteau great at 5:1, for instance, even though I typically find this ratio to be downright excessive.

    Just remember that each brand has its own “sweet spot” ratio to suit your palate.:)

  7. Todd Jackson

    “Genuine absinthe is a labourous drink to produce, and should generally be considered a FINE spirit”

    Really? This is what some elitist interests might like you to believe I suppose. Total nonsense from an historical point of view as absinthe was mass manufactured and cost less than a glass a beer back in the day. The kind of absinthe enjoyed by the likes of Verlaine / Rimbaud / Cros etc likely came from large wooden barrels and the aroma of wormwood (described as acrid) in these drinking dens was noted in some texts.

    The comparison with cognac is also spurious marketing speak as absinthe is a herbal elixir ( a form of medicinal tonic) hence Bon Extrait d’Absinthe (Henriod sisters) which was an extract of wormwood and sold as medicine.

    What is the common theme here? Oh yes…wormwood. Hardly a surprise as absinthe is just the French word for wormwood! Thesedays there are those that want to dress La Fee Verte in Versace when all she really wants is simple country smock. This is all about creating a brand category which is elitist, expensive and profitable for the few. The metaphors these people use when writing about their campaign verge on insane:

    “It’s like the one soldier trying to tell the other soldier not to kill the other guy trying to surrender when the enemy is about to pull a knife from his boot”

    “Sewing discord is the best way to weaken an enemy. I think every one of us who loves absinthe and blogs should trash the hell out of crap absinthe”

    Nice, eh? Yes, these attacks on review sites are organised. They find a target and go after it.

    “right out of business”

    Yes, I am sure there are some people that would like that. As I said, there is a lot of nastiness around as regards Le Tourment Vert and I hope that Christopher gives this rebel brew another chance with a cocktail.

  8. Todd, your tactics of misinformation and twisting of facts is not only pitiful and deplorable, but totally see-through by anyone who takes the time to do some research.

    The comments about sewing [sic] discord was about reps coming to the WS and trying to make us fight amongst ourselves, not about attacking other brands.

    Also, it’s not surprising that you have totally neglected to quote some of the more important posts in that thread like those of the Admins:

    Gwydion: “… there’s no room for lynch mobs and blacklists at WS. WS is not here to put people out of business, it’s here to present facts.”

    Me: “I think it’s perfectly acceptable to call out any specific points that are misleading. Absolutely. We do that already. Reference the many threads as well as the point/counterpoint article I wrote about the Stromu brands. However, it must be done with tact and with citations/references. That way, it will be viewed as a credible argument as opposed to just someone trying to push out a crappy brand they don’t like. Look at some of the discussions we had over at Rend Fou. We supported our statements with fact, and we stuck to the issues. They used ad hominem attacks and misinformation. Now the site is unused. Think there’s a connection?”

    And the most important part of the thread you’ve cited? A quote from the person who makes the brand that was being criticized in that thread:

    “great posts! very proactive direction!…I love to see people acting unbiased and with integrity and thus we fully feel that this is the way to go also for WS.”

    http://wormwoodsociety.org/forums/index.php?s=&showtopic=4965&view=findpost&p=174596

    By the way, you have absolutely NO idea what you’re talking about regarding LTV.

  9. Todd, you are intentionally placing false blame here. Obviously you have read through the WS topic that had that quote in it, so you should be WELL aware that it was made (and later retracted) by ONE forum member, not by any of the WS staff. If I leave a comment here saying “Man, I’m gonna put Obsello out of business for good!”, does that mean Christopher and Drink Hacker share the same sentiments? Of course not. You know full well a lone user is not representative of the entire organization. Nor “these people” that are trying to help clear up the misconceptions about what absinthe is.

    “This is all about creating a brand category which is elitist, expensive and profitable for the few”:

    Are you kidding me? Talk to any of my absinthe friends on Myspace and they will tell you I am the farthest thing from elitist! Why in the blazes would I want absinthe more expensive or available for only a select few? For myself, and anyone else spreading absinthe awareness/education, would gain absolutely nothing from that! You’re spewing absolute rubbish and have no clue what you’re saying.

    On the contrary, I think YOU are very suspicious to show up on the scene and defend LTV within 12 hours of every bash against it. I think your own agenda is becoming clear…

  10. “This is all about creating a brand category which is elitist, expensive and profitable for the few”
    .
    Before making that accusation, you might want to admit that many ‘Czech’ style absinthes are just as expensive, or moreso than traditional absinthe. They also have much lower overhead, since they use cheaper production methods, which means more profit for them. Check out the Absinthe Cost Comparison spreadsheet I updated a few months ago.
    .
    http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=405&Itemid=214
    .

    Oh, and 375ml bottles are in the works at several distilleries, meaning a more accessible spirit to those who either don’t have the means to buy a full 750, or don’t want to spend that much on something they never tried.

  11. Todd Jackson

    TARN, you will notice that I made no mention of where the quote originated. I did that on purpose as I did not want all this nonsense erupting from this guy Brian again.

    ——————

    Also, thank you for calling me a “dork” on your website, Brian. You have the pretensions of erudite civility — using a “sic” to correct my spelling — but no respect for others. Do not insult me again like that, OK? If you see anymore of my spelling errors you can use that “sic” though, if it makes you feel good about yourself. Please do not call me names, I do not like it.

    ——————

    In answer to your post..I do not know where to start! I think a quote from Hamlet will suffice: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” There is no doubt about what “every one of us who loves absinthe and blogs should trash the hell out of crap absinthe”means and also there is no doubt about this statement made by you:

    ___________

    “Prior to 2007, it was perfectl;y fine for us to bash ANY product by name, without any worry of reprocussion. Why? Because those products were illegal in the states anyway ! A company couldn’t sue us for loss of business…..”

    ____________

    With “for us” you admit that your Wormwood Society was involved in “bashing” i.e inflicting deliberate damage on other peoples’ property (and business) in that staement I think. It now seems that you are worried about legal action! The fact that you go around attacking selected products that others might enjoy is what worries me, I really do not like that at all. You should remember that some people might like to drink absinthe with red bull and have fun, others might want to stand around an absinthe fountain and talk about Proust. Not everyone accepts or wants what you call “our narrow definition of absinthe” Why do you find the need to push it down everyones throat, and also bad mouth products that people might like — case in point Koruna, that Christopher enjoys. You guys are bad news and bring a lot of bad weather with you, get some sunshine in your hearts!

    ————–

    Any spelling errors you want to correct with your tag latin, Brian? :-)

  12. Todd, I guess you really can’t take a joke, can you? Who do you represent by the way? You know plenty about us, because we are forthcoming about it. How about you?
    -
    Let me just ask you some questions:
    Why is it OK with you that products lie about effects and/or thujone content?
    -
    Why is it OK with you that a product piggybacks on the history of something it doesn’t resemble at all, then gets upset when it is judged alongside the products they piggyback on?
    -
    The only bad news our association brings is a ‘let-down’ for people who are thinking they are going to buy something that will get them high. We get literally dozens of emails a week from people who bought some of the brands you defend, who tell us that they wish they would have read our reviews first.
    -
    It’s no coincidence that we havent gotten any emails telling us that they wish they hadn’t read the reviews first.
    -
    If you read my point/counterpoint about Koruna, you’ll see the problems we have with that product. It’s quite plain and simple. It’s fine that Christopher likes Koruna, but some things in his review were incorrect.

  13. ive had all sorts of absinthe over the years from home made nasty tasting stuff to the imported bottles. Le tourment vert should even called abisinthe. More like trash. and alota the US abisinthes are not made with grand wormwood. which gives you the thujone levels. I was hoping to find a real absinthe for under 100 dollars, but i am starting to think thats not gonna happen.

  14. Gustavo Tobon

    Todd,

    I can only speak from experience. I have tried Kubler, Absente and Le Tourment Vert. I have yet to try Pernod and Lucid.

    Unfortunately these are the only absinthes available locally where I live. I’m considering having some lesser known absinthes shipped like Walton Waters, Pacifique or Marteau.

    Kubler has been my favorite so far.

    Absente was second and was not that good. Unfortunately, almost every absinthe website that I’ve read states that it’s made with petite wormwood and that is not the case. They just started producing it with real wormwood. You can check it out on their website (just to clarify what is being written about it). Anyway, with that said, it still wasn’t very good.

    Le Tourment Vert, which I bought because I wanted to try a new brand and liked the way the bottle looked was a HUGE disappointment. I don’t even consider it an absinthe. It tasted HORRIBLE, hardly louched and is artificially colored like Absente. The small tag that came with the bottle cheaply pushed the wormwood angle which should have warned me it was awful.

    I wouldn’t want to even try it as a “cocktail base” in fear of ruining the cocktail. They (it sounds like you represent them) should seriously consider changing the recipe to improve it to a sub par absinthe.

  15. If it tastes good who cares a wit? Tournament tastes pretty good to me. I hate snobs of any kind. This means YOU

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