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
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.
A- / $35 / sazerac.com
Today is Bastille Day, and in honor of the French Revolution, the folks at Pernod-Ricard sent us a bottle of Ricard Pastis (and a pétanque set) to help us celebrate.
Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur — not the same as absinthe (but it’s the closest category we have here) since it has no wormwood, but it tastes and behaves quite similarly. Flavored strongly of licorice, pastis is high in alcohol (Ricard is 90 proof), and is served with lots of cold water, whereupon in creates a cloudy louche effect. Unlike with absinthe, sugar is not added because the pastis has sugar already in the bottle.
The golden-hued Ricard (which is based on beet spirits) is quite alcoholic without water, but its sweetness and anise still come straight through. It louches into an eggnog color with water, and once diluted to something more approachable (the company suggests 5 parts water to 1 part Ricard), it’s really quite tasty and refreshing. It’s on the sweet side for pastis, but not overly so. The anise is well done, the overall effect being more licorice-candy like, with hints of lemongrass and cocoa powder.
Just the thing for celebrating all that French bloodletting.
A- / $26 / pernod-ricard.com