If you’re looking for major names in absinthe, they don’t get much bigger than Pernod. The company started making absinthe in 1792 (which earns it the title of the “original” absinthe producer) and was the biggest brand of absinthe up until the 1915 ban. After that, the company moved to Spain and continued to make the stuff. Now, with absinthe back on the market, so is Pernod, selling an authentic absinthe worldwide once again.
Of course you might be confused. “Pernod” the brand has never gone away, and in fact has been probably the most popular pastis for decades. Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur, but it isn’t absinthe. At 86 proof, it’s powerful stuff, but Pernod’s pastis still ain’t absinthe.
Hitting 136 proof, the re-released Pernod absinthe ties with La Fée for the most alcoholic of absinthes that I’ve sampled to date. Served with sugar and just a little water (maybe 2:1), it louches beautifully and reveals itself as a very fine product. The flavor is very mild for absinthe; anise is predominant but hardly overpowering, and the sugar really balances the bitterness perfectly. Like Obsello, this is a very easy-drinking absinthe, but it packs a real wallop. Pernod is deceptively milder than its 68% alcohol would indicate and can easily get you into trouble.
Side by side with Pernod pastis, the similarities are uncanny, perhaps unsurprisingly. The absinthe is stronger, obviously, but the flavor profile is about the same; maybe a little less sweet. Many have surmised that the new Pernod is drawn more from the pastis than from the pre-1915 recipe; but I’ve got no 100-year-old absinthe here to compare against, alas. Anyway, it stands as a word of warning for those ordering Pernod in a bar: Make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
At $70 a bottle, the new Pernod isn’t cheap, but the premium is probably worth it — if not for the flavor alone, then at least for the history inside.
Update: Recipe reformulated in 2014, see full review.