Germany-based Absinthes.com attempts to correct that with its collection of miniatures — 50ml bottles of absinthe available for about $10 a bottle, well within “experimental” range. Continue reading
Ridge Distillery makes gin and absinthe in the mountains of Montana. This is the flagship, a classic (green) absinthe imbued with grand wormwood, green anise, fennel, coriander, angelica, elecampane, melissa, and roman wormwood — some of which I didn’t have the first idea what they were until I looked them up.
Poured neat into a glass, there’s a distinct lemon note on the nose (that’s the melissa, I think), doing a fair job at battling that anise/licorice character. A sip of unadulterated bottle strength spirit bears this out further. Continue reading
Absinthe may have been the fastest rising and most rapidly falling fad in booze since Zima (when’s the last time you had a glass?), but let’s not forget our heritage: Absinthe is a spirit of critical import to the history of the (drinking) world, sullied alas by Americans jonesing for modern-day recreations of the stuff after a century of it being banned here. Can’t blame ’em, but now there’s a flood of absinthe on the market, some good, some not.
Fortunately there are folks like Ted Breaux, who brought Lucid into the U.S. in 2007 as (arguably) the first post-ban absinthe in the U.S, who is now bringing high-end absinthe into the country in the form of three European products released there in 2005. Jade C. F. Berger, Jade 1901, and Jade Esprit Edouard aren’t cheap, but they’re meant to accurately recreate the character of three famed 19th century absinthes that have long been unavailable (but which Breaux has stocks of), right down to the labels. They join Nouvelle Orleans in the company’s “Vintage” line.
Now I’ve never tried the original spirits upon which these are based, so these reviews are based only on their merits (and vs. other modern absinthes). Thoughts follow. (Material in quotes is material provided by Jade’s creators at Viridian Spirits.)
Jade C. F. Berger Absinthe Superieure – “C. F. Berger absinthe verte, originally produced by C. F. Berger in Couvet, Switzerland. Considered one of the premier absinthes of the 19th century, it is in the Swiss style, characterized by a bold bouquet; full-bodied, rounded mouthfeel; and distinct herbal notes that linger on the palate.” The lightest in color of this trio, in the high-test world of absinthe it’s practically easygoing. Light lemon and lime notes, with a solid anise slug backing it up. I wouldn’t describe it as particularly herbal, but rather fruity and simple instead, albeit with a lasting finish. Minimal louche. I actually prefer it with just water, no sugar. 130 proof. B+
Jade 1901 Absinthe Superieure “is a tribute to the best known and most widely sampled pre-ban absinthe, which was originally produced around 1901, but then virtually wiped out when the original distillery in Pontarlier was destroyed by fire. Jade 1901 is a classic absinthe, balanced and crisp, with an appetizing herbal aroma and a smooth, lingering aftertaste.” Very mild. With sugar and water, it’s almost like a pastis, pleasant, refreshing, and easygoing. After awhile, I found the finish turning a touch bitter, like a dried herbal character. Lovely louche. 136 proof. B
Jade Esprit Edouard Absinthe Superieure “is a faithful reproduction of one of the most famous and highly regarded Belle Époque absinthes. A century after the demise of the original, Breaux examined perfectly preserved examples of the renowned spirit to develop a contemporary recipe that captures the original’s delicate tint, refined texture, and exquisitely smooth flavor.” A chartreuse monster, one sip straight nearly knocked me off the couch. Don’t skimp on the water here, for when it’s prepared correctly this absinthe offers a unique earthiness, echoing the aromas and flavors of the forest. Unique, you’ll find citrus notes, moderately strong floral characteristics, and a lasting, bittersweet finish. Beautiful, iridescent yellow louche. The best of this bunch, and at a blazing 144 proof. A-
each $100 / bestabsinthe.com
My, absinthe, what a long while it’s been!
Germain-Robin’s Absinthe Superieure (via Greenway Distillers) is a blanche (clear) spirit, distilled not up to a blazing 140 or so proof, but down to 90 proof, making it perhaps the least alcoholic absinthe I’ve ever sampled. The spirit is infused with wormwood, rose geranium, lemon balm, fennel, hyssop, lemon verbena, star anise, and lemon peel.
The result is an absinthe that you can practically drink straight, if you’re so inclined: Quite sweet (despite no added sugar), and fragrant with straight-up licorice notes. It burns, but it’s not a killer. Add water and sugar (but not too much of either… less than a full cube and a 2:1 or even 1:1 ratio of water is fine) and this absinthe becomes quite easy-drinking, offering a really lightly sweet, Pastis-like experience, with a lingering licorice finish. I don’t get much in the way of additional character. Maybe a little touch of tart citrus on the mid-body from the lemon ingredients, but otherwise a clean, easy, and really pleasant absinthe. Like Pastis, but with just a bit more kick to it.
A- / $44 / germain-robin.com
Was it the crowds (insane), the heat (manageable), or the rumor that some lady had thrown up near the buffet an hour into the event (just gross, yet credible)?
Whatever the case this year I found myself not in the whiskey groove at the ordinarily smashing Whiskies of the World San Francisco event. It was probably the crowds that did it, literally shoulder to shoulder as people muscled their way through a far-too-small ballroom en route to well over 100 artisan spirits. Plenty of good stuff was being poured — I know, because I’ve tried a lot of it in the past — but the scene was so crazy that really enjoying the experience was tough.
Still, some favorites were certainly discoverable. My tops of the night: Ardmore’s 30 Year Old single malt, a powerful companion to its Traditional Cask, which I’ve written about here a few times before. Other favorites I’ve had before, including Glenmorangie Lasanta, and Tomintoul’s 27 and 31 Year Old Scotches.
Complete ratings (and limited notes) follow:
Whiskies of the World San Francisco 2010
Bourbon and Others
Buffalo Trace Bourbon / B+
Dickel Barrel Select Bourbon / B+
Corsair Artisan Triple Smoke Whiskey / B- / immature
Dry Fly 100% Wheat Whiskey / B+
Lark Single Cask Single Malt Whisky / A-
St. George Single Malt Whiskey / B / thin
Bushmills 1608 Crystal Malt / B+ / not showing well tonight, normally a fave
High West Mountain Rye / B-
Aberfeldy 12 Year Old / A-
Ardmore 30 Year Old / A
Balblair 1991 / B / hot
Bruichladdich Organic / A-
Glenmorangie Lasanta Sherry Cask 12 Year Old / A-
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Cask 12 Year Old / B+
Isle of Jura 16 Year Old / B+
Isle of Skye 8 Years Old / B+
Johnnie Walker Blue Label / B+ / still a letdown
Johnnie Walker Swing / B / a peaty style from JW, weird
Laphroaig Cask Strength / B+ / the 10 year old at 111 proof
Mackillops Choice Glenlivet 1977 / B / got to meet Lorne Mackillop in person, at last
Mackillops Choice Highland Park 1980 / B+
Old Pulteney 17 Year Old / B
Old Pulteney 21 Year Old / B
Tomintoul 16 Year Old / B+
Tomintoul 27 Year Old / A- / nicely smooth, liked better than the 31 this time
Tomintoul 31 Year Old / A-
Corsair Red Absinthe / B+ / intriguing, colored with hibiscus
Germain-Robin Craft-Method Brandy XO / B+
Don’t know where to start? Here are some of my favorite absinthes on the market:
Obsello – Spanish. Fragrant, silky, and lush. 100 proof.
La Clandestine – Swiss. Blanche style (that is, not green). Lovely lavender tint to it, needs minimal doctoring to be pleasant. 106 proof.
Vieux Carre – American. Light and pleasant. 120 proof.
St. George – American. Peppery and lemon character make this one a little unique. Hot. 120 proof.
There is one known use for Herbsaint, and it’s a big one: In the classic Sazerac cocktail, in which the glass is washed with Herbsaint before rye, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters are added.
Now Sazerac (the company) is relaunching the venerable spirit with its original 1934 recipe, called Herbsaint Original.
Neither the standard Herbsaint nor Herbsaint Original contain wormwood, so while they both carry a strong anise/licorice flavor, neither is a real absinthe. Nonetheless the liqueur was caught up in anti-absinthe hysteria in the 1930s, and the company was forced to remove the word “absinthe” from its labeling.
I was expecting minimal difference between Herbsaint Original and standard Herbsaint, but boy was I wrong. Poured neat, these are night and day against each other: Herbsaint is electric green and a little scary in its artificial coloring, while Herbsaint Original is a deeper greenish brown (though it too includes artificial coloring). The flavors are different, too: Herbsaint is known for a sharp licorice character and a heavy alcoholic finish, but Original is deeper and richer, still clearly licorice, but less sweet and, surprisingly, less boozy, despite being 100 proof to the standard version’s 90 proof.
One surprise: Herbsaint standard actually performed better in the Sazerac cocktail. While the tastes were similar, Herbsaint Original just weighed things down too much.
Both versions will continue to be sold.