One of the most venerable absinthe brands on the market, the French-produced Absente dates back to 1999 — well before the 2007 re-legalization of genuine wormwood in the U.S. As such, Absente was originally made with something called southernwood (plus sugar), which purists rejected as a true absinthe.
In 2009, Absente was reformulated to include genuine wormwood, and you’ll know the difference right away, because the bottle notes in bold red letters, “With Wormwood!” (Also of note: the product includes yellow and blue food dyes for color.)
Today we review a 2020 bottling of Absente to see how it measures up to the plethora of high-end absinthes on the market.
The short answer is that it is fine, though I can easily understand how purists would reject it. The bold anise note is appealing on the nose, and you can smell the sugar that’s still in the mix, giving it an almost candylike character. Served unadulterated, it’s quite sweet, and it doesn’t seem like it would need sugar in the mix to make for a traditional serving. In truth, it does, just less than usual. With water, it louches modestly, but the sweetness is tempered a bit too much in the end. Half a sugar cube is about right, which lets the pure anise notes and a gentle dried herb character come through. That said, it’s still a pretty basic experience that absinthe devotees won’t find at all interesting, but — on the plus side — it’s at least a wholly inoffensive one.
B / $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]