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Absinthe Review – The Grove Absinthe

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The Grove Experience is a distillery based in Wilrabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia – a region more well known for its wine, but this has been significantly changing of late with the proliferation of microbrewery and distillation operations appearing to provide a variety of culinary experiences to the region.

This bottle is from their first production run, a small batch affair of 160 bottles, which for ourselves usually holds high expectation of something artisinal. The production quality of the packaging is certainly high – aesthetically pleasing split front labels with green reflective type face, hand numbering, delivered in a square shouldered 500mL bottle.

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At 50% alc/vol, it is certainly on the lower end of the scale.  Holding the bottle to the light, what is also evident within the dark olive green tincture is floating vegetal detritus. I use this word deliberately because the visibility of wormwood herb, presuming that this is what it is, is a cheap gimmick best left to the worst of the Czech absinth offerings.  It offers no real cues of quality or integrity in my opinion, and Australian producers could do well by leaving this out.

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Opening the top, compositionally it smells about right and quite promising- very rich earthy tones, chocolate and tobacco, an interesting layer of honey. But once I place it in the glass, it smells overly spirituous and the complexity funnelled in the neck of the bottle seems to collapse.

I begin a slow drip from a cold carafe through a cube of sugar, and it seems really slow to provide any convincing evidence of a louche developing. More concerning is mild foaming on the top 1 mm of the pour. I have no idea what this is – it is a clean glass and fresh water. At the completion of the pour I struggle to find any evidence of louching at all. Maybe a slight translucency but certainly not up to reasonable expectations.

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To taste – the bitterness seems unbalanced, almost more like gentian than wormwood.  It is all top tongue bitterness with very little depth – more reminiscent of some oil based Spanish absinthes I have sampled. I am struggling to find anything I would describe as aniseed.

Sadly, I find myself with very little to say about this absinthe, because there is very little to describe.

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I sincerely hope the distillery operation behind this product keeps experimenting and tweaking, being small batch there is the opportunity to change approach. With the boom in craft distilling, Australia needs to develop more local absinthe offerings. While some are clearly hitting the mark, more broadly it is clear we have a way to go before we are on par with Western European benchmarks as the norm.

 

Posted by Jonathan on Dec 7th 2014 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Distilleries,News,Reviews | Comments (0)

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A blog dedicated to promoting Australian Absinthe Culture, History, Product Reviews, Art, Literature, Music and Lifestyle. Subscription is free but in accordance with the legal age for drinking and the potential for adult themes, this blog restricted to adults 18 years and older. Absinthe.com.au holds no commercial affiliations with any absinthe producer or distributor. Where products or services have been provided gratis for review this will be declared. For update notifications subscribe to our Twitters @newlibertines

Bohemian Melbourne: A Modern Retrospective

 

Absinthe.com.au have received the following Press Release on a very exciting event:

“Opening on 12 December, Bohemian Melbourne will weave the story of Melbourne’s bohemian scenes, subcultures and identities from the mid-19th century until today. The exhibition celebrates artists, writers, poets, performers, musicians and filmmakers who made their mark on Melbourne over the last 150 years including the likes of Marcus Clarke, Percy Grainger, Barry Humphries, Mika Mora and Nick Cave.

Bohemian Melbourne features a cast of colourful characters including well-known Melbourne iconoclasts – like Albert Tucker and Joy Hester, Tim and Betty Burstall, Frank Thring and The Skyhooks – and lesser known avant garde figures like Vali Myers and Val Eastwood. The exhibition also explores modern day bohemians such as goths, punks, burlesque and street artists.

 

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Along with individuals, the exhibition delves into places that have etched themselves into Melbourne’s history such as Heide, Montsalvat, the Savage Club, La Mama, the Pram Factory, the Crystal Ballroom and the Nicholas Building.

Bohemian Melbourne brings together paintings, photographs, prints, books, diaries, letters, costumes, posters and album covers along with a diverse selection of rarely seen film and video from the National Film and Sound Archive, the ABC and numerous independent filmmakers. The exhibition has been curated by the State Library of Victoria with advisor Tony Moore, Monash University historian and author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians.

Bohemian Melbourne will be a free exhibition in the Keith Murdoch Gallery at the State Library from 12 December 2014 until 22 February 2015.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a summer program of live music, film screenings, art workshops, walking tours, talks and pop-up performances.”

Full details can be found at at http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/bohemian-melbourne 

 

 

Posted by Jonathan on Nov 16th 2014 | Filed in Art,Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Events,Fashion,History,Literature,News | Comments (0)

Review – Absinthe Reverie by Distillery Botanica

 

Followers of the site will know that Australia is no stranger to Absinthe production historically, however, it has probably been a little slow in terms of homegrown creations meeting the new benchmarks of commercial production.  No doubt this is probably in part to the enormous administrative burden of getting permission to commercially distill in Australia, a story which has been played out in the emerging Whisky industry, now making its mark in Tasmania.

It is appropriate then that the challenge to produce a high quality domestic absinthe has been taken up by a Master Distiller, Philip Moore, who as been playing with artisan liqueurs and botanical flavours for many years at Distillery Botanica (formally St Fiacres) in Erina, New South Wales.  It is probably a testament to his skill that this new absinthe on the block, Reverie, is already winning accolades at the International Wine & Spirits Challenge and getting some due publicity in the process.

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Reverie is 68 % alc/vol and comes in a 500mL bottle with plastic screwcap. Probably the right size for small batch craft distilling, but maybe the packaging production is not as ‘slick’ as other craft offerings.

Opening the bottle, I was greeted with a strong licorice note followed by a pot pourri of herbal aromatics – distinct dried fennel, a headiness like chamomile azulenes, but certainly no unripe ‘green notes’.  Examining a sample poured into my glass I thought it appeared like a very freshly pressed virgin olive oil, a rich golden green.

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I set the brouilleur in motion with some iced syrup laden water to watch the transformation.  It was a very slow louche, there was no rushing this creature into revealing her wings.  After stretching out the tease, the performance peaked as a creamy, golden buttery louche emerged within the glass, thick enough to obscure a spoon.  There didn’t appear to be a lot of aromatics being released during the dilution, and it really required a long inhale in the glass at completion to start picking apart the flavours, in particular a high sweet lemon note floating on the desiccated herbaceous layer.

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It was a very intense flavour upon first taste – bold on the fennel with the loooong lingering wormwood bitterness that just pleasantly hung around the back of the tongue.  A very comprehensive coating of the mouth, almost tannic but of a more refined kind such as in an older developed wine. The flavour notes were very much on the deep end of the scale – the lighter hyssop chocolate notes I would expect not really coming to the fore.

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But if you give the glass a little time to develop, the extroversion in bold flavours pulls back a little, allowing some talc like minerality to shine through in the middle of the palate.

I have little hesitation in saying in Reverie, we have an absinthe that punches in the same weight division of many quality European commercial absinthes, and is an absolute pleasure to have something of this tier produced in the antipodes.  Maybe we will see  more absinthe experiments from Meister Moore in the future, going farther with his botanical daring do, given he has the expected absinthe foundations solidly laid down? Time will only tell. You can purchase Reverie from Absinthe Salon – be aware it frequently sells out quickly.

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Posted by Jonathan on Jun 16th 2014 | Filed in Absinthe brands,Absinthe Reviews,Culture,Distilleries,News | Comments (0)

Unsound Adelaide Review 2014-Lee Gamble, Cut Hands, Morton Subotnik, Nurse With Wound

After the organised cinematic elegance of Snowtown: Live & Stars of the Lid in rarefied surrounds on the first night, it is a nice contrast to return to the stone & ferrous girder Queens Theatre amongst a motley assortment of our experimental music devotees. Go read Adelaide Festival Director David Sefton’s interview with ABC – I really like this quote:  “There is a definite ‘people coming out of their bedroom’ quality to it. Though I totally empathise – I am one of those people.”  David, there is little doubt you are.

First up producer Lee Gamble enveloped us in a blanket of deep space ambience, while visions of neuronal & synaptic firing illuminated the back drop.  But not satisfied to leave us in a drone driven purgatory, a subtle beat driven subharmony evolves and grows until we find our own physicality unconsciously moving to vaguely gabba-esque rhythms, maybe even some drum & debased if you will. There was an impressive range of creativity here that painted not only in the palette of modern danceable avant-garde but seemed to draw on almost militant elements I associate with the Swedish dark ambient-industrial scene of the late 1990′s.

Cut Hands is the latest brainchild of William Bennett of old school industrial pioneers “Whitehouse” fame.  Immediately the stylistic cues reminded me of the playfulness of Yello (with considerably less Geneva beige) bouncing against flashes of more melancholic Dead Can Dance tribal renderings.  Powerful, danceable rhythms from Haiti, Cuba & Africa with stygian noisescapes tapping into something primal and chthonic.  I need to stress, it is definitely its own thing, it is not a simple recasting of traditional form.   But it is probably the first time I have heard a serious considered electronic exploration of Vodoun polyrhythms since Rodney Orpheus’s side project Sun God. There is a sentiment that William to an extent is experimenting not only with the music, but with the listener and/or dancer. Our Western brains try to process rhythms one way, and sometimes our bodies process them another way. Compelling stuff.

Morton Subotnik , being the only octogenarian on the bill, is as “old skool” as you are going to get given his pioneering work in electronic music in the late 1960’s.  Organic and analogue, his up front unapologetic minimalist opening in Silver Apples of the Moon forced you to shut up and listen, which people did. He may have worked sans drums, but the kids seemed to get it – picking up on the subliminal rhythms, an almost invisible waltz to the ear.  He built his sonic creations in layers, expertly sound sculpturing and revelling in the lux/nox interfaces. The applause he received was only confirmation to me that those attending are not looking for the next wave of dance music, but are happy to look backwards and understand the genesis.

Finally Nurse With Wound addressed us all with an unusual musical violence. Not brutal and physical, but more like psychological stress positions. Implosions of sound, internalised, almost vascular in their journey. Stephen Stapleton promised the possibility of unforseen collaborators on the night and that came in the form of Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar who is here for other performances within the Adelaide Festival.  His delivery of improvised echolalic screeches, intonations and electronically processed vocalisations added fuel to the screened backing film of incendiary near-snuff. The musical metastasis before us differed from some of the otherwise highly programmed acts previously in Unsound in that there was room allowed for error. Being principally improvised means that sometimes a musical passage was but a transition to moments of brilliance when the group telepathy was truly onto something – whether that be in the territory of deep drone or unexpected beat-monologue led guitar assaults in blue.

If the two Unsound Festivals to date are but scratching the surface of avant-garde musical ingenuity, then I say it is time to dig in the fingernails and draw blood with a third year.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 10th 2014 | Filed in Events,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Unsound Adelaide Review 2014 – Snowtown Live (Jed Kurzel) & Stars Of The Lid

In stark contrast to the colonial decay of Queens Theatre that seems an ideal crucible for much of the Unsound line up, tonight’s first Unsound performance is instead within the more regal splendour of the Adelaide Town Hall. Pristine decorations, pipe organ, a reminder of days of Empire and our ties to Monarchy, it is almost ironic then that Jed Kurzel’s “Snowtown:Live” provides the undercurrent for a movie principally set in the suburbs of Salisbury North, in the boundaries of what was once the City of Elizabeth, named in honour of Her Majesty in 1955 as an experimental satellite town.

There is in fact a strange resonance to this unique performance of Snowtown: Live, here as part of the main arts festival in the city that housed the individuals that committed the Bodies in Barrels murders, as it is all closer to home for us.

Classic analog synths, live percussion & cello combined with a rich wall of layered guitars from Jed Kurzel’s ensemble, ambient feedback treatment reminding me strongly of Michael Brook but with considerably more isolationism. Images of housing commission homes, the corroding corpses of cars scattered on front lawns, the sickly sweet pastel shades of cheap lilac paint lining the interiors of dwellings.  How much is really a projected middle class distaste for a blue collar heartland, and how much is truly an awareness of the banality of evil given the events that transpired there?  It is a question I keep asking myself later in the interval amongst the glitterati of Adelaide arts personalities.

Musically there are themes that rise and return, one which reminds me of an unhinged reflection of Receurdos de la Alhambra, all melancholic tremelo, while another is underpinned in percussive panicked heart beats that switch between sequencer & skin.  Projected on the screen on the long road to Snowtown from the northern suburbs are the metal grain silos that appear like upright bullet casings, sentinels to the violence inflicted upon the eleven victims.

If Jed Kurzel & company’s sonic brilliance picked at a wound, then drone-ambient meisters Stars of the Lid were possibly the countering Balm of Gilead.  Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie weaved a most unquiet void that combined with the projected visuals gave rise to feelings of time running out to some uncertain end.  The wave wash of harmony felt like an unsung polyphony of Gesualdo-proportioned interplay. Treated guitars gave rise to a crescendo of sound synonymous in puissance to that of a pipe organ, otherwise laying silent in the background. And supporting this structure, and sometimes rising above it, were the Zephyr Ensemble, who we last saw at the 2013 Unsound Adelaide weaving their stringed alchemy under Demdike Stare.

I looked around and saw some slumped in a soporific daze, not in boredom, but as in a methadonic anaesthesia. I myself re-emerged several times into lucidity from this beautiful catatonia, awakening into a sound as though I was at the heart of a hornets nest.

If this is what it means to be Unsound of mind, then may this musical madness never stop.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 9th 2014 | Filed in Events,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

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